As the report notes, “In January 2021, Kamala Harris was sworn in as Vice President of the United States. Twelve women have advanced into top leadership roles in President Biden’s Cabinet. A record number of women were sworn in to serve the 117th Congress.” It is particularly alarming for Maryland’s young women and girls to read those facts and realize Maryland has zero women in Congress and has never had a woman governor, comptroller or attorney general.
Even more confusing is that Wallet Hub again ranked Maryland as the second-most-educated state in the country, after Massachusetts. Massachusetts has a powerhouse female congressional delegation that includes Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) and Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Katherine M. Clark and Lori Trahan (all D), while we have the big goose egg and a near-failing grade. It’s jaw-dropping, dumbfounding, maddening. Hard as it is to believe, the 2022 congressional election in Maryland could be the third consecutive cycle in which we could still end up with an all-male delegation.
Inspired by dynamic women leaders from around the country and their own ideas, Maryland’s young women and girls are craving more female leadership, so much so that middle-schoolers are creating documentaries for youth film festivals on the subject.
First-time voter and college freshman Fiona Gallagher feels so strongly about the need for women leaders that she wrote an essay for Maryland Matters.
I’m not sure how we can continue to look young women and girls who want to be our future leaders in the eye and pretend it is okay to receive this D grade. It is more than a little bizarre to be from a state that has one of the best public school systems in the country but is not making good on the promise of equal representation and leadership and policymaking roles for young girls and women.
So how do we change this awful situation? We can start by educating women and girls statewide to convey that if we commit to voting for strong, qualified women, we will be unstoppable at the ballot box.
Women represent about 52 percent of the population in Maryland, so it’s kind of a no-brainer: If we vote together, we win. To reach this goal, we must promote, vote and work to spread the word, so the most qualified, best people who happen to be women get public exposure and adequate support.
We have some amazing A-rated women running for Congress and the office of comptroller.
Heather Mizeur, a former Capitol Hill staffer, Maryland delegate and gubernatorial candidate, is running for Congress in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District. Many of the laws she wrote as a state delegate and the policies she proposed as candidate for governor were supported by both Democrats and Republicans. Community activists Britany Oliver, founder of Not Without Black Women, and McKayla Wilkes, founder of Schools not Jails, are running as Democrats in Congressional Districts 2 and 5. Though they both face incumbent Democratic powerhouses, neither is deterred and, at a minimum, deserve an A rating for their work in the community.
Brooke Lierman, a Dartmouth graduate, disability and civil rights attorney and state delegate from Baltimore, is a brilliant, data-driven and visionary leader who is running for comptroller. She served on the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee and is a leader on the Environment and Transportation Committee and has passed laws that help small business, the Chesapeake Bay and some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens. She’s also a public school parent of young children, so her experience is now and relevant. The comptroller sits on the Board of Public Works, which means a mother, an attorney and highly accomplished delegate would have a vote on how dollars are appropriated and spent for the women and girls of Maryland.
Former Hogan administration official Kelly Schulz is running for governor as a Republican. She is smart and capable and known to be a compassionate public servant and easy to work with. She has not denounced the Texas abortion ban, which I would need to give her an A rating.
If we want to give young women and girls a bright future and equality in all areas of their lives, including reproductive freedom, we must up our game, raise that D to an A and provide those female role models, including elected officials and policymakers, right now. We cannot keep pointing to local boards of education or the House of Delegates, saying, see, there are some women, but neglecting to push women to higher offices.
We must be solution seekers and paradigm changers. We can do this by intentionally supporting A-rated female politicians and encouraging our families, friends and co-workers and turn out the vote. This interim report is your wake-up call.
First-quarter grades are still two months away, so the time is now to start pulling up that D. The future depends on women reaching the highest elected offices.