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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Where have all the women gone?

With less than a week to go in the filing period for the 2016 elections, we once again confront an obvious and substantial gender gap.

Where have all the women gone?
Across Henderson County, town boards and other governing bodies are predominantly male — this despite the wind of change that otherwise prevails. In the past 10 years, Congress installed its first female House speaker, North Carolina elected its first female governor and the Republican Party picked its first vice presidential nominee. It’s likely that the Democratic Party next year will nominate a woman for president for the first time and it’s possible that a year from now we’ll be awaiting her inauguration.
The exceptions locally are few. In Barbara Volk, Hendersonville has a female mayor. The School Board and the Flat Rock Village Council, each with three women, win the prize for gender diversity. Elsewhere, the landscape is decidedly male and white. The Fletcher and Laurel Park town boards each have one female member. Mills River, with the retirement of town matriarch Lois Pryor last year, has none.
There is no shortage of female talent in town.
At nonprofit agencies women are getting the job done every day in housing, human services, health care and the arts. Women lead the Housing Assistance Corp., Mainstay, the United Way, Thrive, the Council on Aging, the Free Clinics, Blue Ridge Community Health Services, the Storehouse, Smart Start, the Children and Family Resource Center, the Blue Ridge Literacy Council, the Flat Rock Playhouse, the Pardee Hospital Foundation, the Park Ridge Health Foundation, Hands On!, ECCO and the Tourism Development Authority, to name a few. In Molly Parkhill, we have a respected president of Blue Ridge Community College.
Henderson County and the city of Hendersonville have done somewhat better in appointing women to advisory boards. The Hendersonville Planning Board has no female members now but other boards do. The Henderson County Planning Board has just one female member out of nine, Marilyn Gordon, who also happens to be the last woman to have served on the Board of Commissioners. We’ve done better in the past than we’re doing today. At one time we had two women in our legislative delegation — state Reps. Carolyn Justus of Dana and Trudi Walend of Brevard.
Now is the time to step up.
Candidates have until noon Monday to file for office. On Friday Maureen Mahan Copelof, a retired Navy captain, filed to to run for the state House, joining the five males who have signed up to run for an open House seat and open Senate seat. No women have signed up to run for the Henderson County Board of Commissioners, where there is no competition at all so far for incumbents Charlie Messer and Grady Hawkins. Seven men have filed for the School Board, joining incumbent Mary Louise Corn who filed on Thursday.

We have nothing against the men who have thrown their fedoras in the ring but we’d like to see a few mauve berets, too. It would benefit our political discourse and our governance, too, if we had more women on the campaign trail and at the table where decisions get made.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The editorial has been updated from the print issue to correct that the Flat Rock Village Council has three women, not two, and to reflect other election filings.