Candidates: Make a commitment to the women of Maryland [Commentary]

The state's gubernatorial candidates should pledge to choose women for half of their cabinet and executive office appointments

September 30, 2014|By Janine DiPaula Stevens

We at Network 2000 are giving careful consideration to which candidate for governor is willing to make a sincere and honest commitment to the women of the state of Maryland. Recognizing that the next administration will have the opportunity and responsibility of appointing approximately 1,000 of Maryland's citizens to positions of authority, Network 2000 feels it is important for women in Maryland to have an equal opportunity and role as appointees. We, as an organization, raised our voice to challenge each of the candidates for governor to commit to having 50 percent of their gubernatorial appointments to commissions, committees, task forces, advisory boards and intrastate agencies be women.

While both candidates courteously responded to our challenge, neither stated an actual commitment to our request for gender parity when making their cabinet and executive office appointments should they become the next governor of the state of Maryland.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown reflected back on the O'Malley-Brown administration's appointment of 4,103 women leaders, which reportedly accounted for 42 percent of all appointees since 2007, noting that gender diversity was a priority in both cabinet and executive leadership. Mr. Brown further stated that a Brown-Ulman administration would reflect the diversity of Maryland through the appointment of highly qualified, diverse candidates building upon the progress of the last eight years and that it would "strive to increase women's representation across appointees."

Likewise, Mr. Hogan, who served as Gov. Robert Ehrlich's appointments secretary and was responsible for steering thousands of people into state positions, noted that the Ehrlich administration was lauded by The Washington Post for "appointing the most diverse cabinet in Maryland history — a cabinet that consisted of more female secretaries than both O'Malley-Brown and Glendening-Townsend Administrations." Mr. Hogan did indicate he planned "to appoint the most highly qualified and diverse leaders to fill all positions, including commissions and task forces" and said he would "focus on bringing in the best and the brightest women across the state" into his administration.

While we applaud both candidates for their past efforts in appointing women and welcome their invitation to "a seat at the table" and to "work with them," our organization is looking to the future and asking what commitment each candidate is now willing to make regarding gender parity in appointments to their administration.

In Maryland, women-owned businesses are expected to generate $26.4 billion in sales for 2014. Women executives, while neither statistically equal with men in Maryland nor nationally, are currently holding a greater percentage of board seats in Fortune 500 companies and executive offices than they did previously. Women are integral to the sustainability and growth of Maryland's economy. With this in mind, why are both candidates seemingly unable or unwilling to "commit to gender parity" in their administrations' appointments? Is this merely a case of semantics?

Maryland has a strong tradition of strong women who have strong voices. Historically, Maryland women began their participation in the political process in 1648 when Margaret Brent petitioned the Maryland General Assembly for the right to vote. In more recent years, we have had women political leaders like Constance Morella, Helen Delich Bentley and the formidable Barbara Mikulski. These leaders have shown us that we must speak, act, confront and convince.

We believe a political opportunity of taking a strong and unequivocal stand on the important issue of gender parity, thus far, has been missed and urge each of the candidates to reflect upon the term "commitment" — a promise, a pledge, an obligation, an allegiance, steadfastness — and speak the words the women of our organization and the state of Maryland need to hear. Gender parity in political appointments is neither a future dream nor plan; it is a here and now commitment.

Janine DiPaula Stevens is president of Network 2000 (network2000md.org), a statewide not-for-profit organization in Maryland composed of professional executive women and men. Her email is janine@vircity.us.


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