Join Anne's Network

On Anne's Mind

PRACTICING WHAT I PREACH: ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

Friday, November 27, 2009 @ 10:53 PM

For years, I’ve been whining about how few women political leaders and elected officials we have in the U.S.  – even today.  From the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to state legislatures and local school boards,  men still dramatically outnumber women.   We’re not even close to that magical 33% tipping point where you begin to change the conversation. 

So, every chance I get, I'm always urging women to run for office.   This spring, it was another woman who finally called my bluff.   Mari Harvey Edwards, the former Mayor of my hometown of Auburn Hills, Michigan, told me, “Anne, how about practicing what you preach?  Why don’t you stick your own neck out there and run?”  

She nailed me.  So I ran -- for a seat on the Auburn Hills City Council.  And I won!

Running for office requires moving out of comfort zones, knocking on unfamiliar doors and reaching out to neighbors in ways that daily life rarely requires.   In the process, it is the candidate who is enriched. 

What did I learn?  Plenty.  The biggest insight is this:  American women are on the verge of a tremendous surge into political leadership.   What makes me so confident? 

We’ve learned that power takes money – and we’re getting over our fear of ASKING and GIVING.    In the beginning, it wasn’t easy for me to ask for money.  But once a few great friends turbo-charged me with big checks, I started to get the hang of it.   Mine was a non-partisan election, and I was thrilled to receive checks from friends and colleagues from all sides of the political spectrum.  Each check that arrived was a vote of confidence.  A signal of trust.  I still can't get over Eileen Padberg, a member of the California International Women's Forum whom I've never met.  She wrote a check for my campaign because, as she put it, "I want to support another woman leader."  So don't believe that old husbands' tale that "women can't raise money."  Yes we can!

We’ve learned that we don’t have to do everything ourselves.  My bet is that most of you have as difficult a time as I do asking for help.  We’re so used to being independent and proving  how doggone capable we are that it feels like weakness to ask for help.  Sound familiar?  You just can’t run for office, at least not successfully, all by yourself.  You have to give in and accept help from others.  I was astonished by the amount of time that friends generously gave to help me with the campaign.  I was also incredibly lucky to have several high-powered, highly-accomplished, Type A friends in “career transition” with a little extra time on their hands.  We had a lot of fun together, and we all developed new skills in the process.   My 17-year-old son, Kevin, and his best friend, Luke,  -- pictured here -- also helped and learned about being engaged citizens.

The pool of political mentors is getting deeper.  I had tremendous support from other women political leaders.   For example: Michigan Senator Gilda Jacobs, a seasoned politician, schooled me in campaign strategy and tactics.  Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence took the time to knock on doors for me, even though she was running for re-election herself.  I returned the favor, of course.  She was elected to a third term with 78% of the vote.  Clearly I needed the help more than she did!  County Commissioner Marcia Gershenson braved the cold and bitter winds on election day to stand outside voting precincts for me.  And it wasn’t just women who gave me a hand.  State Representative Tim Melton and County Commissioner Tim Greimel also jumped in with both feet.   

The White House Project is in high gear.  The WHP is another key reason I believe we're about to see a big increase in the number of women political leaders.  It’s one thing to encourage women to run.  It’s another thing entirely to launch a national, non-partisan initiative focused purely on dramatically increasing the number of women running for office.  The WHP has already trained over 15,000 women candidates and plans to train over 36,000 by 2013.  I’m part of the Michigan Cabinet of the White House Project and also attended their one-day Debate Boot Camp.  Remember the TV series Commander-in-Chief, with actress Gina Davis playing the first female president?   Davis now serves on the National Board of the WHP, and last week met with women political leaders in Detroit, telling us, “It’s all about numbers.  We need to see a big increasing in the number of women holding office.”  In the photo with Gina is White House Project Founder and President Marie Wilson and Saunteel Jenkins, newly elected member of the Detroit City Council. 

IT'S ALL ABOUT TRUST:  It’s an incredible feeling to see your campaign yard signs on the front lawns of people you’ve never met.  I found myself stopping my car and running up to their doors to introduce myself and thank them.  It’s an even more humbling experience to stand at the City Clerk’s office on election night and watch the votes come in.   My joy over winning was quickly replaced with an overwhelming feeling of responsibility.  You start realizing very quickly that people are counting on you to represent them – to be at all of those meetings that they don’t have time to attend.  To be careful stewards of their resources and make the best decisions you can.

It wasn’t that long ago that women doctors and lawyers were in the minority.  Yet today, we’re on the verge of more women graduating from law school and medical school than men.

I predict the same thing is going to happen – sooner rather than later – in political leadership.  Let’s help each other over the hump.   Culturally, women still need that extra nudge.  I needed it, too.  Yet once I walked out onto the edge of that psychological “high diving board” and took the plunge into the political waters, I was absolutely astonished at the support that materialized all around me. 

It felt like I was being lifted by invisbile forces.  Or, as if a strong wind was at my back  – urging me forward.  It’s urging you, too.  Come Run With Me!

Leadership Feedback

Anne is interested in your leadership feedback. Periodically, we'll post a new question; we look forward to hearing your responses.

» Click here to view our current question...

