Kunin comes of age: Governor opens up in new book

Former Gov. Madeleiene Kunin

Commentary by Gov. Madeleine Kunin, Jen Kimmich (co-founder and CEO of the Alchemist Brewery), Deborah Markowitz (former Vermont Secretary of State and Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources), Melinda Moulton (CEO, Main Street Landing), Mary Powell (former CEO, Green Mountain Power), and Rebecca Holcombe (former Vermont Secretary of Education)

In Vermont’s political history, strong women have been behind powerful reforms related to health care, the environment, education, and reproductive rights. In the 2020 U.S. presidential primary, just by talking about child care, paid leave, and wage gaps, women candidates forced their male counterparts to address those issues as well.

Women in the private sector also have shown strong results. One Standard and Poors study found that on average, public companies that appointed women CEOs or CFOs were more profitable on average and had better long-term performance than companies led by male peers.

Research shows that women leaders are often held to a higher standard. As a result, many women leaders work harder for the people they represent. A national pollster who'd done work in Vermont told one of us that women candidates have to be 10% more effective than any male candidate just to come out even in a statewide race.

In Vermont, it is time for us to catch up to the rest of the country and embrace the positive leadership women can provide. We can be a more equitable, more resilient and more sustainable state. We can emerge from the current crisis more resilient and equitable. But we can't do it without embracing the powerful leadership of women as a path to success.

As the next generation of smart, tough and aspirational young women steps up to lead, we are not only going to vote for women, we are going to stand with them and with the diverse communities they represent. We ask you to do so, too.

Here in VT, in 2020, we are going to keep pushing until the glass ceiling breaks. At a time when so many families -and particularly families led by Black and indigenous women- are losing ground economically, we know we need new voices at the leadership table. Our state won’t be of the people, by the people for the people, until “the people” reflects all of us, including the half of the population that is female.

The smartest way to do that is to do something we have not yet done in Vermont: fully embrace the leadership potential of women. Analysis shows repeatedly that there is much room to bring women into the labor force, and to create a brighter, more sustainable economy in the process. About half of Vermont’s population is female, but of the 296 individuals ever elected to statewide office here, only 11 have been women.

A 2018 Pew Research study found that an overwhelming majority of Americans say they would like to see more women in top offices, both in politics and in business. And when women do get to these offices, they bring attention to different issues and they get results. We recognize the need for more women in leadership. Now, let’s act on it.

Nevada was the first state to have a female majority in its legislature. Within months, they had passed solid reforms related to equal pay, penalties for domestic violence, protections for survivors of sexual assault, family-planning services, and raising wages. And within months of her initial election, Jacinta Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, led on significant gun reforms and was recognized globally for her leadership of her nation’s COVID19 response.

This year, vote for leaders with the skill and experience to create the vibrant, inclusive future we need. That means voting for women.

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