It’s no secret that men hold the majority on boards in western Union County, and this year’s elections didn’t shift that statistic.
Beginning in December, when new board members are seated, only nine women will hold a seat, along with 25 men, in Indian Trail, Marvin, Stallings, Waxhaw, Weddington and Wesley Chapel. Only Weddington and Wesley Chapel have roughly equal representation on council between men and women, with no women on the new boards in Indian Trail and only one in both Marvin and Waxhaw.
But being in the minority doesn’t make the women holding positions feel like they are any less important than their male counterparts.
“I feel like I’m a lot stronger than most of the men on the board. Politics is a hard thing and no matter what you decide there is always going to be a faction who doesn’t like it,” Darlene Luther, an outgoing councilwoman in Indian Trail, said. “… I don’t know if that has anything to do with being a man or a woman.”
Other female leaders in western Union County agree, saying there no longer is a stigma on women being involved in politics.
“It appears to me that women are more involved in politics now than they used to be, even on the national level,” Weddington councilwoman Pamela Hadley said. “I think there is a greater awareness in women, where as before it was left up to the men.”
The question about why so few women hold leadership positions in the county is up for debate. Election results don’t show women losing elections – there just aren’t many filing in the first place. Only four women filed for election, or re-election, this year, with all but one winning. Thirty men ran for election, with 16 winning their race.
“I think women could make a difference in a different, more positive way, not to take anything away from our male counterparts,” Stallings councilwoman Shawna Steele said. “I’m not sure what the stigma is that is causing women to not even file.”
But for Hadley, filing is where the stigma ends. Two years ago, as she campaigned and talked to residents throughout the community, her being a woman didn’t result in any negative feedback.
“I actually received a lot of support for throwing my hat in the ring as a female,” she said.
Any negative stigma that does come along with women becoming politically involved is something Hadley sees fading as she looks at her daughter and the younger generation of people. While there will always be a “boys’ club,” she said, there also is more acceptance of women in the public sphere.
Although Luther thinks more equality in politics would be beneficial, for her it isn’t about voting for someone just because they are a man or a woman, but voting for someone who is qualified and can do the job well.
“I really am all about women and representation, but only if they are good; just like if only the men are good,” she said.
But first, women will need to file for election and become more involved – something Hadley, Luther and Steele think has a lot to do with busy schedules and negative attention many local leaders have to face.
“Women, they have families and they have children and you are putting yourself in a position where you really subject yourself to political (negativity),” Luther said.
And Hadley agrees, especially after dealing with recent pushback from some residents in Weddington.
“I also think that politics has gotten to the point where a lot of the good people have no intention of getting involved,” she said. “I think that politics has become so negative that even if they had that desire, that would prevent them from running, as well.”
Beginning in December, Indian Trail will have no women on its six-member town council; Marvin will have one of five; Stallings, two of seven; Waxhaw, one of six; Weddington, two of five; and Wesley Chapel, three of five.