By Kim Huynh

It’s not without some irony that a women’s organization active in fighting the political gender gap initially grew out of a campaign to elect a man.


In 1968, the 12 founding members of what would become Black Women Organized for Political Action, or BWOPA, formed Bay Area Women for Dellums, an organization that soon grew to more than 200 members, raised $75,000, and succeeded in helping elect the first African-American Congressman from Northern California, Ron Dellums.

Spurred by the victory, the women continued to meet and engage in political issues. Forty-five years, seven chapters, and 600 members later, BWOPA remains the oldest and largest organization of its kind in California, and one with a long legacy of political accomplishments including Charter Member Ella Hill Hutch, the first African-American woman elected to office in the Bay Area, former California legislators and Congresswomen Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters and former Congresswoman Diane Watson.

“We’ve played a major role in the election of many dynamic women, and we have big plans to accomplish much more,” says President Dezie Woods-Jones. “African-American women traditionally have not been engaged in politics, whether it is because they hold a negative view of it, or they don’t see roles in it for women.”

Dezie Woods-Jones
BWOPA President Dezie Woods-Jones

To that end, BWOPA’s focus is threefold. Chapters of the “mothership,” as Woods-Jones refers to the main organization, focus on member education and advocating for local and regional issues. The political action committee, with a separate board, endorses, assists and advises political candidates. To prepare women for future candidacies and to provide interested people with a grounded civic education, BWOPA developed the Training Institute for Leadership Enrichment (TILE) in 1999, an independent nonprofit to incubate “a new and necessary generation of future civic, political, community and business leaders,” as Woods-Jones says.

Since 2000, close to 1,500 women have participated in leadership development training, through Leadership University, TILE’s four-day certificate leadership training program, or frequent one-day workshops, including “Effective Advocacy” and “Running for Office 101: Nuts & Bolts.”

“This year, we launched our new vision with a laser focus on building partnerships throughout the state and nation to significantly increase black women in leadership roles by 2020,” says LaNiece Jones, TILE and BWOPA’s executive director. “The curriculum is presented by seasoned public policy experts, elected officials and scholar-practitioners to empower women to explore social issues, and strengthen and hone their skills to take their leadership to the next level.”

See our other Allies.


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Women Take a Seat

By Catherine Adams Lee

Re-posted from Catherine Adams Lee’s Blog

blogathonBest way to spend an evening? Share ideas, stories and experiences with a great group of people. Congratulations to close the gap ca and Planned Parenthood Mar Monte for bringing together great women for a great cause – increase the number of progressive women in the California Legislature.

Here are some stats I learned last night:

  • Women only hold 26% of the California Legislature seats but are over 50% of the population, and that number is declining.
  • 57 seats will be open on account of changes to term limits laws in 2012, which means nearly half the seats in the state legislature will come open in the 2014 or 2016 elections. This is opportunity now.
  • Women often wait to be asked to run rather than self nominate. So start asking them.
  • Women win elections as often as men, they just don’t run as frequently. Let’s break this pattern.

take a seat

Why should we have more women in politics?
We had two former legislators open our eyes, Liz Figueroa, former CA State Senator and Assembly member, and Sally Lieber, former CA State Assembly member. Women are more focused on policy than politics and women initiate legislation from a women’s perspective for women. Examples, such as these bills: Stopping pelvic exams in teaching hospitals on women who are unconscious and unable to give their consent; Stopping female genital mutilation; Against human trafficking; Against women prisoners having to turn in their used feminine hygiene products before they can get a fresh one; Against shackling both arms of women prisoners to the bed while in labor. All bills brought to the floor by women. My mouth was agape! You mean we had to pass legislation so these atrocities can be considered horrible, illegal and prosecutable?!

Women legislators help men too.
Both legislators shared stories and experiences of being approached by numerous male constituents during their term who needed help on family matters for which they were unable, or reluctant, to go to male legislators. As Liz commented, “Constituents are often more likely and able to talk to women about their personal issues than a man”.

Why be a woman in the CA state legislature?
“Women who go to Sacramento have such a chance to make a difference,” said Sally. The California state legislature is the largest in the country. We have the most resources, dedicated staffs and are full time. Did you know some states only meet once every two years!? Women can become committee chairs (rare when women get to the US Congress). California’s legislation has not only influenced, but actually become the basis for federal legislation, such as the ‘do not call’ act first carried by Liz in CA. We have her to thank for the peace and quiet at the dinner table and no more telemarketing robocalls, both state-wide and nationally.

Women do make a difference.
How you can help.

Editor’s note: We had a social media meetup, aka #ctgtweetup on Sept 10, 2013 with Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, co-hosts Glennia Campbell, Jill Asher, Stefania Pomponi and other bloggers. Thanks to Catherine Adams Lee, one of the participants, for this recap.

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Dates and Deadlines for 2016 Primary

Candidate Filing June 7, 2016

Signatures-In-Lieu of Filing Fee Period

Jan 1 – Feb 25, 2016

Declaration of Candidacy Period – this is it!

