Women in Politics
Thoughts on a missing perspective in N.J. government

The numbers that show the female representation in New Jersey politics are dismal. New Jersey has never elected a woman to the U.S. Senate, and last year, Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12) was the first woman sent to the U.S. House of Representatives since 2003. But wait, there’s more.

Of 40 state senators in New Jersey, 11 are women. In the N.J. State Assembly, 25 of the 80 representatives are female. Less than a quarter of our county freeholders are women (34 of 137) and of 505 city mayors, 75 are women. Both parties have men heading their state committees, and both parties have two women each as county chairs – out of 21 counties.

We asked political insiders why so few women hold public office in our state – and what would happen if more did.

Pam-Lampitt-Headshot-october-2014 copy

One of the main reasons there aren’t more women in politics is because women often wait to be asked to run, while male candidates tend to seek it out. Women have much to offer in elected office. We tend to think differently about resolving problems – preferring a more collaborative effort to address challenges instead of a more combative approach. This quality lends itself to solving problems with greater buy-in from the community and stakeholders on many issues. Women elected officials bring a different perspective to improving quality of life in our communities as well – a perspective that’s often needed!  –  N.J. Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt

 

 

Heather-Simmons-Headshot-(Version-2)

Women in political office can bring more of a focus on parity than party. In general they are willing to approach issues in a bipartisan manner, introducing different perspectives to the agenda and linking the priorities of government more closely with those of the population as a whole. Many studies correlate more women legislators to a legislative agenda focused on things like education, health, labor, civil rights and more. And having women’s perspectives can lead to more progressive policies on issues like economic development, the environment, violence prevention, incarceration and support for families, seniors, veterans and people with disabilities.  – Heather Simmons, Gloucester County Freeholder

LtGov

 

Women offer a unique perspective that is vital in creating a government that works for everyone. But to ensure that voice is heard today and in the future, those of us who work in politics must encourage more women to step forward and serve the public. We must mentor and support this next generation of women in leadership.   Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno

O'Brien

 

A major hurdle for attracting good people into politics is the sense that it is no longer a noble undertaking, the idea that politics has devolved into a quagmire of negativity in which mud-throwing dominates, and from which nothing positive can emerge. Many women recoil from this ugliness, can’t imagine finding the time to fight it and ultimately choose not to participate. This is a shame. When good people say no, who says yes? Great things can come from politics, communities improved and lives changed, and more women in the process will only serve to fix what is wrong with it. Any woman who is contemplating running for office should proceed with confidence, passion and thick skin. You will be glad you did. I certainly am.   Mary Ann O’Brien, Burlington County Freeholder Director

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I think much of the political process is not attractive to women generally. Judging from the women in my life, politics is too much time spent on the process and not enough time doing the task. Too often, the process becomes what consumes the time and energy of the participants. Women are generally too sensible; they would not be dwelling on the gamesmanship. More women in politics would create a more grounded system of governing tied more closely to people’s real lives. I know the woman I’ve lived with for 36 years does that for me.  –  James Maley Jr., Mayor, Collingswood

 

Louis-Cappelli

 

Government only works when it is a true reflection of the community it serves.  That means that women and men from all ethnicities and experiences need to be fully engaged in the process. I have served with many extraordinary women at all levels of government, and I encourage more women to run for office. That is the only way to ensure that our government provides the accurate representation that was intended by our forefathers – and foremothers.   Louis Cappelli Jr., Camden County Freeholder Director

 

Sweeney-Official-Picture

The need for women to be better represented in all fields, including elected office, is more than evident. Women are 51 percent of New Jersey’s population but only 30 percent of the legislature. Women are equal stakeholders in all the state’s challenges, such as the environment, economic opportunity, education, housing. But they face more challenges in running for political office, because they often have more demands and responsibilities. While there may be progress, there is still more work to do in achieving equal rights and opportunities for women.   Steve Sweeney, N.J. Senate President

 

Addiego_Headshot_2011-(2)In 2014, which some media outlets called “the year of the woman” in politics, a record number of women were elected to higher office. While this is a good sign of things to come, it is not close to reflecting the influence we have in society and therefore should have as a voice in government.

As all women balance multiple roles in their personal and professional lives, I have balanced the roles of mother, attorney, business owner, manager and public servant. Women bring valuable experience and perspective to public policy discussions based on each of the roles they play. I encourage more women to become involved in the political process and to make their voices heard.   Dawn Addiego, N.J. Senator

May 2015
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