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Wendy Davis on women in politics: 'The only way for us to cut through is to win'




State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Ft. Worth) contemplates her 13-hour filibuster after the Democrats defeated the anti-abortion bill SB5, which was up for a vote on the last day of the legislative special session June 25, 2013 in Austin, Texas.
State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Ft. Worth) contemplates her 13-hour filibuster after the Democrats defeated the anti-abortion bill SB5, which was up for a vote on the last day of the legislative special session June 25, 2013 in Austin, Texas.
Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

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Former Texas State Senator Wendy Davis joined Airtalk today, telling host Patt Morrison she felt women's own expectations can hamper their political ambitions. 

"When we conducted some focus groups during my campaign,  a number of women said they didn't think a woman could be that leader, that executive leader," Davis said.

The former Texas state senator is perhaps best known for her historic 13-hour filibuster on the floor of the state senate to stop a legislative effort that would have dramatically reduced women’s access to health care services in her state.

The best way, she said, for women to get beyond that barrier, is to see other women gain success. 

"The only way for us to really cut through that is to win and to demonstrate our capacity to be the incredible leaders that we are capable of being. We certainly saw that in Texas with Ann Richards."

Davis lost a high profile 2014 race for governor of Texas, but now, the 53-year-old former state senator has inspired a television show about her life, she’s trying to engage millennials with her new project Deeds Not Words and is working hard to put the first woman to the White House.

Davis talks with Patt Morrison about women in politics,  the future of the Democratic Party and the Supreme Court's pending decision on Texas hospital admitting privileges for doctors who perform abortions. Read a few highlights below and listen to the whole segment by clicking the blue playhead above. 

State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Ft. Worth) (3L) holds up two fingers against the anti-abortion bill SB5, which was up for a vote on the last day of the legislative special session June 25, 2013 in Austin, Texas.
State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Ft. Worth) (3L) holds up two fingers against the anti-abortion bill SB5, which was up for a vote on the last day of the legislative special session June 25, 2013 in Austin, Texas.
Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

Interview Highlights

On her new nonprofit

Deeds Not Words is a nonprofit organization I started about a month ago to help young women find their way and to be more active in the gender-equality world. I have the privilege and pleasure of speaking to young women around the country, and so many of them ask me, “What do we do?”

I’ve set up this organization to connect young women with very real-world ways that they can get involved in advancing a variety of issues in gender equality. We’ve aligned ourselves with 60-70 different allies that are working on reproductive rights, economic justice, campus sexual assault and the broader issue of sexual assault and on women running for office, and so on and so forth. Our website provides a hub where young women can come and see what some of these incredible organizations are doing, and how they can get involved.

On why so few women run for office

It’s a number of factors. Number one, women candidates tend to be viewed through a prism that is very different than one that men are viewed through. It’s one that is motivated in large part by misogyny that seeks to ask people who are looking at us, to look at us in terms of who we are as women, not necessarily who we are as powerful and potential political leaders; and I think that can be off-putting for women who understand that they’re going to be put through that microscope and through that gender-prism.

I also think that just by our nature, women don’t necessarily see ourselves as qualified –even though we absolutely are. Men tend to have a bit of a higher opinion of their value and of their ability to make a difference in the political world, and I think we have our work cut out for us to make sure we’re encouraging more young women to see the potential they have and to understand how very valuable and needed their voices are. Right now, only 24 percent of our offices at the state and federal level are held by women in this country.

On whether there's resistance to seeing women in positions of executive authority

I think in some regards, yes, there is. In fact, here in Texas, when we conducted some focus groups during my campaign,  a number of women said they didn't think a woman could be that leader, that executive leader. And I think in some ways, that’s a self-reflected perspective that’s being imposed upon women who are running for office. The only way for us to really cut through that is to win and to demonstrate our capacity to be the incredible leaders that we are capable of being. We certainly saw that in Texas with Ann Richards.

On how Hillary Clinton will fare in November

I think she’s really well situated right now. Hillary is uniquely situated as a woman leader because she has such a long and strong record of demonstrating her capacities; her calm in the eye of a storm, her ability to lead and navigate through some really difficult terrain. And also her experience as both First Lady and as a U.S. senator working very successfully across the aisle to get some important things changed.

Guest:

Wendy Davis, former Texas state senator (2009-2015); She is probably best known for her historic 13-hour filibuster in the Texas Senate to stop a legislative effort to reduce women’s access to health care services in her state.

For more information about attending Wendy Davis' Politicon panel, click here.