Feb 15 – Mar 11, 2016

Nomination Paper Period

Feb 15 – Mar 11, 2016

Candidate Statement Period for County Sample Ballots

(County, Senate, and Assembly)

Feb 15 – Mar 11,2016

Declaration of Candidacy Extension Period

(If Incumbent Does Not File)

Mar 12 – Mar 16

Randomized Alphabet Drawing to be listed in Ballot

Mar 17

Notice to Candidates for Voter-Nominated Offices

Mar 26

Certified List of Candidates

Mar 31

CDP Endorsement Deadlines

A full calendar and explanatory information can be found at the California Secretary of State website.

For more information on the CA Democratic Party (2014) endorsements, see the CDP guide.

Paid Family Leave in California: All is Not Well

By Susan Rose

Susan Rose
close the gap CA Board of Directors Member Susan Rose

Reposted from Womens ENews.

(WOMENSENEWS)–I guess I was a little too bullish about California’s pioneering paid family leave law.No better time than Labor Day to take a new critical look at the nation’s first Paid Family Leave Act. I hailed our state’s law in this space over a year ago. Today I want to backtrack and emphasize the crying need for awareness and implementation.

No time like Labor Day to take another look.

On Jan. 9, 2012, Women’s eNews published my article, “Paid Family Leave Pays-Let’s Buy in This Year.”

I wrote it in response to a Human Rights Watch report written by Janet Walsh and published in 2011 describing the lack of paid family leave programs in the United States.

Their report showed that a lack of paid leave can increase sickness and poverty for families, as well as job discrimination.

My job after reading the report seemed to be hailing California’s Paid Family Leave Act, PFLA, and the positive reaction from the business community. I concluded it was time we elected more representatives who would support legislation like the California law that would improve women’s work lives. Passed in 2002 and implemented in 2004, the law provides unemployment disability compensation to employees who take time off from work to “care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parent, domestic partner or bond with a newborn baby, adopted or foster.”

It turns out all is not so well with paid family leave in California.

In reaction to my article, the Labor Project for Working Families directed me to recent research that revealed pot holes in how the California law was being used.

Although awareness has increased over the years, research in 2011 by the California Field Poll showed less than 45 percent of workers in our state have adequate knowledge of the program.

In Los Angeles County, the largest metropolitan area in the state, workers have an awareness of less than 35 percent. For those with “lower household incomes and limited education” the figure is below 30 percent.

Among aware respondents, less than 14 percent of women and 7 percent of men had taken advantage of it. Fears of job loss and retaliation were key reasons.

Disproportionate Impact

The recession has hit women disproportionately, especially poor women, according to the Women’s Foundation of California.

Since his 2010 election, Gov. Jerry Brown has cut many of the programs supporting women and children for the sake of a balanced budget. With fewer social services from the state and a reduction of employment opportunities, women fear for the loss of their jobs and economic survival.  Would retaliation occur if they took paid leave?         .

The Milkman/Appelbaum report, “Leaves that Pay,” summarizes the reasons why their survey respondents who were aware of the program did not apply for paid family leave: one-third said the wage replacement was insufficient and one-third feared making their employer “unhappy.” Twenty-four percent were “afraid of being fired.”

We need to strategize. What can be done to educate the state work force and to encourage employees to use this hard-fought-for benefit?

The statewide California Work and Family Coalition, made up of labor and community activist organizations, spearheaded the movement to pass the PFLA and is now leading the effort to increase usage and advocate for additional legislation.

Two New Bills

Two bills have been proposed in the California state Senate to advance the implementation of the law: SB 761 and SB 770. The former will prevent retaliation for use or attempted use of the California PFLA. The latter will expand the definition of family to include grandparents, grandchildren, siblings or parents-in-law.

Consideration of SB 761 has been extended for another year, but SB 770 has passed the state Senate and will be voted on by the state Assembly. The bill is currently on the governor’s desk waiting to be signed.

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, author of SB770, believes that “it is important to allow flexibility so more working people can care for their families without having to choose between their jobs and their family responsibilities.”

Public-private partnerships are one idea being considered to reach unaware employees. Los Angeles needs the greatest outreach and education and is the likely region to be targeted for such an effort.

The passage of the California PFLA makes the case for ongoing feminist advocacy, but follow up and evaluation is critical for legislation affecting our lives.

Netsy Firestein, executive director of the Labor Project for Working Families, summed it up: “It’s important that we get outreach and education right on California’s paid family leave program as a model for the nation. When we pass it in other states and at the national level, we have to know how to implement the law as well.”

Paid family leave first became an issue for me during my years as a single parent. Like many women, through the experience of trying to raise two children, find a job and ensure quality child care for my daughters, I understand how difficult it is to balance the needs of a family with the demands of the workplace. When we pass good legislation in this arena we can’t stop there. We must see it through.


Susan Rose served for eight years on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and is the former executive director of the Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women. She is a member of the board of trustees of Antioch University Santa Barbara. Rose is Women’s eNews’ California commentator.

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