Hearing about Capitol Weekly's "Top 100" list of "Capitol Power Players, Insiders and Difference Makers," I couldn't resist checking out the latest "who's who" run-down of the capital community while waiting for my chai-tea at Chicory. As I scrolled through the list, however, one thing instantly became clear – the editors of CW had neglected an entire gender.
Only 14 of the "Top 100" people selected were women — with glaring omissions of some of the most powerful political people (who happen to be female) in the state of California. That's 86 men propelled to the top of an arbitrary list that deserved a whole lot more thought and review before ever seeing the light of day. The fact is that any list created by a limited number of people – in this case, formulated by all men – is bound to
But this list was so disturbingly off-kilter, it gave me a "Back to the Future" vibe that had me looking around the coffee-shop envisioning the women in poodle-skirts rather than pant-suits, waiting for Biff to bust through the door at any moment and take his "girl" to the dance.
In all seriousness, whether you put any stock in these kinds of "lists" or not – the fact that this one made it to publication was a set-back for women in the business of politics. One can't help but imagine what that list would look like if it was 50-50 (representative of the population), and included 36 more women, and, yes – you do the math – 36 fewer men.
Though I wouldn't dare to try and come up with the "missing 36" on my own, I think we can get some wheels turning by mentioning some of the "glaring omissions."
Let's start with the fact that both Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg have female Chiefs of Staff – Nolice Edwards and Kathryn Dresslar – neither of whom made the list. The fact that the two most powerful Chiefs of Staff in the Capitol were left off the "list" while other male staffers were included, defies reason.
Also MIA from the list is the new Executive Director of the California Democratic Party, Shawnda Westly. The former political director of the California Professional Firefighters ran her own successful political consulting business for several years before running a flawless campaign that helped launch John Burton to his latest position as Dem Party Chair.
And let's not forget that the out-going Executive Director of the Democratic Party, Kathy Bowler, who has served under several party chairs and run campaign operations totaling hundreds of millions of dollars over the years, also wasn't included on the elusive list. But I guess running the most powerful state party operation in the country for over a decade doesn't qualify you to be a "difference maker" in CW if you're a woman.
And then there's an extensive network of female consultants who somehow didn't make it on the CW chick-proof radar. Let's start with political consultant Mary Hughes, principal in Staton-Hughes, who helped elect the first female Speaker of the House in our nation's history, as well as the first female State Superintendent in California and the first Latino mayor of San Jose, not to mention the upset victory she orchestrated in the competitive AD-15 in the last election cycle.
On the other side of the aisle, there's Beth Miller and Julie Soderlund, partners at the powerful Wilson-Miller consulting firm, and part of the team running this election cycle's 1A-1F campaign. And then there's Karen Skelton, the head of Sacramento's Dewey Square Group, who has plenty of California campaigns under her belt, and also served as an attorney in the Clinton White House and as a former assistant U.S. attorney.
For those who spend much time in the hallways of the Capitol, some of the most effective and powerful lobbyists are women, including the highly-respected Christy Bouma, principal of Capitol Connection and lobbyist for the California Professional Firefighters or Jennifer Fearing, lobbyist for the Humane Society of the United States, who served as campaign manager to pass the landmark Prop. 2, to prevent animal cruelty. And anyone who has worked with the labor community in recent years would never leave off Carolyn Doggett, Executive Director of the 340,000-strong California Teachers Association or Angie Wei, Chief of Staff and Legislative Director for the 2.1 million member California Labor Federation.
And let's not forget the heads of the trade associations and companies with serious political clout in Sacramento. Whether it's Liz Snow heading up the California Dental Association or Nancy McFadden, the senior vice-president of public affairs at PG & E, these women hold power-seats at the table and wield some pretty hefty checkbooks come campaign season.
Since there was not a single female political reporter or even a woman fundraiser listed on the CW top 100 "directory of dudes," I'm not even sure where to begin, except to mention that among the rapidly shrinking press corps, the Associated Press still boasts three female print reporters in its capital bureau, and that there are plenty of women fundraisers who keep the campaign coffers brimming with cash in this town.
That's just the tip of the estrogen-laden iceberg that the editors at CW failed to see through their testosterone-trained-telescope. Though I can think of plenty other women friends and colleagues who would be serious contenders for this list, there's simply no way I could (or would) single-handedly feel entitled to name every influential female power-broker in this town that escaped the CW "top 100" list.
In fairness to the editors of CW – after hearing an earful from myself and others about their gaping disconnect with women in the political arena, they didn't hesitate to accept the criticism. So, I'm guessing that next year's list may be a little less "Biff" and a little more "Buffy."