“Something which we think is impossible now is not impossible in another decade.” – Constance Baker Motley
When I was first elected to office in 2004, I was excited to find the National League of Cities (NLC). As a former educator, I valued professional and membership associations and the connections they provided.
At my first NLC conference, I found my home within NLC’s Women in Municipal Government (WIMG) eventually rising to serve as its president. This group of powerful, talented, and committed women across the country was a nurturing and engaging space. It is also unique.
Women have long been underrepresented in local government. While women are the majority of the U.S. population at 50.8 percent, they but only make up 23 percent of mayors in cities with a population over 30,000; women of color, Republican women, young women and low-income women are especially underrepresented.
NLC has been uniting and uplifting Women in Local Government since 1974, encouraging them to run for local office. It is also one of the only NLC groups that grant non-members the opportunity to join and connect with peers. WIMG serves as a vehicle for members to discuss problems and explore solutions, debate policy issues, and contribute to the success of American cities and towns.
The group meets three times a year in person and hosts a variety of webinars and programs throughout the year including a leadership awards program. WIMG is a special group of women who are working for their communities while simultaneously raising their families, holding other jobs, and balancing other responsibilities.
My experience in WIMG and the mentors/colleagues I have met helped my inspire my own leadership journey, including my decision to run for the NLC Board of Directors and as NLC president, becoming the first woman from South Carolina to hold that position.
However, I can’t ignore that despite great strides over the last few years, the U.S. still lags far behind other countries in its female representation in government. In fact – it ranks 75th out of 193 countries. Yet, we do have a few milestones to celebrate.
Earlier this year, our country elected our first female Vice President, and welcomed the largest number of women in Congress, as well as to state and local government. I look forward to a future that is more representative of women.
Happy Women’s History Month to my sisters in service!