We Need Women Like You in Public Office

This past fall, I was elected to the Washington, D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commission.

Running for this seat wasn’t an easy decision for me to make. I was approached by two active commissioners before the election and encouraged to run for the vacant seat in my district. Even still, I was unsure. For me to declare my candidacy, It took asking a third person if they thought I should run. With a resounding endorsement, I threw my hat in the ring. I’ve long been active in my community, but with the urging of these three people, I knew this was an empowering and meaningful channel to enact change in my community.

My candidacy wasn’t very different than the candidacies of women across the country. When women are considering political office, it takes three different people telling them to run to push them over the edge toward candidacy. This shows in the number of women who sit on the panel. Despite the city of Washington, D.C. having the highest percentage of women in the country, only 25 percent—two of the eight commissioners—of the commission is female.

Unfortunately, this also isn’t out of the norm for political bodies across the country. Across the country, in spite of being more than half the population, women consistently hover around 20 percent of elected office at all levels. Only one in five members of Congress are women. Only 20 percent of mayors are women. Only 25 percent of state legislators are women.

This gap in representation has persisted for decades—and it puts women at a severe disadvantage.

More than 52 percent of men recently surveyed said they don’t see any impact in their lives if women have affordable access to birth control—but they agreed that if more women were in public office, the debate around these issues would end. We need people with diverse experiences crafting solutions that impact the communities they serve. We need our elected bodies to look more like our communities.

But the impact of women in public office doesn’t end with “women’s issues.” Regardless of party affiliation, a recent report found that women have voted more consistently in favor of environmental protections and policies than men have over the past 25 years in both the House and Senate.

Support for clean air, clean water, renewable energy, climate action, and public health should not be up for debate. But as we near the 100 day mark of a new Administration, we’ve seen attacks to the Clean Power Plan, rollbacks to environmental justice regulations and toxics control. It has never been more urgent to get a pipeline of leaders into decision-making positions to transform our policies and take action on the local and national levels.

That is why this week—after the People’s Climate March—the Sierra Club, Emily’s List, Rachel’s Network and others are convening top pro-choice, pro-environment women to gear up for their own political campaigns at an April 30th training.

Running for office has been one of the best decisions I’ve made so far. Don’t wait for three people to tell you to run. Just wait until you can—and then fight to make a difference in your community.



A. Tianna Scozzaro is the Director of the Sierra Club’s Gender, Equity & Environment Program, where she works to ensure climate and environment policies support women and LGBTQ communities. Previously, she worked on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, conducted research about women's environmental stewardship in Congress and served as a public policy fellow for the U.S. House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.  She holds an MPA in Environmental Science and Policy from Columbia and an undergraduate degree from UC Davis.