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Archive for Sunday, August 22, 2004

Group urges women to get out and vote

Kansans mark suffrage movement milestone

August 22, 2004

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— Women, particularly businesswomen, need to shape the outcome of the upcoming election, according to a national group called Women Impacting Public Policy.

Businesswomen -- and some businessmen -- met last week in Wichita as part of a nationwide, nonpartisan celebration of the 84th anniversary of women winning the right to vote.

The luncheon was part of a national voter registration drive launched July 20 by the group, the nation's largest bipartisan women's business group.

The Wichita lunch meeting was one long nonpartisan pep talk on the value of getting involved in the political process, from voting to running for office.

Politics is key to the running of a business, said speaker Anita Oberwortmann, in a rousing speech drawn from her own life as a Wichita entrepreneur and owner of Wilson Building Maintenance and Metro Courier.

"It is our responsibility to take this opportunity to vote," Oberwortmann said. "Think of all those women who worked to get the right to vote, think of all those beatings from their husbands."

She was the first female head of the Wichita Area Chamber of Commerce's board of directors. She worked hard for years at the chamber before she was asked in 1994 to take the prestigious post. You don't become a leader without paying dues, she said.

"You can't keep bitching -- sorry, girls -- about things if you don't get involved," she said. "And it doesn't happen overnight. You have to stay involved."

Women run 15.6 million businesses in the country and are incorporating new businesses at twice the rate of men, according to the National Women's Business Council, a bipartisan federal advisory council.

There is still work to be done, said Kansas State Treasurer Lynn Jenkins. Despite women making up slightly more than half of the population:

  • Women hold 14 percent of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
  • In Kansas, women hold 29 percent of seats in the Kansas House and 25 percent of seats in the Kansas Senate.
  • Only six of the Fortune 500 largest companies have female chief executives.

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