A Voice At The Table: An In-Depth Interview with the Wyoming Women’s Foundation

The Hughes Charitable Foundation reached out to the Wyoming Women’s Foundation to learn more about their Power Advocates program, and to find out how you can bring your voice to the decision-making table in Wyoming. 

Micah Richardson, Associate Director of Policy of the Wyoming Women's Foundation

What are some obstacles that women face in politics in general? 
In Wyoming?

One large barrier, which is not discussed often enough, is childcare. Across the country and in Wyoming, mothers are often expected to be the primary caregivers. The demands of public service require considerable time and dedication. Without support systems for childcare –  whether through a supportive spouse/partner, family member, or via affordable services –  women are far less likely to enter the political arena. A potential solution lies with the legislature, which could enact measures such as a bill to provide childcare stipends to legislators and/or ensure childcare is provided at the capitol to those serving. Such measures would foster a more inclusive political landscape.

Image: Micah Richardson; Source: Wyoming Women's Foundation, Facebook

What is one thing that is important for women to remember while working and serving in politics?

It's important for women to know that their voice at the table is valuable; there are all sorts of data out there to back this notion. Research by the Harvard Business Review, suggests that diverse groups tend to be more innovative and better problem solvers. In addition, the World Economic Forum reports that countries with a higher number of women in political decision-making tend to have lower levels of corruption. Diverse perspectives also contribute to more equitable policymaking.

Beyond the data, it's also important for your young women and girls to see women in elected positions so they recognize women have an important voice.

How can Wyoming women interested in politics take their first step?

Getting involved by listening and learning at both the local and state level is incredibly important. Running for an elected position at a local level may also be a great place for a person to enter into politics, especially when considering that childcare issues may be more easily addressed.

Speak with your representatives. One aspect of living in Wyoming is the access we all have to our local officials. Invite them to coffee and learn more about how they became involved.

Keep in mind that many women don't run until they are asked. If you know someone who you think would be great, ask them to run. If someone asks you to run, consider it!

This is what happened to me (who is speaking?)– I hadn't even considered the idea until it was brought to me. I thought about it, talked it out with folks, and realized running (and being elected) would provide a very direct route to making a difference.

Why is the Power Advocate Program so important?

The Power Advocate program allows an easily accessible entry point to learning about the bills in Wyoming that impact our women, children, and families. The Wyoming Women's Foundation works to highlight and explain legislation in a manner that is approachable and that allows those following the legislative session an opportunity to voice their thoughts and concerns. The goal is to inform but to also ensure people feel engaged and know they can have a voice in the political system.

Do you have an anecdote from the Power Advocate Program that you would like to share?

Part of what we do is to host community conversations over Zoom to discuss issues impacting women’s economic self-sufficiency. We have been pleased to connect with new folks this way and introduce them to the resources we provide, as well as learn what they need and how their local Wyoming community is addressing challenges.

One of our most impactful conversations centered around maternal health, including mental health. Individuals shared their struggles and resources and connected us and the other participants to some resources we were not familiar with previously. It also connected the women to each other, and helped us forge relationships with potential advocates when a bill impacting access to postpartum healthcare came up in the 2023 session.

How does the Wyoming Women’s Foundation support and serve Wyoming women in or entering into politics?

We regularly sponsor events aimed at training women to embrace and pursue leadership roles, including elected roles. As a nonpartisan nonprofit organization, we don’t support individual candidates. However, we do make grants to nonprofits, such as organizations with afterschool programs that help girls increase their confidence or provide leadership training to women as an investment in the future of our women leaders in Wyoming.

What kinds of impact or change can women make in Wyoming politics?

Women can offer differing, valuable perspectives. They can step back and ask the questions that may not have been considered and can give voice to the half of our population whose voice tends to be overlooked or disregarded.

Additionally, policy decisions that take into account women will strengthen Wyoming's economy and communities.