A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend Ready to Run, a conference hosted by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. I was incredibly excited to travel to my home state and connect with women who have roots in New Jersey politics. Currently, there are zero women serving in the New Jersey Congressional delegation and while there are a number of men who are certainly dedicated to women’s issues, there is a significant lack of representation on many fronts. I am disappointed that my home state has such a lack of representation amongst a critical voting demographic. Ready to Run gave me the opportunity to better understand the challenges that the women of New Jersey face when running for elected office and use that information to help elect more women to our local, state and federal governments.
As I mentioned in a previous post, diversity in government is an issue that is important to me. I believe that elected officials should reflect their communities in some way. As a Latina woman growing up in New Jersey, I have constantly seen men progress into political leadership roles with more ease than women. While I always knew growing up that there were Latina women in elected office, I didn’t know their names or ever have the opportunity to interact with them. This is why I was so incredibly inspired by a training at Ready to Run for Latina women aspiring to hold elective office. The panel consisted of local Latina women who represent some of the most densely populated areas in the country. They discussed the challenges they face to be taken seriously by their colleagues, the various identities they bring to the table while at work, and why more Latina women need to run for elected office.
The most striking point one of the panelists made was that without Latinas of all nationalities, classes, and identities in elected offices, our voices would be ignored. In a state like New Jersey where approximately 18% of the population is Latino and in many areas make up an even higher portion of the community, this simply cannot be the case. New Jersey must look to the Latina trailblazers like Loretta Sanchez, Lucille Roybal-Allard, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. These women were some of the first Latinas in Congress and unfortunately are still part of the very few. Their stories should help encourage and inspire not only Latinas from New Jersey, but from across the country to run.
– Adriane Alicea, Star Fellow Spring 2013