Did you know that women make up 51.6% of Laredo? Yet… there are only 25.5% women-owned firms (less than the Texas percentage).
In these times, where talk show hosts (yeah, I am looking at you, Limbaugh) don’t recognize birth-control as an important women’s issue (birth control pills should be called hormone balancing pills to truly reflect their multiple uses) and, worse, think it is ok to degrade and insult a woman asking for her testimony to be heard before congress. To top it off, the original testimony for women’s reproductive rights was provided by all men.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand before the US Senate stated on February 17, 2012:
Mr. President, I have said it time and time again all across New York State at event after event: We need more women’s voices in our decisionmaking process. We need more women at the table in government and in business. When women are at the table, they bring a very different perspective to the same problems, a different set of solutions, a different approach. At the end of the day, the outcomes are better when women’s voices are heard.
So… with all the extra attention about women’s issues, why is that in Laredo, International Women’s Day or Women’s History Month is barely a peep? For years the only public event celebrating International Women’s Day had been held at Laredo Community College South campus. It’s still taking place today – check it out if you can. So, is that it?
Recognizing that inequity continues amongst the sexes, you would hope that Laredo women would want to do something when they look around at women’s role in this area. It doesn’t take much to look at our local governments and see the sea of male faces creating policy and making the decisions. At this moment, we only have one woman elected as a county commissioner, only one woman elected to city council, only one woman amongst the assistant city managers, only one woman having served as mayor (there has never been a female Webb County judge, ever) and the slate of candidates haciendose garras for upcoming races are almost all male.
Unfortunately, the responsibilty falls on both genders to acheive equal opportunity and have the voice of women be heard. Where there is Machismo, there is an equal force of Marianismo – a shift in one will mean a shift in power balance to something more fair. In our fair and lovely city, we do have a Laredo Commission for Women who are tasked with the following mission:
To promote equality in legal, social, political, economic, and educational opportunity and advancement for all women throughout the City of Laredo.
I have been critical of their activities in the past. Why? Because a blanket drive or a basket give-away just won’t cut fulfilling the mission and helping women’s issues. The only postive produced is the recognition of women leadership through the Women’s Hall of Fame every two years. Our council members are charged with selecting two women per district to serve on the Commission, maybe the mostly men should consider asking for results-oriented plans and choosing women who will not be afraid to ask the difficult questions.
On this day that celebrates the struggles of women, I leave you with one opportunity to consider if you are over 18. The Las Comadres Para Las Americas annual program to increase civic involvement is starting to recruit women throughout the state of Texas for its Texas Public Policy and Civic Engagement Training Program (TPP-ACE). It used to be titled “Candidate Training Program” because it does prepare you to run for office. Now there could be a task for the Commission for Women or even city council to tackle – a scholarship for younger women to participate. If not this Latino-oriented civic participation program, maybe involvement with the regional League of Women Voters of Texas who host excellent conferences.
Regardless of who you are or what you do, on this day forward, you can do your part by stopping to consider women’s perspective and if you have the power to do so, encouraging involvement of women in policy and leadership. Celebrate your favorite woman, today!