Amy Pritchard Asks Again: Where Are the Women, AAPC?
For the last year and especially in the last two months, I feel like I wake up every day assaulted by sexism. But let's be honest, it wasn't invented because a woman ran for President or by Donald Trump and his pals. Sexism takes many shapes and forms. It happens every day in subtle ways through gender bias and stereotyping. Much of the time you don’t even notice it, like a building you drive or walk by every day on the way to work but never stop to look at.
Sexism is there — all the time — everywhere.
I think it is important to call it out and bring attention to it whenever you can. This is why I’ve been a proud GenderAvenger ever since Gina Glantz started this site and blog. I like to think that small acts of calling out sexism not only raise awareness but also can effect change and make an impact.
Recently, I was sent an ad on Facebook by the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) that struck a nerve. The ad promotes the annual awards, “the Pollies”, and the image they used was from a past event with James Carville, Paul Begala, and Karl Rove — all titans in our consulting industry and all white men. Now, I have nothing but respect for Carville and Begala, and even for Rove, who I think is a great strategist even if I disagree with everything he stands for and does. My reaction isn’t about them personally. I’m just sick and tired of white men “representing” the industry. And the caption, which I‘m sure was meant to reference bringing parties together, suggested that the AAPC is bringing all the old white guys together.
I’m tired of the organization that represents our industry being insensitive about inclusion.
I know I’m not alone. I posted my frustration in a public post. It sparked dozens of comments, including a defense of the AAPC, from many leading women and a few men in our industry, clearly striking a chord for many others.
This was not a new issue for the AAPC and I. I have some history with the organization on this topic. I wrote a GenderAvenger post about it a few years ago. Unfortunately, a few months after that post I attended another board meeting. There was an all-day training with three panels, and there was only one woman and one person of color on the panels. This was the last straw for me. I couldn’t believe they allowed an all-male panel. There were at least three other women in the room as participants who were more qualified potential presenters, so there was no excuse that they “couldn’t find” speakers. I had a bit of a fit and resigned in protest to make a point. This was 2.5 years ago. So ya, this is a bit of a personal issue for me. To be clear, I want the AAPC to be awesome. I care about our profession. Not to overstate our influence, but people in this field of work have a huge impact on virtually every issue in this country, and I would argue the world (hello, Kellyanne Conway).
Optics matter, and I believe that the AAPC and all professional associations should always be held accountable.
It wasn’t just the picture of Carville, Begala, and Rove. It was also the ad linked to the promotional site for the annual conference coming up next week. When I first looked at the list of presenters, it was 85% white and 77% male. They’ve added a few more speakers since then, but the numbers are not much better. Currently, there are 79 speakers listed — 25 women — which is 32% women and 68% men. That is two men for every woman. The numbers of people of color are much worse — only 14%.
Once again I needed to flag what was happening, to bring attention to the fact that when women and people of color are not included, we notice. And thankfully it turns out millions and millions of us do. The women’s marches in DC, across the country, and the world sent a powerful message that we are paying attention. We’re paying attention to the big things and the small and not letting them go unspoken or unnoticed. We’re calling it all out. We are resisting AND persisting. Women in the political consulting business are fierce and many. There is no excuse not to showcase them at every single opportunity. I’m glad that GenderAvenger is taking on the AAPC and organizing attendees to continue to keep a spotlight on their activities and to keep a tally. If you are interested, please see the GA Tally App to report on the panels.
I want the AAPC to better represent our industry, and I believe it will succeed only when the AAPC does.