Debbie Halvorson

Women Fighting Together- Feb. 5, 2013

Debbie Halvorson
February 05, 2013— Washington, D.C.
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I just want to start by giving you a few facts, and then lead into what it is that I'm here to talk to you about. We as women, we are more than fifty percent of the electorate, we are more than 50 percent of the voting base, women hold 58 percent of the online purchases, women make eighty percent of all the health care decisions, 64 percent of moms are in the workforce. Thirty-five percent versus twenty-seven percent 35 percent women, 27 percent of men hold bachelor's degrees or higher. Eighty-five percent of all consumer purchases are made by women, ninety billion dollars up consumer electronic purchases are made by women, and eighty percent of all car purchases are made by women. So women represent 2.4 trillion dollars of our market.

However, after I said all that, women still hold only seventeen percent of the positions on Fortune 500 company CEO’s, corporate board directors, and even though we made major gains this year in the November 2012 elections, 20 percent a congress, the best ever, is still in the 20 percent the positions are in the senate. Twenty percent of the women are senators, seventeen percent in the US congress. What does that say about us? Why are we still here?

Let me tell you a little bit about me. I grew up in a family of all-boys. You know, I was always the student government person, I loved making a difference. I always believed when I was younger that unless you have a title, nobody would answer the phone. You couldn’t get anything done for anybody. So, I was always a public servant. I was in local government, state government, federal government, because I needed to say I'm so and so, and I need to help this person.

So consumer constituent services was always my key. I didn't really care about the title, I just used it to get stuff done for people. I liked hearing about what people have said today. We have our issues. Women want to do something, men want to be somebody. If you think about that, we spend a lot of time with getting things done. Whether its 12 hours a day fighting in Sarajevo, or in other things I just want you think about some things that are stopping us from having a bigger percentage, or what I call our share in government.

It's not about democrats, not about republican, it's about government. It's about how can we have a bigger share, our seat at the table. If we’re making all those decisions, if we have all these other power in the buying power, if we have all these other things, why aren't we having our share, our seat at the table.

So when I became a state senator, I was elected in 1996 as a state senator in Illinois. I guess my claim to fame is I was elected the same year as Barack Obama to the state of Illinois legislature. So we were friends, he went door to door for me. His election was over in the primary, so he said what can I do to help? So I sent him out walking door to door for me, little did I know someday he was going to be the Present of the United States. I'm still trying to be somebody.

But we then, you know, we’re friends, but I was a young female, as we've been talking, it's not as easy to be a female in this business, or actually any the businesses as we've been hearing. I was in my mid-thirties, and I became a senator. One of, I think they're only like 4 or 5 of us in the State Senate. So after I was elected, I beat a nineteen year incumbent, so you know I'm really hot stuff now. So I go to some receptions, and the lady at the reception desk said, which senator are you here to represent? I am the senator!

So pretty soon one thing led to another, and people would say, but what are you doing? What do you do with your kids? See they have a dad, you know, they're in school. But I would get so tired of hearing that, finally I came up with something good. I said, you know what? I get them up for breakfast, we have breakfast together, I get them dressed, and I put it in the freezer, when I get home at night, I thaw them out, and we have dinner together. I mean come on.

But its stuff that we all have to deal with, no matter what it is that we do. I'm sure each and every one of you have the same issues. But what I think we have to realize is the word balance is a myth. Balance means 50-50. There's never gonna be 50-50. You're not gonna have a home life that balance is equal with your work life. That we have to realize that some days you can spend more time on your work life, and sometimes you can spend a little more your home life, and you just have to flow with the punches.

But what we do is women is we pour our heart and soul into whatever it is that we are working on at the time. We have our own terrorism right where we're at, whether it's in our neighborhoods, whether it's in our schools, whatever it is that we're working on. You're very powerful women, and you just have to take that power.

Women don't like power. We have our own barriers. The reason we're not in public office, first of all, power scares us. We don't like power. We think of power as a bad thing, because we know what man have over the years done with power. We have to take power, power is never gonna be given to you. So think of power as power to get something done, not power over somebody. As long as we think about the fact that if you have power, we use that power to get something done, whatever you think is important in your life, we use that power to get that done. That is to get something done. It's a good thing, power is a good thing. So we need to take power, because it's not gonna be given to us.

Another barrier is confrontation. I think I just saw a few people start sweating out there, because the word confrontation, usually puts people into a cold sweat. It's like, oh no, no, no, no confrontation. But the other thing is, we give up our power, and we avoid discord, just because we don't want to cause problems. We walk away. We don’t want to give up our power, we don't want to give up what we have going for us, just to avoid confrontation. Because confrontation, is communication in order to get something done, with a good result. Confrontation can mean a good thing.

