Why more California women are running for office — and winning

By Lara Korte

As a kid, Mayra Vega kept her head down. Growing as part of a family of undocumented Mexican immigrants in Napa, Vega’s parents instructed her not to draw attention to herself. Fly under the radar, they said. Don’t get involved. “You just work hard, you save your money, and buy a house. That’s what success looked like,” she said. “It was never my parents’ aspirations for me to be in a leadership position. It was not something I was groomed to do or knew anything about.” That changed when the pandemic hit.

Children were suddenly at home with their parents. Many in her community lost their jobs. Working mothers like herself had to find a way to balance careers with childcare — or leave the workforce altogether.

They needed someone advocating for them, she said. So she ran for office.

Now, Vega is one of three women who sit on the Woodland City Council, and can count herself among the dozens of women across California who have entered municipal government over the last decade.

Since 2011 the portion of women holding seats in municipal government has risen from about 25% to 38%, according to data compiled by GrassrootsLab, a California public relations firm that tracks changes in state and local government. Women of color make up one-third of those members…

Women In California Legislature

“…Sacramento’s Mayor Pro Tem Angelique Ashby is one of those looking to make the jump from local official to state lawmaker…”

“If you, in your heart feel called to the service of being an elected official, whether it’s on a school board, or in Congress … you should go for it,” she said. “And if you really like red pants, maybe wear red pants. If you also really want to have kids, then have kids.” “There’s nothing in this world that’s stopping you from doing all of the things that you want to do.”

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