Nashville’s Mayor Wants More Women To Run For Office

FiveThirtyEightCarl Bialik, FiveThirtyEight, July 28, 2016

Tonight, Hillary Clinton will be the first woman to accept the presidential nomination of a major political party. Last night, I spoke to Megan Barry, who last year became mayor of Nashville, Tennessee, about the obstacles that women face and have overcome in electoral politics, which also were explored by our colleague Christine Laskowski in a video this week.

Barry, speaking before appearing on a panel of mayors at an event hosted by the media and polling company Morning Consult in Philadelphia, told me about Women for Tennessee’s Future, a group that has recruited more than 70 women, sometimes writers of savvy letters to the editor, to run for local office. As Laskowski’s video pointed out, often the biggest obstacle is getting women to run the first time. Many won’t win, Barry said, but they might win the second or third time they run. “Men are much more likely to say sure,” I’ll run, Barry said. Many women, she said, “have to be asked.”

I asked Barry why she thought Clinton was so unpopular with voters. Partly, she said, it was Clinton’s long public record — providing lots of things for critics to pick over and attack. But sexism also plays a role, Barry said: “It’s both.”

Last week, when visiting a construction site, Barry spotted an orange sign with the outdated, sexist language “men working” on it. She grabbed it, and it now is displayed in her office — as a reminder, she said, that “words matter.”