By Cheyenne Darcy Amaya
BU News Service
BOSTON – A skyrocketing amount of women are running for office in this year’s midterms, but is it enough to say women are progressing in numbers when it comes to their involvement in politics?
According to Pew Research Center, “majorities of Americans see men and women as equally capable when it comes to some of the key qualities and behaviors that are essential for top leaders in political and business. Yet women still make up a small share of top leadership jobs in both of these realms.”
Although this year’s numbers show more women have run for office in the past two years, three Boston University alumnae say there is still a lot of room for more women to be a part of politics.
Martha Coakley, Hannah Kane and Kay Khan spoke at Harvard Club of Boston Thursday about inspiring women of all ages, especially young women, to start thinking about running for office or helping in other ways politically. Scores of people of differing ages and races attended but the majority were women.
The conversation focused on the push for women to get out there and immerse themselves in something they often would not do, get into politics. While also addressing the reality women hold back due to the double standard placed on them.
Former Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley reflected on her own loss, hinting maybe she tried to do too much on her own.
“It was the idea that, ‘Well you can’t do this, well you can’t say that you know. Just say what we tell you to say,’ and I think I lost some of myself and my authenticity in that” Coakley said.
Through this experience Coakley said she learned a lot about future races and started to believe in her own ability.
Coakley also said women are treated more harshly and are looked at as incompetent which causes them to not take the risk or running. As someone who did take the risk, she said when it comes to politics it’s good to just throw your hat in the ring and know there’s a chance you might not win.
Kay Khan, a Democratic member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives for the 11th Middlesex District, agreed with Coakley. Khan said she believes it’s hard for women to put themselves out their politically because women often feel like they have to wait for their turn to run.
Khan said because of this fear she makes it a point to always speak to the women in the audience, particularly the young women, to inspire them to become active. Even if they don’t want to necessarily run in a race, they can work in the statehouse, work on campaigns, or in city government or local government she said.
Khan referenced Emerge America, whose mission is to “increase the number of Democratic women leaders from diverse backgrounds in public office through recruitment, training and providing a powerful network,” their website reads.
Khan also spoke about Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus, a nonpartisan group working to inspire and increase the number of women who run for office. She brought both organizations up during the conversation to acknowledge the importance of understanding one cannot do it alone and support is available.
Questrom School of Business alumna Hannah Kane said women need to see other women doing this. She emphasized, as did Khan, women need to get involved and be a part of the process even if that means knocking on doors. There are many roles women can take to get their foot in the door in politics. Kane was a part of nine races before she considered running in her own race.
Jessica Beliveau, 24, the legislative aide for Kane, said after the panel spoke she was proud of Kane’s work.
“I can count myself as one of her biggest supporters so I think I’m always proud on that level,” Beliveau said. “It’s nice when you see your boss doing well.”
“We rule ourselves out when we should be ruling ourselves in,” Kane finished. “That’s really the difference because when women run we win at the same rate as men. So, it’s just that effort to get into the game because you have the same chance as a man has once you get in.”