Southwest Washington women interested in running for elected office seem to lack the support and mentorship their male counterparts enjoy, according to a Vancouver group starting a new women’s political action committee.
“It’s difficult as women to balance the priorities in our lives,” group co-founder Lisa Schauer said. “There’s only so much time for your significant other, so much time for your children, so much time for your work.”
It leaves little time to serve community leadership roles, let alone run for office.
Schauer, along with Elizabeth Holmes of Vancouver, created the H-RoC committee — short for the Hand that Rocks the Cradle Rules the World — to connect women with leadership opportunities and finance the campaigns of women running in local elections. Schauer says the group wants to support women of any political leaning and provide support beyond what women get through local business networking groups.
There’s a barrier to women hoping to get involved in community leadership roles, Schauer said. “How do you get started? How do you get to know people who might help you step into a board position? How do they go about finding resources and mentors to help them?”
The fledgling PAC has some familiar faces to Vancouver politics serving on its board of directors.
Board member Betty Sue Morris was part of a female majority on the Board of Clark County Commissioners a decade ago. Clark Public Utilities Commissioner Carol Curtis also serves on the board, along with Vancouver-based certified financial planner Heidi Johnson Bixby and construction company co-owner Renee Nutter of Nutter Corp. in Vancouver.
Keeping focus close to home
H-RoC co-founder and co-chair Holmes is chief strategy officer for Broadsheet 360, an online magazine startup. Schauer, of Camas, is a partner at MacKay & Sposito Inc., a civil engineering, land surveying, planning and landscape architecture firm in Vancouver.
The PAC also plans to cultivate women leaders by notifying women of the open leadership positions where they live.
The group began informally in 2010, when about a dozen local women began regular meetings over cocktails. Last year, the committee assembled its board and registered as a PAC with the state.
Schauer says H-RoC has no intention of getting involved in statewide or nationwide campaigns. The group wants to keep things local, Schauer said, focusing on elections to nearby city council and public utility district seats.
Women hold none of the six county partisan seats of assessor, sheriff, county prosecutor, treasurer, auditor and clerk. And Vancouver has never elected a woman as mayor.
Schauer said the committee’s fundraising has been modest so far. They plan to do their major fundraising events this year and be able to support candidates during elections in 2013. The group has two membership levels at $100 and $500. It is still working to complete its website.