Women should seek out leadership positions,
be active in politics
At the March meeting honoring Women’s History Month, the Women Who Have Made History panel comprising prominent Tarrant County leaders District Attorney Sharen Wilson, District Judge Judith Wells and Tarrant County College Board of Trustees Chair Louise Appleman gave some expert advice to women who seek leadership positions. The Forum's own experienced moderator Karen Myers led the discussion.
“Women who want to be leaders must believe in themselves. Many women are plagued with self-doubt about whether they can do the job,” said Wilson. “Ambition in a women is sometimes considered unseemly. Women who seek office must have self-confidence and a thick skin.”
Wilson retired from her position as a Tarrant County District Court Judge to run for the District Attorney’s post. “I run for election every four years, and I expect to have an opponent. I’ve lost an election before. You won’t die,” she said. “Women with female-sounding names have a 3-5 percent advantage at the ballot box. Voters think women are highly competent and moral.”
Appleman, one of the co-founders of the Women’s Policy Forum almost 30 years ago, said dedicating one’s self to public service is an all-consuming job. “You must be prepared to set aside everything to do the job you’ve set your sights on,” she said. “And it is totally public.”
Judith Wells ran for her judgeship after a candidate she was backing decided not to seek office. She said that she was not and is still not comfortable with the financial demands of running for office. “It’s expensive, at least $100,000 to run a good campaign for a local seat, but it’s a reality.”
She suggested working on a campaign or giving donations to office seekers to get acquainted with the process. “A donation to a political candidate will put you in a position to know what is going on and who can help you if you decide to run, “ she added. “Your donations help office seekers and position you for future success.”
She added that if you don’t have the money to donate, work on the campaign stuffing envelopes or canvassing.All emphasized the importance of seeking out organizations and groups with power bases that can propel office seekers into office. “Women’s Policy Forum is one of those groups that can be a big help to an aspiring political leader,” they said.
Begin by getting experience serving on school boards, neighborhood association boards, zoning commissions, and county commissions. Appleman said working in community service positions at churches, synagogues, schools and non-profits help women gain experience.
Seek out jobs that interest you and for which you have a passion, the panel said.
“In matters of policy, when women are affected, men are, too,” said Appleman. “My priorities are equal pay, health care and reproductive rights, accessible education for women, all are important to me because they affect families.”
Wells said she sees many struggling families in her court. “Lack of education and opportunity are at the root of so many of the problems. Women need education so that they can be independent in their own right and give their children a better life.
”When a woman is successful, she should bring other women along with her. “When I took office, the staff was 50 percent female, but all the leaders were men. I have elevated women to leadership positions,” she said. “Women work harder and think outside the box.”
As for future generations, the panelists encouraged leaders to mentor younger women and encourage them to seek leadership positions. Mentoring aspiring leaders is an important service older, more experienced, women can provide. “We have developed the thick skin and perspective necessary to be in those positions,” Wilson said. “One of our roles should be to help younger women find their paths to success.” .