The Hardest Glass Ceiling in Politics

EL PASO, Texas — When Jody Casey came aboard as Beto O’Rourke’s campaign manager in late summer 2017, she faced a dilemma. She was a political novice and O’Rourke family friend who had quit her sales job at General Electric to join the campaign. She was stationed in El Paso, the most remote of major American cities. She was leading a U.S. Senate campaign that would grow into a $70 million operation in the most scrutinized race in the country. And when she looked for a political mentor—a Democrat who had led a campaign of roughly similar scale and could help guide her—she could not find a single woman who fit the bill.

“I met many great women in politics who were in supporting function roles, like fundraising or communications, but I was challenged to find a female mentor who had run a campaign of our size,” Jody Casey told POLITICO. “I did find mentors along the way,” she added. “I just am someone who looks for people in similar circumstances that I’m in—working mom, two kids: How do you juggle? How do you balance?”

Casey’s predicament exposed a huge and overlooked problem for women in politics, even in 2018, even after a woman won the popular vote in a presidential election: They rarely get to run campaigns, or fill top roles in campaigns. And the women who do work in politics often feel belittled and cut out of the major strategic roles and decisions—even in this, the “Year of the Woman,” with 42 new women elected to the Senate and the House.

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