We’re on the verge of a historic election. In just a few days time, we may elect our first woman president. Regardless of your political persuasion, that fact is worth celebrating.
But just as the election of Barack Obama did not suddenly catapult us into a “post-racial” America, the election of Hillary Clinton will not erase gender inequality or correct the often glaring omission of women from the corridors of power. We need to elect women to all levels of government — city councils, boards of supervisors, college boards, BART boards and the Assembly and state Senate.
One of the most crucial local races where we can make a difference is the District 11 state Senate race. Jane Kim is a true leader with a strong record as a San Francisco supervisor. She helped reduce income inequality by authoring the ballot measure to increase The City’s minimum wage to $15 an hour — the most progressive wage increase in the country — which passed overwhelmingly in 2014.
She supported working families by passing bold tenant protections to counter frivolous, profit-motivated evictions and by negotiating a major increase in the number of affordable housing units in the new San Francisco Giants development, raising the threshold from 33 percent to 40 percent and setting a new standard for city-supported developments.
She has supported living wages and good benefits for women by marching with teachers, nurses and healthcare workers on picket lines. She supported family leave to help working mothers and has promoted more opportunities for women by sponsoring Proposition W for free City College tuition. And this year, Jane is leading the reauthorization and strengthening of the Public Education Enrichment Fund which, in the past year alone, allocated $47.5 million to school libraries, arts, sports and music. We need women with these priorities in Sacramento.
Women make up 50 percent of the state’s electorate, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at our representatives. Just 11 of our 40 state senators are women. Women hold just 24 percent of all state legislative seats nationwide, and just 20 of our 100 U.S. Senate seats. The disparity shows in our laws, in our state and federal budgets, and in our workplaces.
Women continue to make less money than men — 78 cents on the dollar. Just 12 percent of American companies offer paid maternity leave, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.
While women make up the majority of college graduates, they find fewer opportunities after graduation. Women hold less than 5 percent of the CEO positions at S&P 500 companies, 11 percent of executive jobs at Fortune 500 companies and less than 28 percent of tech jobs. And last year, four decades after the Supreme Court confirmed our right to choose, state lawmakers across the nation introduced almost 400 bills to restrict women’s access to abortion, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights In our male-dominated government, women’s issues tend to get pushed off the table in the last-minute rush to pass budgets. Every year our issues of healthcare, education and affordability become battlegrounds issues where we have to write letters and lobby for funding.
We have the power to change that dynamic this year by sending a record number of women into all levels of government. Women need to elect women to be sure that our issues are heard and addressed. It’s time to put our issues and families forward. Let’s start by electing Jane Kim as our state senator.
Nicole Colao-Vitolo is a psychologist at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco and a member of the National Union of Healthcare Workers.