When Women Run, We All Win

  • Jul 19, 2021
  • Melanie V. Ramil, Executive Director of Emerge California
  • Seismic Sisters
“In 2020, we saw the world finally recognize what we at Emerge California have known all along: women know how to lead.”
When Women Run,
We All Win

July 19, 2021
By Melanie V. Ramil
Emerge California inspires women to run for office and hones their skills to win. Emerge California at CADEM 2019 conference with Executive Director Melanie Ramil. Photo courtesy of Emerge California.

Emerge California inspires women to run for office and hones their skills to win. Emerge California at CADEM 2019 conference with Executive Director Melanie Ramil. Photo courtesy of Emerge California.

We used to talk about the numbers.

We would say: From school boards to the California State Legislature, women hold only thirty percent of all elected seats. In California, where we often pride ourselves on serving as the moral compass for the country, we have been led by zero women governors.

We used to talk about representation.

We would say: Women need a seat at the decision-making table because “if you’re not at the table, then you’re on the menu.” As women make up over half of the population, we must hold at least half of the state’s elected seats.

Yes, numbers matter. Yes, representation matters. But now, in the midst of a global pandemic, economic depression, and racial justice uprising, we must finally give voice to the truth behind the numbers and beyond representation.

Women leaders are different. Women leaders possess a leadership style that is unique amidst the status quo. Women leaders are collaborative and effective and, simply, get sh*t done.

Research has consistently found that women tend to adopt a more transformational leadership style, which is rooted in authenticity, cooperation and a focus on the common good. With men at the helm of power since our nation’s founding, we have only seen and thus have accepted as the norm their leadership style – one that is more transactional, and one that values self over team, self over community.

This is changing. 

In 2020, we saw the world finally recognize what we at Emerge California have known all along: women know how to lead. And, we must elect women if we want to live in a world where transformational leadership is the norm and not the exception. 

This is exactly why Emerge California was founded. We knew that if we changed the face of elected power, the decisions impacting each and every one of us would change too.

For 19 years, Emerge California has been empowering Democratic women leaders to run for elective office — and WIN. We do this by recruiting women leaders to run, providing training to ensure they have the resources and tools needed to win once they do, and building a sisterhood that works to combat a political system still rooted in white supremacy and patriarchal culture.

We are intentional about recruiting women from communities that have been historically excluded from politics, namely, women of the New American Majority – Black, Brown and Indigenous women, women of color, LGBTQ+ women, and young and unmarried women. We do this because we know that when our elected leaders bring the life experiences of those they serve to the halls of power, different and better decisions will be made.

Today, more than 800 women leaders have been trained by Emerge California. 182 Emerge California women currently serve in elective office, including Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott, and seventeen mayors across the state.

In 2020, we saw what it meant to have these women in elective office.

Emerge California alumna and San Francisco Mayor London Breed was the first mayor in the country to order residents to shelter in place in March 2020. Immediately after, other major cities and eventually the State of California followed suit.

In Monterey, Emerge California alumna and then-school board member Wendy Root Askew knew that students learning at home would be affected and delivered laptops to every student in the district to combat the inequities of the “digital divide.”

Emerge California alumna and San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott cracked down on gun law violations, knowing the safety risks that some families and children would face at home during a mandated quarantine.

Throughout the state, Emerge California alumnae were at the forefront of the global pandemic. They worked to ensure that students at home were safe and fed, essential workers were protected, and small businesses received the support they needed to survive.

Through the crisis, it could not have been clearer to see that the leadership of women is based in truth, compassion, integrity, on decisions based in fact and science, on the desire to protect and serve the most vulnerable among them, and the fortitude to prioritize what is right and moral above the need to get re-elected.

Member of the California State Board of Equalization Malia Cohen . Photo courtesy of Emerge California.

Member of the California State Board of Equalization
Malia Cohen.
 Photo courtesy of Emerge California.

If we want to live in a world that gives everyone the opportunity to succeed and recognizes the humanity of each and every one of us, we must elect women. 

We will once again have the opportunity to do this during the next election cycle.

In 2022, not only will we see women run in historic numbers again, we will see women break barriers as they run and win higher elected posts. We know this because some of these women will be Emerge California alumnae.

Malia Cohen, Class of 2005 alumna, is running for State Controller. If elected, she will be the first Emerge California alumna to rise from local elected office to statewide office. She would also be the first Black woman to serve as California State Controller.

 

Hayward Mayor Pro Tempore and the first Afghan American woman elected to public office, Aisha Wahab . Photo courtesy of Emerge California.

Hayward Mayor Pro Tempore and the first Afghan American woman elected to public office, Aisha Wahab.
Photo courtesy of Emerge California.

If Aisha Wahab, Class of 2013 alumna, wins her race in Senate District 10, she will be the first alumna to serve in the California State Senate. When she won her seat on the Hayward City Council in 2018, she was the first Afghan American woman elected to office in the United States.

Marina Torres, Class of 2020 alumna, would be the first Emerge California alumna to serve in a city-wide office in the City of Los Angeles if her run for City Attorney is successful.

The pipeline that Emerge California has built over the past two decades has undoubtedly upended the status quo. When Emerge California women win, they are often the first – the first woman of color, the first LGBTQ+ woman, the first mom – to serve their cities and districts. When Emerge California women win, they flip districts and are sometimes the only Democrat on city councils and county boards. And, as more Emerge California women run and win, they will break barriers at the highest positions of power in the state.

Emerge California is more than a training organization. We are a movement that inspires women to see themselves as leaders, and to run, win and lead in public office – a movement that is literally changing the face of elected power.

Federal prosecutor and first-generation Latina who worked for President Obama, Marina Torres represents the American Dream. Photo courtesy of Emerge California.

Federal prosecutor and first-generation Latina who worked for President Obama, Marina Torres represents the American Dream.
Photo courtesy of Emerge California.

When women run, we get an elected body that leads with grit, honesty, grace and integrity, and one that has the courage and fierce commitment to move us towards a more compassionate, just and equitable world. In short: when women run, we all win.

Melanie Ramil is the Executive Director of Emerge California.
Seismic Sisters thanks Melanie Ramil for being a bold advocate for women’s leadership and contributing this Opinion as a guest columnist in our July 2021 edition of The Jolt newsletter.

https://www.seismicsisters.com/when-women-lead/2021/7/19/when-women-run-we-all-win