Why Is It Important to Elect Women to City Council?

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In 2019, women made up 54.2% of the residents in Cleveland Heights.

This coming year, the women on our city council will be Melody Joy Hart and (knock on wood and very likely) Davida Russell and, if elected, me. That’ll be three out of seven council positions—43%. Not quite representative of our population, but close.

However, electing women is about more than filling quotas. It’s about making sure that the women of Cleveland Heights have people on city council who understand their lived experiences and are advocating for them.

Women in Business

Women are underrepresented in our city’s business-owner community, comprising, in 2019, 42.9% of the business owners in Cleveland Heights. It’s also important to note the importance of home-based businesses in Cleveland Heights and include these businesses when we talk about how we can best support our business community and, in particular, our women-owned businesses.

I have spoken with several home-based business owners (and I am one too) and have heard people (women) say, “I’m not really a Cleveland Heights business because my clients are outside Cleveland Heights.” But the income generated by home-based businesses pay taxes to Cleveland Heights, and many pull capital from outside the city and then those business owners and their employees spend it right here in Cleveland Heights. Home-based businesses, though they may be treated like they are invisible, ARE a contributing part of our local economy, and they matter.

Further, if we are interested in growing our local economy—and I AM interested in doing just that—then home-based businesses need to be on our radar, as 69% of U.S. entrepreneurs start their business at home.

And when we take the mindset that home-based businesses aren’t as important as those that have made their way into separate commercial spaces, and put it alongside the fact that among home-based startups, 72% are operated by women, an unconscious bias becomes apparent. And this same bias likely accounts for why women-owned startups account for only 13% of venture capital invested in the United States, and in 2018 the average loan amount for women-owned businesses was 31% lower than that of male-owned businesses.

As a council member, as a woman, and as a small business owner, I see this inequity, and I know the impact that representation can have in empowering women business owners and entrepreneurs. I want to work with our Economic Development department, our CDCs, and other area nonprofits to develop and expand programs to provide mentoring, support, and resources for women-owned businesses and women entrepreneurs.

Mothers—and Children—in Poverty

While women are underrepresented in our business-owner community, they are overrepresented among the people in our city who live in poverty. Our city’s poverty rate in 2019 was 18.2%, and the largest demographic living in poverty was women aged 18 to 24, followed by women aged 25 to 34. Or, rather, women with young children.

As a working mother of young children, I know how hard it is. I understand the everyday juggling act of doing all. the. things. And I’m lucky—I have an amazing partner and network of support. Every mother deserves a community around her to help her keep going, provide her children with a safe and stable home, and still have time to take care of herself. Mothers need:

Quality, affordable childcare. As we support women-owned businesses, we will inevitably support more home-based daycares. We need to be helping them connect with mothers in need of their services. There are also many support services available through the county; our city should be taking a more proactive role in connecting mothers with the services available for them.

Quality, affordable, and SAFE housing. As a council member, I am committed to making sure that all rental housing is in good condition and safe for children. Currently, the way we find most lead hazards is through the blood tests of our children. This is unacceptable. I want our city to be proactive in identifying homes with lead-based paint and moving property owners to remediate lead hazards. I will work to make lead testing part of all routine rental inspections, as well as part of the point-of-sale inspection and inspections for all daycare facilities. We will partner with state and county programs to help property owners who qualify to cover abatement costs.

Walkability for necessities. As we grow our local business ecosystem, I want to see more small shops all over Cleveland Heights that offer everyday necessities—not just food, including fresh produce, but also items such as baby formula, diapers and wipes, and feminine sanitary products. If a woman does not have access to a car and needs these items immediately, having access within a walkable distance can be a lifeline.

There is so much more that mothers need, of course, such as skills/professional development opportunities; reliable, affordable, clean public transportation; quality, affordable internet service; scheduling consistency and timeliness at work; and the list goes on. The work to create a robust infrastructure that serves the needs of mothers and families is long. And while there’s a lot we can’t do locally—at least not directly—I’m ready to get started on what we CAN do, using every tool at our disposal.

When doors are closed to women, or paths are more difficult for women, it’s something that many men often don’t even see. We need more women on city council because we need women’s perspectives. The first step to addressing injustices and inequities is seeing them. And this is just one of many perspectives I will bring to the Cleveland Heights city council.