Overlooking the San Diego harbor, tonight marked the first night of the California Women Lead’s Women’s Empowerment Conference, a three-day conference bringing women from throughout the state of California together to give them the skills and tools necessary to empower, engage, and elect. This year, because the conference is located in San Diego, the Independent Voter Network has the opportunity to attend.
Among the guests attending tonight’s reception was Speaker Pro Tempore of the California State Assembly, Fiona Ma. Introduced by Senior Vice President for Walmart’s Pacific Division, Kimberly Sentovich, Ma has been involved in politics for almost 20 years. Having worked her way up the political ladder, she provided attendees with anecdotal advice on running for office as a women.
Here are Assemblywoman Fiona Ma’s 10 tips for women trying to succeed in politics:
1. Channel a Honey Badger
If you haven’t been on YouTube lately, the personality traits Ma is referring to can be found here. Honey badgers are fearless and are known for not caring about what other people think. Uninhibited, the honey badger doesn’t care about the obstacles that stand in their way. In a honey badger’s case, the goal is food. But women trying to success in politics face an uphill battle, one riddled with challenges. The bottom line is don’t let these obstacles stand in the way of your future as a leader.
2. Show Me The Money
Know that running for office is hard work. You can assemble the best staff in the state, but at the end of the day, no one will care more about the outcome of your campaign than you.
3. The Media
In Fiona Ma’s own words, “they can be your friend or your foe.” Expect negative media. In Ma’s case, she knows what to expect, which is why she manages two Facebook pages, sends her own tweets, and constantly monitors her Wikipedia Page. Ma doesn’t rely on the media to talk her up, rather she creates her own media through the use of social networks.
4. Maintain Your Own Contacts
Contacts are the most important part of a campaign and in order to get elected, you need a substantial amount of contacts. Speaking from experience, she advises women running for office to manage and maintain their own contact list, instead of handing them off to consultants. Unfortunately, she learned this lesson the hard way.
Respect goes a long way in the political world, and as in all aspects of life, she encourages women running for office to treat others with the same respect they would want in return. And that includes staff members!
While party polarization is at an all time high, this piece of advice should resonate with all members of government. Politics is all about compromise and you must develop a set of standards while also leaving room for compromise. Now if only Congress would listen.
7. Don’t Let Guilt Get You Down
Women are expected to do everything, Ma explains, and feel guilt when they can’t complete every task, fulfill every need, play every role. Speaking from experience, Ma reminds women to let go of guilt when running for office.
8. You’re Not Always Going To Be Loved
Inherent in the job of any politician, you cannot please everyone. Quoting Eleanor Roosevelt, she encourages women to, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”
9. Find a Supportive Spouse or Partner
On a more personal note, Fiona Ma delved into her passed relationships, warning women that some men won’t be comfortable with a career-driven female. Tying into tip #7, it’s hard for women to fulfill every role expected of them, which is why Ma suggests finding a partner who “gets it.”
10. Find Mentors
Running for office is all about people and relationships. Find mentors, Ma continues, who you can start to build a team with. Ma began her career working under former state Senate President John Burton, whom she referred to in her speech as her mentor.
We’re looking forward to Day 2 of the conference, with keynote speakers Kim Sentovich, Senior Vice President, Pacific Division of Walmart, Dr. Beth Rogers, Managing General Partner, Pacific Earth Resources, Sunne Wright McPeak, President of California Emerging Technology, Courtney Ruby, City Auditor of Oakland, Brenda Smith, North American Public Affairs Director of State Farm Insurance.