By Jill Bossi, Candidate for the U.S. Senate
In March 2014, I quit my lucrative and fulfilling job as the Chief Procurement Officer for the American National Red Cross to run for the U.S. Senate in my home state of South Carolina. The first question most people I meet ask me is "Why?" Why would I leave a good job, endanger my career and my retirement to chase what most considerable a less than desirable job in politics? My answer to most people: If not me, who? If not now, when?
We have all seen the studies and the data that has been shared about how much better women are at leading, at collaborating and at finding solutions in corporate America. Why should we not be taking those skills and applying them to running our country? America desperately needs a new breed of politician -- people who understand what it is to serve, not be served. People who are willing to put their own desires on the sidelines to meet the needs of the many. I firmly believe that women are well suited and well equipped to do that for their communities, their states and the nation.
There are many good women who are serving on the local level; on school boards, city governments, county boards and in various state bodies; but there is still a very dismal representation of women on the federal level. In the House of Representatives, women comprise only 18% of that body. In the U.S. Senate it has reached 20% -- but women make up almost 51% of the U.S. population. Talk about legislation without representation!
Women are entering college and grad school at much higher rates than our male counterparts. We are still struggling to achieve parity in the ranks of corporate America, both in executive ranks and on the boards of these major corporations. If you are wondering how to leap over decades of ignorance, how about running for office? Former Congressmen and Senators are on the top of the list for many companies slate of potential board members and we have certainly seen evidence of how effective being a former member of Congress is to one's career hopes in many industries. (Eric Cantor ring a bell, ladies?)
The reality is that the deck is stacked against women to run for office. I have learned this firsthand. It is certainly decked against anyone who does not run as a Democrat or a Republican. Not only does the media tend to discount your efforts, but the pollsters are equally culpable in ignoring anyone that does not have a "D" or an "R" behind their name. But there are significant barriers to getting on the ticket in either major party, because you have to be willing to play their game and for many women, including myself, that game is not one we want to engage in for so many reasons. Running as a third party candidate or an independent is possible. And I believe this midterm election will provide some real surprises to the media pundits, the pollsters and the dominant parties. Just watch and see.
I encourage women of all career paths to seriously consider throwing your hat into the ring (after all women do have more fashionable hats than the guys ever did!) Women are, I believe, better equipped to serve and to succeed in the halls of Congress. We need the diversity in the cesspool that is our current Congress. We need new voices. We need new advocates. America cannot sustain for much longer under the current weight of political cronyism and disdain for the American public. We women are stronger than we give ourselves credit for and it is time that more of us stood up and said, "Here I am, send me!"