WOMEN, PARENTHOOD, AND POLITICAL PARTIES
The inclusion of women in politics results in improved democratic outcomes and contributes to a better quality of life for communities, however, women still face high hurdles to participating in political parties. For example, the challenges that young moms face in office and on the campaign trail were recently highlighted by the experiences of two female Minnesota politicians, former state Rep. Erin Maye Quade and State Sen. Julia Coleman.
Last month a debate sparkled during the MN Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) district 56 endorsement convention for the 2022 election cycle. A clearer explanation of the endorsement process might be helpful.
The DFL follows a structured process when selecting its candidates. According to the DFL website, there are four levels of official caucuses and conventions. The first two are a) the precinct caucuses, in which local voters can get to know their candidates, and b) the organizing unit convention, where candidates are organized by senatorial district and delegates vote on who gets the endorsement. There are multiple rounds of voting at the convention. The convention ends without an endorsement if neither candidate receives the minimum number of 60 percent votes from delegates.
Due to the fact that there were two candidates running for the Senate seat in district 56, Erin Maye Quade and Justin Emmerich, an endorsement was undertaken on April 23. Candidate Erin Maye Quade went into labor hours before the in-person endorsing convention and gave her speech while in labor and having contractions. Maye Quade made it through part of the convention, before reluctantly withdrawing to go to the hospital. In her absence, delegates had the option of voting for her, Justin Emmerich-her opponent- or “no endorsement”. Justin Emmerich won the DFL endorsement with 71% of the votes.
Women with political ambition have been confronting a system and public opinion that believes that elected political leaders should embody physical prowess and misguided stoicism. In the video, the convention-goers applaud when Erin takes a pause from her speech to deal with contraction pain.
Campaigning and being in power can be challenging for moms, and it is not unique to the DFL. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, Republicans were much less likely to support mothers who have young children than fathers who have young children. Moreover, the same week of the district 56 debate, Sen. Julia Coleman (R-Waconia) reflected on Twitter about the challenges she has faced as a mother of three small children.
Women shouldn't be hindered from running for office or legislating by pregnancy or motherhood. Our organization is of the opinion that growing women's interest in political leadership should also be accompanied by addressing the disadvantages presented by the political environment. As long as the political system is based on masculine defaults, we will find it difficult to generate a sustainable interest in political careers among young women.
STRATEGIES TO REDUCE GENDER EXCLUSION
It is possible to reveal and remove gender exclusion from political parties, collective beliefs, practices, and policies. Following are some strategies for reducing masculine defaults in political leadership:
Political parties should make accommodations for pregnant candidates, for example by anticipating convention dates or avoiding endorsements entirely and directly moving to primaries.
Make politics a family-friendly career. Offer childcare after hours
The electoral laws could be amended so that politicians could share their responsibilities. The pair would be eligible for the same salary and vote but also share the same workload. There have been discussions to implement this in several countries — Australia and Northern Ireland — but to date, none have been successful.
Reformulating political leadership's goals may yield powerful reductions in masculine defaults. Power-related goals such as competition and self-promotion drive the pursuit of political careers. A focus on communal leadership goals, on the other hand, increases women's interest in running for office. It is as important to change the messages girls and women outside of politics hear as it is to change the attitudes of men and women inside of politics about the goals of political leadership. Politicians could be required to report on their progress toward goals based on helping others.
Support stereotypically feminine leadership traits that have been identified as contributing to successful outcomes, such as empathy, consensus building, and collaboration
Dismantling masculine defaults may be met with resistance because doing so directly challenges the current status quo. A concerted advocacy effort and deliberate action, however, could help. Minnesota can be a leader by embracing these innovative approaches and showing the world we're dedicated to making our politics more family and women-friendly.