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McEntee: In politics, real women can do it

Published January 16, 2012 7:09 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Back when I was covering the Utah Legislature, I had a pipe dream: I'd quit my job, get elected to the House, serve for two years, leave office and write a big, fat exposé.

It never happened, of course. For one, I'd rather report on politics than engage in it; and two, I loved the work I was already doing.

But for the hundreds of women who joined in Saturday's Real Women Run conference, a shot at political office isn't just a pipe dream, it's a real possibility. First, though, we have to get past some of the assumptions we make about ourselves.

Such as, we're too busy raising families. Well, how many women not only raise families, but also have jobs, volunteer, keep house, cook, garden and find time for a little recreation? It's not so much multitasking, a word that's way overused, as it's about how we manage our time, intellect and emotions — skills that readily transfer to state and local politics.

Then there's the "I'm not smart or experienced enough." Nonsense. We keep budgets, settle disputes, negotiate and accommodate every day, at home and at work. We guide our kids as best we can. We fix things. When change is necessary, we adapt. We use our heads to find solutions. We're tough.

That's the way it goes on Capitol Hill, too. All those hearings, caucuses, debates and conversations aren't much different from what we do every day. Legislators make laws, and so do we. They make mistakes just like us, and more often than not try to make things right.

There are rules of decorum in the statehouse and our house. Tempers flare, harsh words are said, and usually apologies are made — just as we do at home and work.

Just as an exercise, I went through the Legislature's roster to find out what the women who serve there do in their nonpolitical lives. There are homemakers, business women, teachers, a banker, a caregiver, a professor, a consultant and a legislative policy analyst.

In other words, they're just like the rest of us.

It's fitting, then, that on the Real Women Run website, the World War II-era poster of Rosie the Riveter is adapted to show a woman with a microphone in her hand.

The Rosies of that era went to the factories to support the war effort and wound up forever changing the face of the American workforce.

Today, women who are willing to get into politics have the same chance. Given that women make up a paltry 17 percent of the Utah Legislature as well as the U.S. Congress, it's time to step up. As Rosie would say, we can do it.

Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at pegmcentee@sltrib.com, facebook.com/pegmcentee and on Twitter.