Previous Entries

» 2/22/2014 - Saudi Arabia Creating a City for Entrepreneurial Women
» 12/6/2013 - We All Have the Power In Us To Change the Tide, says Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee
» 10/14/2013 - Terrific, Fresh Insight From Four Women Execs
» 8/21/2013 - Harvard Business Review Fresh Insight on Women Rising
» 6/7/2013 - Behind Black Robes, Hijabs And Niqabs, Saudi Women Are Dreaming Big
» 4/16/2013 - When Amway and Microsoft Team Up For Women's Leadership, Sky's the Limit
» 2/25/2013 - NASCAR'S Danica Patrick & Dad's Empower Daughters
» 1/24/2013 - Time For Sports To Stop Limiting Women to Sideline Eye Candy
» 1/2/2013 - The Human Family is Crying Out for Women to Step Up
» 12/2/2012 - Radio Interview with Emily Gail, ESPN Radio Hawaii
» 11/5/2012 - Mixing Business With Pleasure. It's Routine for Men. Why Do Women Hesitate?
» 6/24/2012 - Don't Say Vagina in Michigan and Don't Sit At Men-Only Tables
» 3/17/2012 - St. Patrick's Day Reminder of My Greatest Mentor
» 3/11/2012 - 2012 Women in the World Summit Filled With Riveting Moments
» 2/8/2012 - Overcoming the Gender Ambition Gap
» 12/11/2011 - ACTIVE DUTY PARENTING IS SERVING OUR COUNTRY
» 10/16/2011 - WOMEN, WAR AND PEACE
» 9/28/2011 - Women with "Ganas" Are Leaders & Engines of Economic Growth
» 9/27/2011 - Dale Carnegie Words of Wisdom
» 8/13/2011 - Focus Hope's Eleanor Josaitis Refused To Be A Spectator
» 6/20/2011 - What Makes Teams Smarter? More Women, says Harvard Business Review
» 5/16/2011 - Women Are Not "Guys" and Men are Not "The Norm"
» 3/19/2011 - Anything is Possible Interview with WJR's Jack Krasula
» 2/26/2011 - Interview with National Women's Radio
» 1/28/2011 - Women Play Equal Role in Tunisia Revolution
» 1/22/2011 - GM NAMES FIRST WOMAN TO HEAD GLOBAL PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT
» 1/10/2011 - As Women in High-Profile Leadership Increase, So Do the Risks
» 1/1/2011 - Leadership Award Winner Helen Mirren Lets Hollywood Have it . . . With a Grin
» 11/4/2010 - I Had the Pleasure of Knowing Sparky Anderson
» 10/28/2010 - Leadership at all Levels Behind Ford Motor's Stunning Turnaround
» 9/15/2010 - Weighing in on NY Jets Harassment of TV Azteca Sports Reporter
» 7/13/2010 - The Economic Recovery Will be Female
» 5/10/2010 - Auto Industry Still Driving Best and the Brightest Women Out
» 4/1/2010 - Let Sports Arenas Unite, Not Further Divide
» 3/6/2010 - Pass Your Power Forward
» 2/3/2010 - The Girl Cell: I Am An Emotional Creature
» 11/27/2009 - PRACTICING WHAT I PREACH: ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
» 10/20/2009 - The Torch is Being Passed . . . To a New Gender
» 9/21/2009 - A NATIONAL MEDIA EXPERIMENT IN DETROIT
» 9/7/2009 - Diane Sawyer Named New ABC Nightly News Anchor
» 8/31/2009 - Nothing LIke a Scandal to Get Michigan Football Fans Stirred Up
» 7/25/2009 - Was ESPN's Erin Andrews "Asking for it?"
» 7/14/2009 - History Awaits Sonia Sotomayor
» 6/15/2009 - The Meaning of Michelle, Sonia, Ursula and Anne
» 5/20/2009 - Getting Beyond Gender, to Agenda
» 5/11/2009 - Let's Take Back Mother's Day
» 3/19/2009 - Expect To Be Tested
» 2/27/2009 - I thought I had no time for LinkedIn or Facebook -- let alone Twitter! Boy was I wrong.
» 1/28/2009 - Women's Leadership in the Age of Obama
» 1/20/2009 - Interview with Founding President of the Women's Media Center
» 1/11/2009 - One Gender's Crash
» 12/18/2008 - Caroline Kennedy's Biological Clock Powers Up
» 11/23/2008 - The Ascent of a Woman: Lessons I've Learned from Hillary
» 11/11/2008 - A RAINBOW COALITION OF WOMEN: THE ELECTION DECIDERS
» 11/2/2008 - The Power of Perseverance
» 10/31/2008 - Gloria, Billie Jean, Oprah and Maria all together
» 10/22/2008 - Tina Fey and the Real Sarah Palin
» 9/30/2008 - Most Poweful Women
» 9/5/2008 - Weighing in on Sarah Palin
» 8/25/2008 - Rachel Maddow Rocks
» 7/15/2008 - Never Eliminate Yourself
» 6/3/2008 - Show Me A Good Loser and I'll Show You A Loser
» 5/16/2008 - Obama Better Break Not So Sweet Habit
» 4/8/2008 - The Man Keeps His Mansion, The Woman Almost Gets Tethered
» 1/8/2008 - The Soul of a Leader
» 12/11/2007 - All I Want for Christmas Is . . .
» 10/26/2007 - Dare to Lead. A simple but compelling message.
» 9/25/2007 - The Gender Tipping Point . . . just an election away?
» 6/17/2007 - Return to Traditions Can Have Chilling Under Currents
» 5/21/2007 - Queen Rania, Future of the Arab World and Myths about Women Highlight Mideast Conference
» 5/20/2007 - Open Mikes, Tough Questions and Brave Answers Characterize Day One of IWF Jordan Conference
» 5/15/2007 - First Ever Gathering in the Arab World of the International Women's Forum Draws Record Attendance
» 5/5/2007 - Women Leaders Gathering in the Mideast
» 4/20/2007 - Taking the Buyout
» 3/31/2007 - Where Have All the Women Gone?
» 12/5/2006 - Favorite Books
» 11/30/2006 - Old Economy Cultures Are Dead Weight in Race for 21st Century Talent
» 9/25/2006 - The World Watches Our Signals

Usage of content on this site for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited without written consent.