As a CPA and an attorney, I have served in a man’s world for the majority of my professional career. In both of these fields, women enter leadership roles at drastically different rates than their male peers. This is not because they are less talented, less educated, or less qualified. Unfortunately, the structures of the organizations in question often reflect a subtle but powerful bias toward men and against women.
With this knowledge and these experiences in mind, I was prepared for an uphill climb in my race for County Comptroller. I expected resistance during this campaign. But I’m used to having to prove myself, having to go the extra mile. So when a local Trump supporter with connections to the incumbent used his bully pulpit to challenge me last week, I wasn’t surprised. In fact, I took this as a sign that a few egos were feeling nervous about our campaign’s progress.
What I was surprised by was his use of overtly sexist language, equating me with a quarrelsome women with nothing of value to say. The devaluing of women’s contributions as meddling, strident, shrill, etc, is a common way in which the patriarchy perpetuates itself. If, when women ask for a seat at the table, they are accused of being unreasonable, unprofessional, rude, or annoying, they may just stop asking!
Throughout the course of this campaign, my being a woman of color has been met with positivity. With women representing just 22% of elected positions in NYS, voters are excited to support inclusion. Knowing the community has a chance to elect a qualified, competent candidate has been energizing, but knowing that this is also an opportunity to build a more inclusive government has been the icing on the cake for many Erie County voters.
Last week, I also attended a Women Elect event which welcomed Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the first woman elected as Democratic Conference Leader in New York, as its speaker. Women Elect helps educate women on the process of running for office, and preparing them for the road ahead. Her affirming words to the women gathered there were refreshing, and I left with renewed energy for the charge for equality.
“During these challenging times with very real threats being made to women’s rights, we must again step up and lead by example in this fight. The challenges ahead of us are daunting but we have a responsibility to follow in the footsteps of our suffragette foremothers and their allies, and to build a stronger and fairer society for our daughters.”
That is what I seek to do Erie County. Twitter trolls, stand aside. I refuse to take a backseat to fragile egos, and I will not be silent. I want to help make the road more level for families, but especially for our daughters, so that they are never discouraged from making their voices heard or walking their paths in life.