An historic number of female candidates could claim seats on the Calhoun County Board of Education this November.
“We thought that was pretty significant,” said Republican school board candidate Lisa Amerson.
And it’s not just a local trend. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, women filled 20 percent of the seats in Congress in 2018. That’s compared to 19.4 percent in 2017 and 16 percent in 2007.
Women aren’t strangers to the Calhoun County school board. In both the 2000 and 1988 elections, two women won seats on the body each time. But if four female candidates win election in November, that will mean the fewest men on the board in decades.
Amerson, a retired technology director for Calhoun County Schools, topped the list of the seven candidates who will go on to the November general election.
Amerson said she believes the increase in female candidates is due in part to women feeling more comfortable pursuing careers than in years past.
“The taboo is not there anymore,” Amerson said. “And women are realizing they have more to add, that they can bring a perspective that’s not there.”
Brooke Carbo, the lone Democrat running for school board, said she feels the 2016 presidential race has had a lot to do with the recent uptick in female candidates. She said women saw a highly qualified female candidate beaten by a man with no experience in government.
“And it was an incredibly offensive campaign for women in general,” she said.
She later added, “I think women saw that in a national level and they started looking on the state level and local level and said that’s kind of par for course; the government is predominantly run by white males, and maybe it’s time to get some new voices at the table.”
Debbie Hess, an incumbent on the board, made the list of top seven Republican candidates Tuesday. She said that from the feedback she’s heard, voters were much more interested in candidates’ experience in the education field rather than in their gender.
Julie Hood, principal at the Calhoun County schools’ PASS program, also made the list of the top seven candidates moving on to the November election.
She said that more female board members should be expected from a school district that has a majority of female employees.
Asked what she thought has led to more women seeking office nationwide, she said, “I haven't given it much thought. It was a personal decision for me.”
Judy Stiefel became Calhoun County’s first female superintendent in 2007, serving until 2011.
She said a candidate’s qualifications far outweigh his or her gender. School districts need board members who have financial knowledge and common sense, she said.
“I don’t think gender has anything to do with it, quite honestly,” she said.
Asked why she thinks more women are seeking school board seats, Steifel said, “I think it’s just a realization that there are women out there that are qualified in areas that may have been made up predominantly of men.”