DAVIS: Rallying more women to the political process

March 31, 2012

Kathy DavisIn November 2010, more than 400,000 Indiana women went missing. Women were at the polls in November 2008. But when the votes were tallied in 2010, 414,000 fewer Hoosier women had cast ballots.

I wonder how different things would be in 2012 had those 414,000 women voted in the last election. I think things would be different—and better.

Women matter. We care about children, good jobs, education and good health, the future. We are 51 percent of the population, the majority. We should not wait to be invited to participate fully in the political process.

We should say what we want to make happen, what we believe to be true, the kind of leadership we seek with our vote. For all the uncertainty of politics, we know one thing: When women vote, women win.

Not too many weeks ago, I sat at a downtown conference table with women who had gathered to create the 51% Club. The purpose of the 51% Club is to seek out, engage and rally women to vote in 2012.

The women, tightly packed around the table, represented a range of vocations and achievements in Indiana: lawyers, factory workers, moms, organizers and executives from towns and cities from the northern to the southern borders of Indiana. We had a lot in common, including a powerful passion for practical action. And we had our differences. We agreed we could disagree on some things and cooperate for the greater good. We knew that now is the time.

I’ve heard that 60 percent of us belong to a political party, and for those of us who name a party affiliation it is our strongest group connection. Democrats want equal opportunity and equal rights. Republicans want individual initiative not to be encumbered by an overreaching government. Do most of us want both of those things, and it’s more a question of which comes first for us? Or to what degree? In 2012, I hope women find where we agree and get to work making it happen.

Women approach things differently. At home, at work and in the community, women get things done. Maybe women can put a name to the common ground that eludes us. And lead us to an innovative business climate, schools that work for where we’re going, good health and access to health care, and focused government that performs in the moment and doesn’t waste a dollar. Liberal ideas and conservative plans.

Given the state of politics, I think we can’t exercise the 51-percent option soon enough.

The 2008 election brought us two women on the U.S. Supreme Court. Maybe someday there will be five. The same year brought us Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, equal pay for equal work, an end to being denied health insurance for a pre-existing condition. A breast cancer survivor can be a business owner.

Two years later brought us defunding Planned Parenthood, stunting the voice of labor as the income difference between rich and working people grows, men proposing laws to make birth control inaccessible, condemning the Girl Scouts, requiring medical procedures that shame women.

When did men start to detest contraception? I thought men wanted women to have sex. I thought for many men, women having sex was essential to their having sex. I thought men wanted to father children with some planning. Did I misunderstand?

Are men mad at us? Or are women fully earning our 51-percent status as good friends, partners, mothers and creators. Like men, seeking access to education and health care that keeps us healthy and managing toward a prosperous life. Offering ideas and encouragement, leading, cooperating or helping as the situation demands.

Heather Maddox (hkm9@yahoo.com) is the new director of the 51% Club. Heather is organizing a conversation to reach 414,000 women. She will need lots of help.

We want women to vote in 2012—each on her own behalf, each for what she wants to make happen. First we say it, then we can bring it, for everyone’s sake.•


Davis is a former Indiana lieutenant governor who owns and operates the Indianapolis technology firm Davis Design Group LLC. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.


Recent Articles by Kathy Davis / Special to IBJ

Comments powered by Disqus