Gale McKoy Wilkins

Executive Director's Message

June 2015

Guest Editor –  Allyson Take, Class of 2015, Ravenscroft High School, Raleigh, NC

When Women Run, Women Win

For as long and I can remember, I’ve been interested in the status of women in politics. I believe this stems from my elementary school mentality of “girls rule, boys drool;” I thought that because girls are so much better than boys, then they should always be in charge. As I grew older and began to understand the world, I held onto this belief, albeit in a more condensed and realistic version, and I grew to realize the extent of the disparity between men and women in politics.

When I decided to become an intern for the North Carolina Council for Women (NC CFW), I knew that I was going to meet some passionate women who work to advance the status of women all over the state. On my first day at the CFW, I had the opportunity to sit in on the Council’s board meeting, and I was able to meet some of the most prominent women in the state. I also had the pleasure of witnessing a presentation by Dr. David McLennan, of Meredith College’s political science program, on the status of women in North Carolinian politics. He began by mentioning that limited progress has been made for women in politics since 1992, or the “year of the woman,” when North Carolina had a 12% increase in women running for the General Assembly. He presented statistics that show when women run for office, women are successful. In 2014, 25% of the candidates in North Carolina elections were women – and 63% won their races. When women run, women win. The problem, according to Dr. McLennan, is the lack of women who are actually running for office.

Part of the reason, perhaps, that women aren’t running is the myth that women can’t campaign successfully. Dr. McLennan said this is untrue as women raised more than men in 2014 open-seat races. The only barrier is to encourage women, mostly young women, to run for public office. Women need to realize that in order to protect their interests, they need more representation at all levels of government. If more women become directly involved in policy-making, there will be an increase in the diversity of opinions and as a result, the government will become more diversified. In the end, this helps not only women, but also other under-represented populations.

Therefore, in order to encourage young women, like myself, to enter into political careers, more positive, female role models are needed. Gale Wilkins, executive director of the CFW, recommended the NC Institute of Political Leadership (IOPL), which is an educational institution that develops the political skills of young North Carolinians. The IOPL has two programs to support and educate women to get involved with politics, the “Women on Board” program and the “Women in Office” program. Programs like this have the capacity to encourage young women to influence policy in their favor. Any confident woman who can convince girls that they are strong and worthy enough to hold public office can make a difference in lives of women all over the United States.

The Status of Women in NC Politics report is the second in a series of reports produced by Meredith College. The first report was The Status of Girls in North Carolina by Associate Professor of Sociology Amie Hess, which was released in 2013.