BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
To help women break the glass ceiling, women in New York City politics have a goal that they believe is attainable.
In 2017, former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; former Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley; Councilwoman Margaret Chin (D-Manhattan); and government watchdog group and public-policy think tank Effective NY launched 21 in ’21, an initiative to elect at least 21 women to the New York City Council’s body of 51 members by 2021.
Currently, there are only 11 women holding a City Council seat. A total of 36 members will be term limited in 2021, so for the next four years, 21 in ’21 will recruit, train and prepare women to help get 21 elected, which would result in a 50/50 council.
“We must make sure that the diversity of our great city is reflected in all elected offices,” said Mark-Viverito. “That’s why it’s crucial to support women throughout every point of their campaign.”
According to 21 in ’21, women are often discouraged from running, while men are groomed for seats. As a result, women are less likely to have the fundraising networks, policy experience and political relationships to create a successful candidacy.
“Our initiative will arm women with the financial, structural and experiential support they need to succeed,” said Crowley.
Through a pipeline created by partner state and national organizations, qualified and diverse candidates will be chosen to target the open council seats, while others will be campaign volunteers, staff and government operatives. Candidates will be paired with current and former female elected officials as mentors, who will give candidates the support and advice they need.
In addition to mentorship, candidates will be granted access to consultants, fundraisers and issue experts in sessions that prepare the women for planning and running a campaign. Much of what they will learn is how to understand their district, local and citywide issues, the political landscape, budgeting, endorsements, fieldwork and governing.
During the launch of 21 in ’21, executive director Moira McDermott said that women are underrepresented in government due to being faced with the choice between pursuing a career and tending to their families.
Last year, former Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland announced that she would not run for a second term because she wanted to focus on her family.
For the goal of 21 women to be met, 17 new women must be elected. The group has received the support of such nonprofit organizations as #VOTEPROCHOICE, the National Women’s Political Caucus of New York City and She Will Rise.
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said that the low number of women in the City Council makes him uncomfortable.
“It’s an embarrassment for politics in New York City and bad for the council,” said Johnson. “If you look at Washington and Albany, when compromises need to be struck on polarizing issues where the temperature is hot, you have women able to step in and negotiate and come at politics with a different perspective.”