Women: Grab a Chair | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Women: Grab a Chair

If there's any doubt in your mind that the political War on Women is a reality, reading this week's cover story—even browsing through the quotes and sidebars and graphs—may change your mind.

The conservative drive to overturn Roe v. Wade has, in the last several years, become an all-out assault on women's reproductive rights. Lawmakers are blocking some bills designed to make life better for women and introducing others bills to limit women's rights. The airwaves and Internet are awash in a flood of inaccurate reproductive information—from people who really should know better.

Women in the political arena in Mississippi—like women everywhere in the United States—report good and bad news from the trenches.

The good news is that the small numbers of women in politics are all fighters. They have to be. These are the women who are strong and bold enough to push their way into the proverbial smoky back rooms where the "real" decisions get made. We shouldn't be so foolish to believe, just because they're now held in smoke-free facilities, that the "meetings before the meetings" don't happen every day, out of sight and out of mind of the majority of voters.

The bad news is that women simply don't have the political numbers, yet, to swing politicians their way. Depending on the position, the percentages of women in office are between 8 percent for mayors of large cities to a high of around 24 percent in state legislatures nationwide. And those numbers have dropped or plateaued in the past few years.

Linda Tarr-Whelan, in her book "Women Lead the Way," writes: "A sprinkling of women at the top, however inspirational, is not enough to change how companies or governments operate. The weight of cultural inertia is too great. But when the sprinkling grows until the leadership group is about one-third women, important things happen.

Different decisions are made, and the move toward true parity in leadership gains momentum. If we can get to at least 30 percent women as partners at the power tables, we have a chance to change the world." [emphasis ours].

Few with power will give it up willingly. To claim their rightful place, women have to be willing push their way, if necessary, to a seat the table. That isn't easy, but few worthwhile things in life simply get handed to people who want them. It takes work. Just being outraged isn't enough.

Women must set aside their timidity to claim their power. If they're not able to do that, they must be willing to give their support to women who can—and the enlightened men who get it. For a seat at power's crowded table, first understand why you want that place, and then be willing to do what it takes to make it happen.

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