Dare to Compete

During a recent TV interview, Hillary Clinton recounted the call to action that prompted her to run in 2000 for the U.S. Senate in New York. "Dare to compete," a young woman told her. The story immediately resonated with me. Seven months ago, when my local congressman announced he was going to run for the U.S. Senate, I jumped into a crowded democratic congressional race for Maryland's 8th District.

I am nearly 100 days from the primary election. Quitting my job as a senior executive at a global hospitality company and running for office has challenged me in every imaginable way, but every moment has been rewarding. What gives me the fortitude and stamina is having a clear purpose behind what I'm doing. I believe that electing more women to Congress will help cut through some of the partisanship that is impeding progress for women and families. The gridlock in Washington has been particularly harmful to opportunities for women, and has fueled growing income inequality, threatened women's health and reproductive freedom, fueled the violence in our communities because of easy access to guns, and contributed to the climate change that is burning up our planet.

Fighting for this opportunity agenda for women animates my campaign for Congress and has been a thread throughout my career in journalism and business for the past 40 years.

Coming of age in the 1970s, I was inspired by Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisholm and other feminists who jumped into the arena to right for equal rights for women. I was an early beneficiary of Title 9, which leveled the playing field for women in education and sports. This was also the time of the historic 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe vs Wade, which granted women reproductive rights that are under attack today. It was an empowering time for a young woman, and I was -- and am -- proud to call myself a feminist.

For 25 years as a local television news reporter and anchor in Washington, I hosted a weekly Working Woman show that featured the challenges facing women in the workforce. In my business career at Marriott International, I found myself acting as an agitator for diversity and advancing women into the senior ranks of the company in addition to my day job. In my community, I worked with Suited for Change to help women in the DC area move from welfare to work. These experiences helped me understand the challenges women still face.

Today women earn less than men for the same work. Too many of us find ourselves stretched between jobs and family obligations, whether it's a sick child or failing parents, because we don't have paid family and sick leave policies. Immigrant women support their families on low wages because they work in the shadows of the informal economy. And when women live longer, they face poverty because they lack retirement security. Most importantly, our economy is not getting the full benefit of women's contributions because policies make it difficult to compete at work and keep a focus on families at home.

This is why we need to raise the minimum wage, enact laws to guarantee equal pay and paid family leave, reform our immigration system, and protect retirement security. When women succeed America succeeds.

And women are the key to getting this agenda done. Time Magazine correspondent Jay Newton Small has written a new book called Broad Influence: How Women are Changing the Way America Works. She describes the "critical mass" that's required to change policies that currently hold women back from achieving and sharing their full potential. She documents how this theory of critical mass applies to both the corporate board room and the Congress. When legislatures become more than 20 percent female, she says a new dynamic comes into play to get things done. For example, women of the Senate not only came together to avert the government shutdown in 2013, but working across the aisle, they produced 70 percent of the legislation that passed that year.

Having a role in this new dynamic, where women change the conversation and the outcome, gets me up in the morning and fuels my long days on the campaign trail. I am empowered by the voices of women and men who are looking for fresh leadership in Congress to get things done. And I am indebted to those who dare us to compete.

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