In North Dakota, we’ve been working diligently to reverse a negative trend on women’s leadership. Prior to the November 2012 election, we had only one woman in any statewide office and only 15% of the state legislators were women. That election produced a modest 17% women in the state legislature, 3 women in statewide office and North Dakota’s first elected woman US Senator. Aside from Heidi Heitkamp’s presence in the US Senate, these low numbers are not unprecedented for our state. It is a simple return to the old status quo. We must keep the progress moving forward.
Our Vision 2020 efforts in North Dakota have been to continue a forward momentum until we do see parity. We certainly have a long way to go, but our plan has been thoughtful and strategic. We’re building a movement. We’ve empowered women to ask others to run for office, without neglecting to think of themselves as that potential candidate. We’ve launched training campaigns, following the Rutgers’ Ready to Run model. Additionally, we’ve started developing a pipeline by monitoring appointments to boards and commissions and encouraging gender balance in those appointments.
Solving the problem of too few women in leadership in the state requires tackling the issue from numerous angles. The diversity of approach is more likely to bear fruit. Primarily, the work requires a sustained effort and big thinking. We are committed to real gender equity and won’t yield.