My late mother was a compassionate and incredibly generous woman. She taught elementary school special education classes for more than 30 years and was a pioneer in treating kids with learning disabilities. She had volumes of patience with her students, with me and – in retirement – with her grandsons.
But she rarely exhibited even a smattering of tolerance for any act of self-pity and wouldn’t allow me to wallow very much in sorrow. There were exceptions, but few. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, she would say. Get back in there and do the best you can. Do the best you can.
I’ve long believed that my ability to ‘bounce back’ from election defeats – including several epic ones – in the twelve years I directed the JobsPAC and other political efforts on behalf of the business community was a result of her tough-love. That and a concentration of optimism that runs strong in my bloodstream. I woke up many a “Wednesday morning” – usually after only a few hours of sleep – and set out immediately to put a new strategy down on paper, mapping out the next campaign(s), with Mom’s voice in my head. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off…
Wednesday, November 9, 2016 was a bit of an exception. Like many of you, I was not only stunned by the results but I was also cut – in so many ways and so deep that l still can’t summon words to sufficiently describe. I prayed a lot that day and told myself and the friends who reached out for consolation to take comfort in the fact that the sun still rose that morning. But, this year, that wasn’t quite enough. Mom’s voice seemed to grow faint.
In subsequent days, new voices emerged. Next generation women, mentees, the peers of my sons. My mentor. My pastor’s wife. My best friend. This week, I spent 48 hours with a group of private and public sector women leaders from all over the state – rock stars each of them – and something important happened. We found faith in each other’s company. We were encouraged by each other’s accomplishments. We found confidence in each other’s voices. We concluded that we must cease mourning and get back in there. My mother’s spirit was there, watching and egging us on.
I’ve devoted a lot of my spare time over three decades to encouraging women to seek leadership roles for reasons we all already know: the more diverse the set of experiences at the table, the stronger the solutions, the higher the profits, the smarter the outcomes. Many of us are so very frustrated that we’ve failed to move the needle very much. Worse yet, this cycle, we lost what little ground we have made in the California Legislature. As of today, the Assembly has 2 fewer women – now at 17; the California Senate is down to just 10 women – it used to be 12. Women are just over 50% of the state’s population. There is, still, work to be done.
Electing women clearly isn’t easy (to state the obvious), at any level of government. In addition to the six or seven times research says they must be asked to run before they’ll even seriously consider it, taking the leap, raising the money, sacrificing the time – all of this taking place inside an arena where the mud has gotten muddier and the sling much stronger – remains a daunting task. But, we have to do this, one-by-one, city-by-city, county-by county, learning from our mistakes and deploying new strategies.
We have no choice. There is too much at stake and rights worth fighting for. We owe this to our children. And to our mothers.
#notgivingup #winlikeagirl #CaWomenLead