So we've got barriers, we've got confrontation we’re afraid of, we’re afraid of power. But there's another thing, we’re afraid of risks. Now, if I was afraid of risks, I would never have even run for a State Senate position. Because, the person who I was running against, had been there nineteen years, he was the assistant majority leader in the senate. He never had an opponent for years, and people said, oh my god, you can't run against him, and you can't win. I’m like, that's what he's been used to for all these years. We don’t have good education system, people are at a loss for services, and I’m going to take my chance. If I lose, I didn’t fail, we gave the people a choice.

I think that we have to do our best to instill that in other women. That we have to make sure that we're risk-takers. Men don't have a bit of problem, they grow up every day of their life, from the time they're younger, being risk-takers. Loving competitions, loving confrontation, well what do we do as we're growing up? We don't love all that stuff. You know, we play differently, we deal with things, our mother tells us, don't get your shoes dirty when you go out and play. So, all I'm here to say, and I wanted to share, is these are things we need to think about. To share, and to realize that, if we ever want to get to that third, or 40 percent or 50 percent, like we have all this buying power, we have this voting bloc, we've got to start changing the way we think about things.

Because we owe it to ourselves. Sometimes, we women, we are our own worst enemies. Men bond with men, men help men, and we all say we need more women in politics, but sometimes we don't put our money where our mouth is and we don't help women do what it is we think they should be doing. So I would I say is we need to change our, “stinking thinking,” but that's just too much of a cliché for me.

So I went on and worked hard for other women. I became the first woman in the state of Illinois ever to be Majority Leader, because I refused to, what I kept saying is “play ball with the big boys,” which is the book I just wrote. Because I said women should be able to have the same job as a man in politics. I proved myself, because early on they bought me a mug that said, “Boys, I’m Taking Charge Here”. Now, if you took the first letter of each one of those words, I'm sure that's what they really meant to say. But you don't take any this stuff personally. I think that's another thing that bothers us women, is we have very thin skins, we take everything personally, and we want everybody to like us. Get over that real quick. Nobody's going to always like you. That's okay, because what we're doing is for the right reasons. So I went on, and became the first woman senate Majority Leader and stood up for women.

We talk about the ERA. Being the only woman in leadership, Phyllis Schlafly comes to our committee, because Illinois was one of the states that did not pass a ratified ERA. Well Illinois was thinking that, well, we maybe want to start the discussions at least, to maybe past the ERA. Well, first-person to Illinois that was gonna stop all that was Phyllis Schlafly. So, you know she still looks the same as she did, all those years ago. I don't know if she ever took that bun down, or not. God bless her, she still had her job to do. But we need to start realizing that we have to stand up, because women, no matter what party you come from, we have more alike than we have not.

So in 2008, when everybody was asking if I would run for Congress, I put aside the title, in all my years in the state Senate, and said it's not about me, it's not about titles, it's about where can we make the biggest difference. I ran for congress and I won. I did all the things that we needed to do, because as you know when Barack won, Mister President won, have to watch that, because he is a good friend. When our president won in 2008, we had a historic two years. But as I wrote in my book, we lost the message a little along the way. We were having a wonderful conversation at lunch that there were some things that we probably could have done differently. But we got a lot done.

Well, I lost in 2010, because there was this huge Tea Party movement, and it was very active in my district, but since then we've been able to, you know, get more done. I think that there's been a lot of different things that have happened, but what's important here is that we women start thinking about what we want to do together. How we stand together, and how we work together, and how we think about ourselves. That's been my message everywhere I go.

And to think about our neighborhoods as we go forward. That's what's been very important to me, as I've done other things since I lost. I feel that crime in the streets, and education, and housing, and all those issues, I see as something that is so important to the people. That if we women were to stick together, and to constantly stand and fight for the people that need us so much. And if we’re to stick together to do that, as we saw on this last election, it's a start, but we can't stop. We’ll continue to do great things together.

So as I go along, and I travel the country over, and I talk about getting together, and galvanizing our strengths, which is just exactly what all of you have done so far today, and I look forward to future speeches the rest of the day, because I think you guys are amazing, absolutely amazing, women. I think that as long as you realize, and when I lost my election, nobody could understand how I could be so gracious, I said, because so I lost, we did not fail. Women have to realize its okay to lose, you don't fail.

We need to take those risks, and don't ever be afraid to take a risk, and those are good things. So I just went close there because I would much rather listen all of you, and see what kind of questions you have. But as I talk, and as I fight so hard for the people, I think it's important that women learn that they need to bond together, and fight, and stand up together like men have always. Men bond with men, and men work with men, but women they’re at the end their long day, they're rushing home to their second shift with their families, and they're so busy they don't think about what they can do together with other women.

So with groups like this, with so many wonderful women such as yourselves, and all these great networking opportunities, look around and see what it is that you could do together, as you go from your day to day. When you go to work, think about all the other women that you’re with. Don't forget that women sometimes are each other's worst enemies. There's room for everybody at the top. You need to think about standing at the top that ladder, helping every single one up. Not standing at that ladder, keeping everybody down. Thinking that there’s just only room for only you at the top. There's room for everybody at the top and we need to help every woman up, because we can do that. Thank you.

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