Women often achieve leadership positions on the right. Margaret Thatcher is venerated. Condoleeza Rice was a sensible source of counsel in an administration of firebrands. Sarah Palin was held in high esteem by many. Anne Coulter, though outlandish in her rhetoric, is often revered. Michelle Bachman embodies a personal form of compassionate conservatism that few in either party could match.
By and large, Republicans have great respect for women. They regard them as strong and forceful advocates. Republicans may differ on social roles, and some view feminism harshly. But most Republicans object to the left’s victimization of women – the tendency to characterize all women as oppressed. Women are smart and powerful, from the perspective of Republicans. Yes, women face genuine discrimination. But they are not without power. Quite the opposite: In the U.S., there are now more new women entrepreneurs than men. Women are better educated, their incomes are rising faster, and they are the family CFOs who direct 73% of our dollars.
Women will not stand for another generation in which the norm is to discount their salaries, careers, or power. They do not need to be given generations to heal as a class from their wounds. They are rising to take their place, now.
The GOP champions the power of women, and the combination of individual resolve and group cohesiveness that is changing America for the better. Yet the party remains extremely vulnerable to charges that it is anti-woman, and this weakness contributed greatly to its defeat in 2012.
The GOP needs to champion the elimination of barriers to women’s entrepreneurship. It needs to lead the way in assuring access to capital, training, and partnership – not to women as a class, but to small entrepreneurs, most of who are now women. The party can collaborate with the large and well-established network of women’s oriented businesses and organizations that are already well advanced down this path. It can align with the burgeoning population of “sharing economy” entrepreneurs starting local companies in competition with hotels, taxis, and large-scale merchants and manufacturers. The party needs to become a genuine ally to this movement, setting forth changes in decades-old local, state, and federal policies that penalize small business and favor entrenched interests, so that women recognize the party as a partner that shares their aspirations, respects their capabilities, supports their entrepreneurship, and earns their mutual trust and support.