Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 7
 
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
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Wanted: Women 45 Years and Older to Run for Political Office in 2012

Ellen Gilbert

The 2012 Project, sponsored by the Rutgers Center for Woman and Politics (CAWP), would like to address the paucity of women in office in this country.

Numbers talk. Only 24 percent of state legislators nationwide are women. Only 17 percent of the U.S. Congress is female. “What we see out there now is that people have a slightly distorted sense of the numbers and level of women’s participation in high level politics because we have a few very visible women like Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton,” said CAWP Director Debbie Walsh. “But the numbers show it isn’t so.”

At a recent start-up meeting for the project in the home of Borough resident Kim Pimley, Ms. Walsh and CAWP Director of Development Susan Nemeth, who is also a Princeton Township Committeewoman, described the background of the 2012 Project.

Two variables stand out. One is the fact that the target population for the project is women who are age 45 and above. “We often hear that women are kept from running for office because they have young children at home, or because they have to focus on their careers,” said Ms. Walsh. “Women over 45 are thinking more about how to transform the things they care about into some kind of action, and creating their own legacy.”

The second factor — and the key to the project’s name — is the 2010 census, which will result in redistricting and opportunities to run for new Congressional seats. While New Jersey stands to lose a Congressional seat, the 2012 Project is national in scope. “We’re going to be matchmakers,” Ms. Walsh said. The CAWP found a national mapping project which they’ve used to identify campaign training opportunities and leadership projects available in every state. The “completely bipartisan” project will match interested women with the appropriate group(s) in her state or the nation.

“The point of this project is to go out and meet women in a certain set of professions — business and finance, health care, science, energy and the environment — fields where there’s a need for a particular kind of expertise,” observed Ms. Walsh. “Project representatives will go out and meet these women where they are — at conferences and conventions — to make them aware of how they can further policy agendas they care about, and why they should run for office.”

“The 2012 Project offers the rare opportunity for a generation of women to leave their mark on American politics,” observed Ms. Nemeth. “Armed with research about what motivates women to run, where they can make the greatest gains, and who can help them win, CAWP is uniquely situated to help women of both major parties take advantage of this moment in our country’s history.

“We were thrilled that so many women in the greater Princeton area braved the cold to discuss a hot topic with one another!” said Ms. Nemeth of the turnout at Ms. Pimley’s house, where over 50 women showed up for the meeting.

CAWP research shows that “International studies rank the U.S. anywhere from 61st to 73rd in terms of women’s political representation.” However measured, they conclude, “the United States is far from fulfilling its promise of full equality for women. The under-representation of women in public office has a profound impact on U.S. policy-making.”

Ms. Walsh described the current status of the project as “the quiet phase,” a time for planning and fund-raising. A “public unveiling” will probably occur, she said, sometime in April.In the meantime, those interested in the project are encouraged to visit www.cawp.rutgers.edu/education_training/2012Project/index.php.

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