OP-ED: Watch Out, Glass Ceiling

BY ASSEMBLYWOMAN NILY ROZIC

When it comes to the lottery, you have to play to win.

The same can be said for getting more women elected – more women have to run.

That is not happening as much as it should in this country. Our country’s rank for women’s political representation, 84th in the world, is dropping every year and the gender gap in political ambition is growing with obvious negative effects for women’s health, economics, education and work.

Year after year, New York State, too, receives lackluster results when the rankings come out detailing the number of women elected to legislatures in all 50 states. Last week, the National Conference of State Legislatures placed New York 33rd out of the 50 states in terms of female representation.

6 RozicSo, let’s take a page from Queens’ own Geraldine Ferraro, who once said “some leaders are born women.”

New York has an abundance of smart, capable women, but few decide to take the plunge into local or state politics. Research over the past couple of decades has explored the reasons women do not run.

They generally have more difficulty raising money, they face different obstacles than men do, and there can be media biases and challenges in getting support. This is clearly not the end of the line and is even more abundantly clear during election season.

Though 2012 saw a record number of women elected as public officials – myself included – few women make it to the ballot in the first place. Why?

The number one reason women do not run for office – the one cited most often in studies – is nobody asked them.

Women typically must be asked on average eight times while waiting for the right moment. I have spent years thinking about this issue, and about other specific challenges we face.

Progress is evident through the recent elections of Borough President Melinda Katz – Queens’ third consecutive female borough president – and U.S. Rep. Grace Meng – the first Asian American woman elected to Congress from New York.

But while Mayor Bill de Blasio has successfully chosen many venerable women for executive, government roles, the percentage of women entering top political positions is still disproportionate to the percentage of women in our state.

Even with Geraldine Ferraro, who climbed the pantheon from the District Attorney’s office to the presidential campaign trail, and what seems like Hillary Clinton’s inevitable 2016 presidential bid as formidable examples, there remains a disconnect.

Women only hold 3 of 14 City Council seats, 7 of 17 Assembly seats, and only 1 of 7 State Senate seats in Queens.

The shortage of women in office means a shortage of diverse, influential voices in the rooms where public policy is decided.

We need to do more to ensure that women have parity in government, and the first step in doing so is to encourage more women to run for office.

As the youngest woman in the State legislature these days, I use my experience to focus on the heart of that issue. I have worked with organizations such as EMILY’s List, Eleanor’s Legacy, and the American Association of University Women to train women early-on in their public service careers.

Further hands-on experience should be equally encouraged in our schools, colleges and universities, and community boards so that young women can have the running start they need for a successful future in government.

We should continually reach out to young women who may think about a career in public service. Ramping up their involvement is a great way to build leadership skills that help an eventual run for office.

So will you ask a woman to get involved and run today?

Assemblywoman Nily Rozic represents the 25th Assembly District. At 26 years old, Rozic became the youngest woman serving in the New York State Legislature.