SAN FRANCISCO — Although California was one of the first states to legalize women’s suffrage in 1911, new statistics show that California has fallen behind 22 states in electing women to public office.
For Catharine Baker, her path into politics began with her family.
“I saw the results of the budgetary burdens on our classrooms and my kids, the principal referred me to every committee,” Baker told KPIX 5. “When I saw those issues, I said, ‘What committee didn’t you put me on? to solve these problems?’ and he said, ‘There isn’t one, you can’t do anything about it.'”
But she did something about it. In 2014, she defeated Dublin City Councilor Tim Sbranti to serve as Member of State Parliament for District 16.
Like so many women in politics, she faced prejudice her male counterparts didn’t, and dodged questions about her looks and her children rather than the issues at hand.
“I remember sitting down with a local male mayor who actually said to me, ‘You have young kids, don’t you want to be home with your kids?’ and my opponent’s wife just had a baby and I don’t know if that was a topic of conversation,” Baker said.
Every state bordering California has a higher percentage of women elected to office, including notorious battleground states like Arizona and Nevada.
“We’re 50% of the population and well over 50% in some professions or regions, and if you want to solve problems and make life better, you need to have the voices of a large segment of your population sharing experiences,” Baker continued. “The solutions to our problems are more complete and lasting when women are in the room and at the table.”
Over the past 22 years, California has remained about the same level when it comes to the election of women to office — about 24% to 33% since 2000, according to research from Rutgers University — something that Susannah Delano, executive director of Close the Gap CA, says is increasing .
“A major reason we’re not doing better is that we’re not running big enough,” Delano told KPIX 5. “When women run, women win.”
But it’s not all bad news. Delano says 2024 is ripe for more women to run for office and win eligible positions, and she already has candidates for them.
“The Legislature has implemented about 30% this year and will implement at least another 20% in 24, but we’re bracing for a lot of movement at the Congressional level, which is always a knock-on effect, so it’s really going to be a big year,” Delano said .
For Baker, she says women in elected office have unique skills and should be more widely represented in politics. She has one piece of advice for anyone interested in running a successful campaign: “Don’t talk yourself out of it, and don’t talk out of it to anyone else either.”
Baker continued, “You’ll be amazed at what you can do.”