“A woman’s place is in the House… and the Senate too!” This slogan first appeared as Anna Belle Clement O’Brien’s campaign slogan in 1976 for her Tennessee State Senate race. In recent years, popular culture and some vision-casting feminists have adapted the slogan to say, “A woman’s place is in the House, the Senate, and the Oval Office.”
Today, you can find this slogan on any and all clothing apparel, tote bags, and coffee mugs. You name it, an Etsy shop can make it happen. As we enter another election cycle, we will continue to see this slogan pop up. What did Anna Belle Clement O’Brien mean by this? I believe this punchy statement is trying to convey that a woman’s place is wherever she deems it to be, not where others tell her it should be.
Over the past few years, we have seen the rise of women in politics. 2018 was crowned the “Year of the Woman.” It lived up to its name with the historic election of 102 women in the House of Representatives and 15 to the Senate, totaling 117 women in the Congress of the United States. Multiple women have expressed interest and are currently running for the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination. In 2016, we had the first woman as a major party’s nominee for President of the United States, 240 years after we became an independent nation. She won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes.
Even before 2018, we saw a growth in women representation across the federal government. We have had four women on the Supreme Court and the Cabinet has had 32 female officers. We have come so far, yet we still have not had a woman be Commander in Chief or even Vice President. Have we reserved these titles exclusively for men?
Here at the Ridge Policy Group, we are a firm of twelve team members. Eight of those members self-identify as female. We are counsels, directors, managers, and chief administrative officers. We lead client meetings, develop policy strategies, and give countless presentations. How do we do this all? We are given the space, time, and respect to be leaders in our respective policy issue fields. We are encouraged to develop innovative strategies for clients, to discover new ways to advocate, and to build our brand. We are not locked into traditional female roles within the firm.
The founding partners of Ridge Policy Group, Governor Tom Ridge, Mark Holman, and Mark Campbell, are strong supporters of female professionals. Governor Ridge often credits two Republican Committeewomen, the late Elsie Hillman and Anne Anstine, with helping him to secure the Republican nominee for Governor of Pennsylvania. Holman had a similar good-hearted relationship with Elsie and refers to her as his “fairy godmother.” He also credits his late mother, Nancy Holman, who was a longtime women’s and civil rights activist, for sparking his interest in politics. Because of these hardworking ambitious women, and the roles they played in the lives of the RPG Partners, they have always valued and sought out women’s voices.
Governor Ridge is often quoted in saying the way you get things done in politics is through good staff, and that he always prioritized hiring good staff over the years. Many of those hires were and arewomen.
As a young professional female, I am grateful to work for a firm that has cultivated a culture of openness and innovation. It encourages creative thinking and allows me to explore unique pathways. They’ve allowed me to expand my professional skill set to incorporate nontraditional lobbying activities such as large-scale event planning.
I am also grateful for all the women who have come before me, both at Ridge Policy Group and in the world of politics. Through each of them, barriers have been broken and boundaries pushed, for which I have reaped the benefits. I hope to continue this tradition of making clearer pathways for other young women as they develop in their careers.
Later this Fall, Ridge Policy Group will have the chance to highlight and celebrate the historic election of four female members to the Pennsylvania Delegation at an event with Governor Ridge. With one the largest delegations in Congress, it was very exciting to elect four women in this past election cycle. Each one brings a different story to Congress. They are lawyers, engineers, mothers, businesswomen, sisters, elected officials, and now are members of the House of Representatives. Each one represents their districts with such passion and enthusiasm, and we are excited to honor them and their service.
As we enter the 2020 elections, we will see if the “Year of the Woman” will continue with many new women running for seats in the House and Senate and of course, the Oval Office. Regardless of the outcome of these pending races, chances are that we will continue to see the rise of women in politics and government. As a Nation, we must keep pushing towards equal representation of gender and ethnicity in Congress and in the conversations that are directing policy.
While I hope and pray and cross all the body parts you can possibly cross to have the final proverbial glass ceiling broken by having a female Commander in Chief sitting in the White House one day, I know the wait is not in vain. The women I have the privilege of working with and encounter everyday are working towards this goal as well. As we fight for gender equality at the highest levels of government, women will keep making Anna Belle Clement O’Brien proud by filling seats in the House and Senate… and, I hope, one day in the Oval too.
This blog post was written for Ridge Policy Group by Becky Corby. Becky helps manage about half of Ridge Policy Group’s federal client portfolio and facilitates RPG’s events.