That is the big question and it is critical to understand why, so we can address the issue. Local offices provide an excellent training ground for individuals seeking higher offices, as well as positions on boards and commissions, which typically have a higher percentage of women.
In analyzing election results from 2012 to 2014, the proportion of female candidates rose from 33 percent to 37.7 percent throughout the state. However, in the 10 largest cities in Iowa, the trend is not as positive. Only 29 percent of city council members and mayors were female.
Six of the 10 cities had only one woman or no female representation at all. These cities are Des Moines, West Des Moines, Sioux City, Davenport, Waterloo and Cedar Falls. The remaining four cities - Ames, Council Bluffs, Dubuque and Cedar Rapids - are gender balanced.
Here are some of the reasons women choose not to seek elective office:
- Women still have more responsibility for taking care of the household and family.
- Women need to be persuaded and asked.
- Fear of fundraising. Can they possibly raise the funds to run a successful campaign? Most candidates do not have the luxury of funding their own campaign and need to raise funds from friends, neighbors and community leaders.
- Personal financial impact. The amount of time required to fulfill the responsibilities of the position can definitely take away from your day job and often requires individuals to use vacation time for daytime meetings.
- Balancing family, work and elective office is challenging.
- Increased negative tone of campaigns and the impact on families.
If we are going successfully encourage more women to run for office, we need to provide the support that will allow them to do so. Their voice and approach is important as they tend to work to develop consensus, are compassionate, listen and tend to work harder.
As women look at running for elective office, they might keep in mind advice provided by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1936, which is still relevant today.
"You cannot take anything personally
You cannot bear grudges
You must finish the day's work when the day's work is done
You cannot get discouraged too easily
You have to take defeat over and over again and pick up and go on
Be sure of your facts ..."
Women who are willing to be leaders must stand out and be shot at. More and more they are going to do it, and more and more they should do it.
And above all, every women in political life "needs to develop skin as tough as rhinoceros hide."
Christine Hensley has been a member of the Des Moines City Council for more than 20 years. She represents Ward 3, which comprises the downtown, west and southwest areas of Des Moines. Committed to public service and community enrichment, she currently serves on several boards. She retired as the regional community and government affairs officer for Bank of the West and is currently working as a consultant with the Midwest Housing Equity Group. Born and reared in Des Moines, she attended St. Joseph's Academy and Drake University. She and her husband, Steve, who also is from Des Moines, have a daughter, Jennifer, son-in-law, Keith, and six grandsons.