Colorado’s Women Leadership Scorecard
Lucille Wenegieme | Guest Contributor
When we talk about women leadership and generally getting shit done in Colorado, we definitely have to talk about the women serving in our state government. These are the women advocating on our behalf, drafting and voting on laws that affect us every day, and standing up for a better Colorado.
I will start out by saying that Colorado is one of the top three states in the country for the highest percentage of women elected to public office. At 39%, we are less than one percentage from the top spot, held by Vermont. In 1893 Colorado became the first state in which women got the right to vote through popular election, and in 1895, Colorado elected the first women into any state legislature. Those are some serious bragging rights. Given our Wild West roots and history of woman entrepreneurship with the likes of Madam C. J. Walker and Molly Brown, it’s no surprise that we’d be trailblazers in the field of women leadership.
Now that we’ve patted ourselves on the back, it’s time to get serious. Thirty-nine percent representation in government should NOT sound like a win when women are half of the population. After almost 150 years, a woman has still never held the highest office our state has to offer (though there is one badass broad going up for the title in 2018). Amplified on a national scale, this dearth of women leadership means the United States has yet to elect a woman as president even though Ireland, Argentina, and others have done so many times over.
So how is Colorado really doing when it comes to equal representation?
The lay of the land when it comes to woman governance in Colorado
We’ve got a bicameral (two-chamber) legislative branch with a 65-person lower House of Representatives serving districts of 75,000 people each, and a 35-person upper Senate serving 143,691 people each. The 11 & 28 women in these chambers constitute the 39% I mentioned earlier. Colorado has nine delegates to the US Congress, including two senators and seven representatives (only one of whom is a woman).
Next, there’s the executive branch lead by the Governor, with the Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Secretary of State at the helm, among others. Out of the 14 executive state offices, 50% are currently held by women. At the head of the judicial branch are seven Colorado Supreme Court judges, appointed by the governor, of whom three are women. Not a single openly gender-queer person has held any of the above offices.
And then there’s municipal and county governments where community members are elected to serve as mayor or on school boards, city councils, and transportation commissions in cities and counties across the state. Even at this level, women hold only 36.5% of leadership positions in Colorado.
The takeaway? Yes, women are represented in just about every part of Colorado’s government, but we can’t stop now.
We must imagine a Colorado wherein women and gender-queer people have even more seats at the table to fight for issues that affect us, and all Coloradans. Imagine a Colorado where women have even more representation, translating to greater opportunity and more leverage to fight for parental leave, childcare flexibility, and what women can do with their bodies.
If you can imagine it, it’s officially your duty to help make it happen. Suggest to a badass broad in your life that she run for public office. Or be brave and run yourself! There are programs like Vote, Run, Lead, Emerge Colorado & She Should Run offering resources and training to help fill any gaps you feel you have in your experience, as well as provide networks of support.
‘Cause if there’s one thing we know for sure: when women lead, everyone benefits.
Lucille Wenegieme is a Denver-based, Aurora-bred communications consultant, specializing in digital engagement and content creation. Her career has taken her through medical science, African studies, luxury fashion, theater & film, progressive non-profit work and a host of realms in between. For the fun stuff, you can find Lucille on Instagram @theblackvelveteen, but if you’re looking to get down to business, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note from the editor: What's in a word choice: woman or female? When it comes to discussions of women in leadership, this issue can be complex. The term "female," although grammatically correct, is not necessarily politically correct as it denotes biology as the primary identifier of what defines gender. We therefore use the term "women" to describe a category including anyone who self-identifies as a woman, regardless of biology. BTW, this Broad-in-Chief chafes at the use of woman/female as a modifier in any capacity--I mean, we don't say "man politician" or "male CEO," do we?--but that is the stuff of an upcoming post. Stay tuned, broads!