Fort Greene

NYC councilmembers want more women to run for office

September 5, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilmember Laurie Cumbo, shown here as U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke endorses her re-election bid, says empowering women from all backgrounds to run for public office is one of her priorities. Photo courtesy of Cumbo campaign

Female members of the City Council who recently released an eye-opening report on the lack of women in city government said they hope the study will lead to major changes, namely, to more women running for public office.

Last month, the City Council’s Women’s Caucus unveiled a report called “Not Making it Here, Why Are Women Underrepresented in the New York City Council?”

The report looked at the Council’s low level of female representation. Councilmembers Laurie Cumbo (D-Fort Greene-Clinton Hill) and Helen Rosenthal (D-Upper West Side) are the co-chairpersons of the caucus.

“As chair of the Committee on Women’s Issues and co-chair of the Women’s Caucus, I look forward to empowering women of all backgrounds to run for public office and shift the balance of power in the Legislature,” Cumbo said in a statement.

The report calls for a number of steps that could begin to remedy gender inequality within the City Council, including funding for non-profits that support women in public life, workshops on running for office for female college students, increased mentorship opportunities and a dedicated staffer for the Women’s Caucus.

“Breaking down these barriers starts with having this conversation,” Rosenthal said in a statement. “Like Shirley Chisholm said, ‘If you’re not at the table, bring a folding chair.”’

The voices of the members of the Women’s Caucus are included throughout the report. Thirteen of the Council’s 51 members are female.

“With Women’s Equality Day on the horizon and less than two weeks before Primary Day on Sept. 12, this report is a staunch reminder of the widening political ambition gap that could undermine years of progress,” Cumbo said.

“Not Making it Here” identifies factors holding women back from running for elected office, including a lack of awareness of their potential for success. Family responsibilities and discrimination from “electoral gatekeepers” were also identified as obstacles. 

“As we celebrate one hundred years of women’s suffrage in New York state this year, it is disappointing that women’s representation in the New York City Council is significantly below average compared to other large cities, and likely to get lower. Time will not solve the gender leadership gap; action will,” said Roli Wendorf, president of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) New York State.

“The greatest city in the world should be electing the greatest leaders,” said Brette McSweeney, executive director of Eleanor’s Legacy.

Named in honor of Eleanor Roosevelt, Eleanor’s Legacy is an organization that works to elect pro-choice Democratic women to public office.

Read the full Women’s Caucus report here: http://helenrosenthal.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Final-Womens-Caucus-Making-It-Here-Report-Web.pdf.