This month, history was made when this country's first female and person of color was inaugurated as Vice President. We shouldn't let this historic pass without working to ensure more women, especially those of color, have a place at decision making tables in Rhode Island, including in roles such as the soon to be open Lt. Governor seat.
Due to their distinct role in their families and communities, women bring a unique and valuable perspective to policymaking and the political process. By holding public office, women loudly voice their priorities and concerns across various issues and challenges. These include securing affordable childcare or quality education for their children, keeping their families healthy and safe, and earning a fair income sufficient to make ends meet and help their families thrive. When women engage in the political process, it increases the chances that issues typically of concern to women come to the forefront during electoral, legislative, and budget deliberations.
Women's Fund of Rhode Island officially launches its "Women's Well-Being Index" on January 27. This index compares how well women do versus their male counterparts in cities and towns throughout Rhode Island. One of the dimensions the index measures is through political empowerment. Rhode Island falls below national averages several of the measures in this dimension. Interested readers can find the index at https://wfri.org/rhode-island-womens-well-being-index/, along with policy recommendations to address the inequities highlighted.
Although women make up more than half of the U.S. population, they are not proportionately represented at the decision-making tables in business and government, where priorities are set and resources are allocated that affect all of our lives. In 2021, women hold 23.7% of U.S. Congressional seats and 30.3% of statewide elective executive offices. Even in Rhode Island, where we have a record 45.1% of women in our state legislature, we still have a way to go before achieving equity in office, including representation that reflects our community’s diversity. Only two women currently hold statewide elective leadership roles and one of them is likely to leave their state role for a national position.
There has been much talk recently about whom Lt. Governor McKee should pick as his successor, should Governor Raimondo be confirmed as our nation's new Commerce Secretary. Were Lt. Governor McKee to ask for our recommendation for his replacement, we would tell him to ensure that a qualified woman and/or person of color be selected. Our goal should always be to achieve gender and racial equity for all elected and appointed positions within our state.
Written by Kelly Nevins, Chief Executive Officer, Women's Fund of Rhode Island, www.wfri.org; email@example.com; 401-262-5657