Nury Martínez recalled she was seven months pregnant when she first ran for a seat on the Board of Education and a woman asked her: “Don’t you think you should stay home and raise your family?”
The criticism did not stop Martínez, who today has the undesirable distinction of being the only elected woman in Los Angeles’ municipal government.
The current Councilwoman Martínez told this anecdote during a forum this month, highlighting the notorious absence of women in elected office in state and local governments. Former Councilwomen Joy Picus and Wendy Greuel also participated in the forum.
In Los Angeles County, there is only one female supervisor, Gloria Molina, who is also the only person of Latino origin in the five-member board. State Attorney Kamala Harris is the only elected female at the state level, and only 32 out of 120 state lawmakers are women.
The forum, organized by radio station KPCC, coincided with an election day: in 25 of the 100 biggest U.S. cities, voters elected a new mayor. There were female candidates in only eight of the races and only three of these women candidates won, in Houston, Raleigh, N.C. and Minneapolis.
Those were “minimal gains” for women candidates, the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, rightly said.
In addition to cultural prejudices, as people pointed out during the forum, women candidates face more difficulties than men when it comes to fundraising for their campaigns. Big donors are still mostly men.
The best thing that women in office can do is to serve as mentors, so that a new generation of women begins to occupy positions of power. We strongly believe that more women should aspire to the title of “candidate.”