More Than the Vote: AVOW Founder Faith Van Gilder Encourages Women to Flex their Civic Muscles

More Than the Vote: AVOW Founder Faith Van Gilder Encourages Women to Flex their Civic Muscles


Faith Van Gilder
Chief Officer, Fund Development & Marketing, Girl Scouts of Northern Indiana-Michiana

We celebrate women’s suffrage this month, and though winning the vote and the Voting Rights Act are certainly important milestones to celebrate, the weight of other pressing social concerns, such as the pandemic, economic recession, and racial disparities can make it hard to feel celebratory. Yes, women have the right to vote, yet tens of thousands of women – and men – do not exercise that right, eschewing this most basic step of civic responsibility.

Voting is important, but it is only the start. Women must flex ALL their civic muscles lest they lose them; taking a stand on issues they feel passionately about; getting involved in political campaigns and grassroots advocacy efforts; writing letters to the editor or op-eds; attending town hall meetings and rallies; becoming part of a movement for change; and running for office themselves.

A national election is less than three months away, allowing American women a voice in who represents them on the local, state, and national levels. Our elected officials daily make decisions affecting women’s reproductive rights, health and safety, paycheck size, children’s education, and environmental quality. Although women represent half the population, they are vastly under-represented in state capitals, governor’s mansions, the U.S. Congress, and the judiciary. This disparity has led to a gradual erosion of female- and family-friendly policies in many areas.

This is no time to be complacent or despondent. Women—and their male allies—must use all the civic tools they can to remain vigilant and engaged. Only then will we achieve true equity and the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.