This opinion piece reflects the views of its authors and not necessarily those of Madison365 or its staff, board or funders.
The media is lately full of stories about women running for office, and gender diversity in leadership has been demonstrated to correlate with improved policy outcomes. How disappointing, then, that the Wisconsin State Journal chose to endorse a woman in only 2 of the 11 school board and city council races in which there was a woman candidate.
Beyond the decision to NOT endorse more women, the language used to discuss the women candidates contrasts strikingly with that used for their male counterparts. The women are described as ‘eager,’ ‘personable,’ and someone the endorsement panel ‘likes.’ Contrast these patronizing descriptions with those of men that received endorsements: as ‘more driven,’ ‘appears more committed,’ and ‘impressive’. These women are educated professionals, leaders in the community and of organizations, businesswomen. Is it truly likely that nearly 85% of them are less well equipped to serve as an elected official? We think not.
That bias is at work seems all the more probable when one learns that no women or people of color were on the endorsement panel this year. Are we to believe that an all white, male panel was the only option? Whatever the reasons behind it, the decision to limit the endorsement panel to white men certainly does not inspire confidence in the WSJ’s commitment to diversity in selecting the candidates to endorse — not only minimizing women’s voices, but also those of the communities of color and LGBTQIA communities that some of these women represent. While the different perspectives these women bring to the table shouldn’t outweigh everything else, consideration of whether a candidate adds diversity should be part of the endorsement decision process.
The women of Madison have a right to equal representation. Women who run for office deserve respect for their accomplishments, and the Wisconsin State Journal should strive to do a better job of examining their own journalistic biases in the endorsement process.