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‘Ready To Run’ Seeks to Drive Women to Campaign For Office

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 21 May 2012 04:24pm | comments
Lydia Quarles

A new campaign is underway to convince more Mississippi women to enter run for office. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports Mississippi ranks forty-third for the number of women serving in the state legislature.

Just 29 of the 174 Mississippi House and Senate seats are held by women...that's less than 17-percent of the total body.

Lydia Quarles with the Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State is running Ready To Run...a program trying prepare women to get involved in politics, as well as encouraging them to runfor office.

Quarles says the low number of female politicians contributes to the 'F' grades Mississippi gets for measures of gender inequity.

"We hold onto that letter 'F' in the gender wage gap. In women's labor force participation. In women's employment in managerial and professional occupations. In the state economy policy environment as it effects women. In women's education. In women's business ownership. And women in poverty. And poverty in general," Quarles said.

Quarles says of life for all Mississippians would improve with more women in office but thinks a lack of role models keeps other women from running and makes voters reluctant to support women.

Since women make up more than half the state's population, Ready to Run's Pam Johnson says they should have a more significant voice in political decision making.

"Women, we believe, should be on the front lines In these struggles for good public education. Strong health care. Safe and affordable child care opportunities. Availability of adequate food for their families," Johnson said.

Mississippi is one of four states to never have elected a woman to represent the state in Washington DC. 

Former Greenville Mayor Heather McTeer, who recently ran a failed campaign for the second congressional district, says there is a lot of societal pressure that drives women away from campaigning.

"And we want them to run because we know that if women can run organizations, they can run households, they can run the PTA and they can do it all at the same time, then they can run the government and our government needs that voice," McTeer said.

In last fall's election, Mississippi voters did elect two women to state wide office, treasurer and Agriculture Commissioner and also increased the percent of women in the legislature by one percent.



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