President’s Message – May 2019
I have this unrealistic goal to do something every day that is out of my comfort zone. If I hit that goal a few times a month, I would call it an epic success. This month I was invited to participate on a panel organized by a non-profit, non-partisan group called She Should Run. The organization motivates and inspires women to run for office. It is a non-partisan group. The panel was comprised of three Democrats, one Democrat moderator and me, the token Republican. I had the pleasure of meeting the mayor of Austin, a former Texas Gubernatorial candidate, and VP of Government Relations for the American Heart Association. Inspiring more women to run for office and to hold leadership positions is something we all had in common. Our discussions both on the panel and off stage were respectful and cordial, I admired these women and their accomplishments, but, at the same time, I felt we were ideologically worlds apart.
In preparing for the panel we were all given questions specific to our current roles in the political arena. I was given the following:
We shouldn’t be given favoritism in the market because we’re women. But we should be given equal opportunities. How can we best educate ourselves to show up and make the most of the opportunities we do have? And do you see the relationship between money and power for women as a dynamic that needs attention?
In your role, you mobilize 10,000+ women across the entire state. What was your “aha” moment when you knew this was the right role for you? What’s the fire in your belly that keeps you going?
How do you know when you need to support someone running for office or when you need to step in yourself?
The other panelists were asked all three of their questions, I was not asked to answer my first question. I would like to think that the moderator had my interest at heart, and knowing that I was in a room full of liberal women (except for my daughter and a few RWs from Austin); she was protecting me from a potentially angry mob. Visions of pink hats popped into my head.
My answer would have been honest and from the heart, but undoubtedly not well received. I do not feel that any group should be categorized or shown favoritism except for children, the elderly and the mentally handicap. When we show favoritism and group individuals, we are immediately saying that group is not equal, and we continue to perpetuate inequality. Equal opportunities need to be based on merit not race, gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.
We can best educate ourselves, as women, or as any individual, to show up by first understanding our strengths and desires, then show up for opportunities that best fit those strengths and desires. When I was fired from a female dominated company a week after I told them I was pregnant, the opportunity to have a conversation with my husband to stay home and raise a family presented itself. It was the path I wanted and the path I chose. I wanted to stay home and take care of the children and the household, so Joe could build his business; it worked well for our family. Opportunities are individualistic, not everyone wants to be a Senator or CEO of a fortune 500, but I do think it is important that we educate ourselves on the importance of whatever path you choose in life, make sure you show up, you give it 100%, you negotiate your terms, and demand that your path is respected. If money and power needs to be discussed, it needs to be discussed as a factor that should not define who we are. Our society places too much value on money and power. Money gives us the power to pay the water bill, it gives us the power to have more choices when we make decisions, but we must be careful not to let money and power define us.
I feel strongly about my statement and would not have wavered if I had been asked the question, but it would have fallen on deaf ears, and I was not there to provoke, but I was there to represent. I am grateful for the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone that evening and represent the Texas Federation of Republican Women, an organization that is overflowing with strong, female leaders.
Karen C. Newton, President