Women moving toward equity in Iowa Legislature, long way to go - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Women moving toward equity in Iowa Legislature, long way to go

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

An initiative to get more women involved with Iowa politics is underway. It's called 50-50 in 2020, and organizers want to fill half the Iowa Legislature with women by the year 2020, seven years from now.

Currently, women fill one-fifth of the Iowa Senate seats and a quarter of those in the House, with 35 women total serving between the two. That's 23.3 percent of Iowa's 50 Senate and 100 House seats, combined.

50-50 in 2020 organizers, however, are looking for women to comprise 50 percent of Iowa's Legislature by 2020.

The campaign, which kicked off in the fall of 2010, is a bi-partisan one, chaired by two former Iowa politicians and women: a Democrat and a Republican.

Organizers say the campaign isn't a political action committee. It doesn't advocate for any particular issues and doesn't raise money for women. It is simply meant to encourage and empower women to run for office, through the means of education and networking.

Mary Rae Bragg, a 50-50 in 2020 board member who lives in Dubuque, said Thursday the 35 women now serving is good but not good enough.

"In the last session, only 21 percent of your body is representing 53 percent of your voters, you're not getting the input that you need," Bragg said. "Laws touch every single human being, and we need to have women involved in making those laws and understanding that it's part of their responsibility."

The Iowa Legislature saw a first this session: both the House majority leader and the Senate president are women.

Sen. Pam Jochum (D-Dubuque) talked about her leadership position in a phone interview Thursday from Des Moines.

"I think once people start seeing women and minorities in other roles than our traditional kinds of things, it starts opening up more and more doors of opportunity, and we just stop thinking of it as something unusual or rare and it becomes something that's just a way of life," she said.

"We need to be supporting women of all ages," Bragg said. "It's not too early to start talking to granddaughters and daughters, who are in the elementary schools, talking about leadership."

Organizers picked 2020 as the goal for political equity in Iowa to mark the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, which guarantees women the right to vote.

The campaign's goals include a woman elected as Iowa governor by 2014, at least one woman elected as US representative by 2015, two representatives and one US senator by 2017 and a full 50-50 split between men and women in Iowa politics by 2020.

"The next every two years will be our opportunity to retain enough and to bring in enough more women that gradually and very rapidly, by 2020, we will have that 50 percent goal," Bragg said. "We're looking for women who are leaders in business, in non-profits, in education, in health care, in all of those areas who have the experience in real life."

Iowa is one of only two states that can say it has never had a woman for a governor, US representative or US senator. Mississippi is the other state that shares that distinction.

Bragg said she encourages any woman who has somebody in mind - including herself - who might like to explore running for political office to reach out to the 50-50 in 2020 campaign. The website is HERE.

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