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It’s official: we just lived through another Year of the Woman. A record
number are heading to the U.S. Senate after last night, thanks in part to the
victories of Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, and Deb Fischer.
Eighteen women Senators will take their places in the 113th Congress, beating the current record of 17. According
to EMILY’s List, “Every Democratic woman incumbent Senator was re-elected.”
There are some races that have yet to be called, like Mazie Hirono, Shelley
Berkley, and Heidi Heitkamp, which could push the numbers even further.
Women were also crucial on the other side of the equation: It was their votes
that propelled many of these female candidates to victory. Elizabeth Warren beat
Scott Brown thanks to an 18-point lead among women. Tammy Baldwin
edged out Tommy Thompson with a 14-point lead.
Amy Klobuchar, an incumbent Senator, walloped Kurt Bills with an enormous 44-point
lead. While there’s no exit polling available yet and the race is still too
close to call, Heidi Heitkamp has a slight lead over Republican Rick Berg, who
only supports abortion exceptions for the life of the mother and not for rape victims.
Women also helped elect the country’s first pro-choice governor, Maggie
Hassan of New Hampshire, who was voted in with 60 percent of women supporting her. New
Hampshire, in fact, is national headquarters for the Year of the Woman, with an
all-female Congressional delegation, a female governor, and a woman-controlled
Women voters were certainly fired up this season. They came out to vote in equal
numbers to 2008. As Lisa Maatz of AAUW pointed out to me, young
women who might have felt complacent about their rights “got activated this time
around.” For example, she notes that three-quarters of Baldwin volunteers were
women. She also pointed out that women went to bat for progressive male candidates like Sherrod Brown
and John Tester. Brown saw a 15-point lead among women. Tester was just
called the winner with a seven-point lead. Those voices will also
bolster women’s issues in the next Congress.
What could this mean for policy? The topics of the legislation that get
introduced and passed could very well see a change, Maatz said. She also pointed
out that given the GOP’s new (if failed) push to reach out to women voters this
season, Democrats had to fight harder than usual and couldn’t just take their
votes for granted. That could lead to more legislation aimed at women’s rights,
needs, and concerns.
But for now, we can celebrate the fact that last night’s election was
historic for American women in politics. The percentage of women in office may still be small, but it’s edging up,
in large part thanks to their fellow women at the polls.
The 40th anniversary of Title IX and the women’s history 2012 theme of
education and empowerment provide all Americans an opportunity to honor the
contributions of millions of mothers, sisters, aunts and daughters.
The correlation between education and empowerment of women must keep being
recognized, for today many young women take for granted their right for an equal
opportunity to learn and to vote. Equality in education today is owed primarily
to Title IX, not passed until 1972 and not implemented until 1977. The
legislation prohibited gender discrimination in federally funded institutions.
The impact transformed the educational landscape and opened doors for women to
participate equally in all aspects of education -- including sports -- within
the span of a generation.
Education of women is the primary tool for empowerment today. In days gone
by, it was deemed by "experts" that women were incapable of intellectual
development equal to men. Women's supposed moral weakness was also used as an
argument against co-education. Hmm … is this sounding a little like the rhetoric
we are hearing today in the news, coming from our elected male officials and
Women now make up more than 57 percent of the college-bound population and
the majority in graduate schools. At Harvard, a longtime male-dominated bastion,
50 percent of the students today are women, with 55 percent graduating with
With the U.S. population now having women as a majority at 50.8 percent, why
are there only 17 percent holding office in Congress and 22 percent in the
Nebraska Legislature? Could the educational trends possibly have a threatening
effect on the men who are now trying to backpedal women’s rights by voting
against legislation to mandate equality in the workplace and by taking away our
I do know that until something is done to level the playing field in politics
so that women have an equal chance to make gains in our elected offices, such as
Title IX has done in education for women, there will continue to be a failure to
ensure women's right to equal pay and equal health care. Good legislation will
be targeted for defunding, legislation that protects us such as the Violence
Against Women Act. As long as we sit by silently, the rhetoric will continue to
escalate as well as the willingness of these elected officials to turn back the
clock by taking away programs that have helped women make those gains today.
And don’t be fooled into believing all women candidates are representing our
voices. I wrote to both Nebraska U.S. Senate candidates to ask for their stances
on these issues; Sen. Bob Kerrey was the only one to respond in support of all
of these issues. Sen. Deb Fischer only sent negative ads back to me in response,
Money may talk and control candidates, but women have a majority of the
votes. We can control the future by staying educated and voting for those
candidates who support our issues.
Mary Herres is a grant writer involved in community and rural economic
development and is an advocate for women's rights.
As ladies we need to think big! Be strong and make our presence know in the workforce of today. The National Women's Business Week is made to honor the contributions of working women and employers who support working women and their families. Business and Professional Women’s Foundation helps to recognize women who have been the cornerstone in the United States in the past and to examine how far women in businesshave come. National Business Women’s Week® providing an opportunity to call attention to women entrepreneurs, facilitate discussions on the needs of working women, share information about successful workplace policies, and raise awareness of the resources available for working women in their communities. National Business Women’s Week® originated with Emma Dot Partridge, Executive Secretary of the National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs from 1924 to 1927. The first annual observance of NBWW was held April 15-22, 1928, when National President Lena Madesin Phillips opened the week with a nationally broadcast speech. She stated that the purpose of the week was “to focus public attention upon a better business woman for a better business world.” From this early effort, NBWW has grown into a nationwide salute to all working women. What an idea! In 1938, NBWW was moved to the third full week of October. U.S. President Herbert Hoover was the first president to issue a letter recognizing NBWW and the contributions and achievements of working women. The celebration of National Business Women’s Week® has helped to promote leadership roles for women and to increase opportunities for their advancement.