BY MONICA VERONICA (MONICA DIX) —
116 years after Shorewood seceded from the Town of Milwaukee, and 96 years after women received the right to vote, both the Shorewood school board and the village board of trustees hold a majority of women elected representatives. Coinciding with the election campaign of arguably the strongest female candidate to ever run for president in our country, I feel that we are at a moment in time in which it is important to reflect on the strides that women have made to be represented in politics, but also the challenges that we still face as a community, a nation and a world.
The impact of women politicians cannot be overstated. I believe that it is the duty of government to represent the population that it governs. Back in the days of the traditional ‘old boy’s club’ government, it was difficult for women, as underrepresented people, to see their viewpoints represented well because the exclusively male political landscape could not effectively represent and legislate for a people that was not only male.
Female politicians also have different priorities than male politicians because of their gendered perspective on the world. We can speculate about what this might look like in our own local government, when it comes to mothers versus fathers, or simply the different perspectives each gender has on a career like being a lawyer, but there is globally significant statistical evidence to back this up. According to UN Women, within local councils in India where women are in the majority, the number of drinking water projects increased by 62% more than that of male-led councils. In Norway, a “direct causal relationship” between the presence of women in municipal councils and childcare coverage was found.
It has also been found that democratic and transparent governments are associated with low levels of corruption and create an enabling environment for women to participate. This shows that governments which enable women to be elected and participate in politics are often less corrupt.
Locally, Davida Amenta, Tammy Bockhorst, Ann McKaig and Allison Rozek serve on the village board of trustees and Hilary DeBlois, Joanne Lipo Zovic, Paru Shah and Ruth Treisman serve on the Shorewood dchool district’s board of education.
I had the privilege of interviewing both Lipo Zovic and DeBlois for the election in April earlier this year and I was able to witness the skill and experience both these women had in their fields. They bring not only a diverse perspective but an educated one that made them qualified candidates regardless of their gender. Candidates with decades of experience in law, raising children in public schools or the experience of working in the nation’s Senate enacting change on a national level are exactly the type of people we need to look toward as a village, and the diversity that they bring to the boards they serve on is crucial to the functioning of a healthy government.
They, and all of the elected officials serving Shorewood, are the reasons that suffragettes fought so hard nearly a decade ago: so that we may have the privilege of diversity and the most qualified candidates serving our communities, not solely the candidates that fit into the backgrounds of the men who founded our nation.
While I feel like I may be tooting Shorewood’s horn a little on this issue, I would like to recognize that while we have made significant strides as a community and world. However, we still have room for growth. According to UN Women, since 1995, the number of female parliamentarians has doubled globally, bringing us to only 22%. Although countries such as Rwanda have a lower house consisting of 63.8% women (which is one of the highest percentages for national elected bodies globally), there remain six nations whose elected national governmental bodies have no women at all.
The issue of fair and accurate representation in government goes beyond gender and into race, sexuality and all facets of identity. All we can do as voters is to try to be aware and educated and ensure that we are electing people who represent us well. Ultimately, we need to set aside our differences to make the world a better place and recognize that this spring, in Shorewood, we have cause to celebrate.