For too long, women, especially women of color, have been told to wait their turn. Time and again, no matter the job or the industry, men are praised for their ambition, labeled as “ones to watch” or “full of potential,” while women are criticized for those same traits. They are dismissed and attacked for being “too ambitious,” “too inexperienced” or as “unelectable.”
These long-standing double standards are only magnified when women leaders are expected to have years of experience serving in their communities and a long list of legislative accomplishments to go with it before running for higher office, while men with no public record can run and win without facing the same scrutiny.
We have seen it happen many times at all levels of elected office. And unfortunately, we’ve seen it here in Virginia, where the first and only woman ever elected statewide served 35 years ago. This past week, an InsideNoVa editorial made the case against electing a number of women serving the people of Northern Virginia in the General Assembly to statewide office. The editorial argued that these women apparently lacked the necessary experience in public office, ignoring the fact that many men, including the Democratic and Republican nominees for governor in 2013 and 2017, respectively — white men who were party insiders — as well as the current lieutenant governor, had never served in elected office before running and didn’t have their experience, credentials or motivation and ambition questioned.
These women have all been elected and reelected to the General Assembly after winning their seats in the 2017 historic election where the first transgender woman, first Latinas, and first Asian women were elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. Since taking office, they have continuously delivered for the people of Virginia by leading on the passage of bills to protect women's access to reproductive freedom, expand Medicaid for 400,000 Virginians and pass the Equal Rights Amendment.
And to be clear, before running for the House of Delegates, they each accomplished a lot in their careers and long-served their communities and the state. That professional experience matters, as does their lived experiences as women of color, mothers, and now legislators.
At Emily’s List, as we work to recruit, advise, train and elect women across the country, every day we fight to make that case and highlight why we need more women serving in elected office.
The ongoing COVID-19 crisis and our national reckoning with systemic racism have made it clear that the status quo isn’t working for too many Americans and that we need new ideas and fresh perspectives. Instead of downplaying and diminishing their experiences, we should be celebrating the fact that so many ambitious and impressive women are stepping up to lead in Virginia, not admonishing them for taking bold action. We should be welcoming the possibility of diverse leadership in the state, not punishing women and telling them to wait their turn. And we should be looking forward to finally electing a woman of color to statewide office, because it’s 2020 and long overdue.