When Loretta and I started working with other leaders to create IWIL, we knew from personal experiences that this would be an important organization. Over the past few years several studies have been released that underscore the importance of our work. Here’s what we have learned:
1. Women are more effective legislators. Women are better at building consensus and therefore pass more legislation. In fact, women pass 33% more legislation in The US House of Representatives. (http://tiny.cc/38kymx)
2. When women are at the table, women stand-up for policies that support and protect women and working families. My favorite example was when the US Senate was debating Obamacare. In a hearing, then Arizona Republican Senator, Jon Kyl proclaimed, “I don’t need maternity care.” To which Michigan Democratic Senator, Debbie Stabenow replied: “No, but your mom probably did.” (http://tiny.cc/09kymx)
3. Women need organizations like IWIL. Unfortunately, the percentage of women elected to public office is declining in our country. Fewer women actually hold statewide office now than in years past. Women make up only 22% of elected office holders.
Women still lag far behind men in contemplating a run for elective office. Researchers have discovered that the difference is having up-close experiences with the political process – the types of experiences and training that IWIL provides. And we provide the core program at no cost to our participants. IWIL offers our “delegates” a year of training in areas including leadership skills development, public speaking, media training, voter contact training and training from policy experts. We also provide a thorough understanding of Illinois politics and extensive sessions on the role the labor movement plays in politics. Our classes meet with elected officials at all levels of government who have met with the delegates to share their perspectives on the promise and challenges of running for office.