HomeLearning CenterWho Runs the World? Women Mayors.

Who Runs the World? Women Mayors.

Originally published by Kathy Bonk for MS. Magazine

More and more, women serving as mayors are part of the feminist frontline for advancing equal rights and are leaders on issues of concern to women voters. 

As St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones said, “Men run for office to be somebody; women run to do something.”

Many mayors like Jones are focusing on issues with large gender gaps, for which women report a higher level of concern and different voting preferences than men. Poll after poll shows significant gender gaps on issues related to equality, reproductive rightsgun violenceclimate changedomestic and sexual violence and more.

“When I ran for office, from the state legislature all the way to mayor, I ran to do something to change the condition of the people that I represent,” Jones added.  

Jones shared data to back up her work to make change happen: Between 2022 and 2023, St. Louis experienced a 21 percent decrease in homicides, a 22 percent decrease in violence overall and a 50 percent decrease in youth violence. 

“Unfortunately, we don’t have state legislatures or Congress that are going to act to make our country safer. We have to be creative on the local level to protect people from guns and violence. In St. Louis, we have three approaches: prevention, intervention and enforcement. We focus heavily on the prevention and intervention part,” Jones said.

She is leading several initiatives, including setting up an Office of Violence Prevention that works with local organizations to support conflict resolution. She also recently launched the Show Me Peace initiative, which focuses on violent neighborhoods.

I had the opportunity to speak to several women mayors at the United States Conference of Mayors last month in D.C. Each mayor I interviewed had a slightly different story about deciding to run for office and becoming, for many, the first woman to be elected mayor in her city.

“I never wanted to be a politician,” Jones said. “My dad was a politician. He was the comptroller for the city of St. Louis when I was growing up, along with being an alderman and a committeeman. His career started when I was about 3 years old, and I watched him as a little girl. I just never thought that this was my path.”

But things changed—she became an adult and was encouraged by her mother.

“Maybe there are some things that are inherent within your DNA. I also feel like this is my calling. I love this work,” Jones said.

“First, I became a committeewoman working at the party level, then ran for state representative and I became a single mom. … I was tapped to consider running for St. Louis city treasurer, which is a citywide position. Then I became the first woman mayor in 2021. I ran in 2017 and lost by 888 votes, but I was determined and ran again and won.”

Jones reminded her audience that there are more African American women mayors in office now than at any other time in history. “Karen Bass in Los Angeles; Muriel Bowser in Washington, D.C.; and Latoya Cantrell in New Orleans all are running big cities. It’s changing the tide for what people see, as women of color are leading large cities and small. … A lot of times, women feel like they can’t run because they don’t have everything. Women like to be prepared, ultra-prepared, to meet the moment.

“For women who are considering a run for office, all you have to do is care about your community. And if you care enough to want to change things, consider running for office.”

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