Caucus Promotes More Representative Government
A record number of women attended Leap into Leadership on March 1st and 2nd in Cheyenne, and nearly 20% of attendees surveyed said they plan to run for elected office in 2012. Hosted annually by the bipartisan Wyoming Women’s Legislative Caucus, Leap into Leadership aims to increase women’s leadership at all levels. “We hope to promote a more representative face of government in the equality state,” says Melissa Turley, coordinator of the Wyoming Women’s Legislative Caucus.
Women make up less than 15% of the seats in the State Legislature and less than 6% of county commissioners across Wyoming, yet women comprise 49% of the population according to the 2010 census data. And despite the fact that the median age of Wyoming is 37, only 8 of 90 state legislators are under the age of 40.
“Leap into Leadership combines training with inspiration and motivation to move women into leadership roles in their communities and our state,” says Rep. Elaine Harvey, R-Lovell, and chairwoman of the Wyoming Women’s Legislative Caucus.
Twenty women attended a campaign planning workshop on March 2, which was intended to prepare them for the 2012 filing period from May 17 to June 12. Others participated in workshops focused on social media, community and personal leadership, and messaging. Participants overwhelmingly reported they found these leadership development workshops beneficial: “I learned how to run a campaign and be inspired by women who are very engaged in the process,” wrote one.
Leap into Leadership is a two-day event that includes speakers, training and a networking dinner. Keynote speaker Lynda Clarizio, CEO of INVISION, shared her eight principles of leadership with the 250 attendees, at a dinner co-hosted by the Wyoming Women’s Foundation. Clarizio encouraged women to take charge, seek out mentoring and networking opportunities, and inspire others by being true to themselves. She outlined the family-friendly practices that she offers in her company, of who 65% are women, such as flexible hours, video conferencing and part-time schedules.
The following morning, State Auditor Cynthia Cloud hosted breakfast in her office in the State Capitol, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Kite spoke of the need for both a legislature and judiciary representative of the people. Justice Kite pointed out that while 35% of attorneys in Wyoming are women, just 7% of judges are female, and she called on Wyoming women to wield the collective strength of both genders. “The health of our state depends on you running,” she said.
First Lady Carol Mead and former first ladies Nancy Freudenthal and Sherri Geringer spoke about the opportunities and challenges each experienced as first lady of Wyoming as well as the issues important to them, specifically women and children. The program concluded on Friday with a presentation by Wyoming’s lone Congresswoman, Cynthia Lummis, who currently co-chairs the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues. Lummis stressed that women are best qualified to discuss women’s issues, and that a representative government should look more like the people they represent.