Women are slightly more than 50% of the Texas population, but there are three times as many men than women in the Texas House of Representatives. In the U.S. House of Representatives, men outnumber women four-to-one. Stats for women of color are even more disproportionate.
Rocio Gosewher Hernandez sees those numbers as a call to action. Last year, the Plano-based lawyer helped found Empower Women of Color North Texas. The organization seeks to help women, particularly women of color, who are running for office. It also works to mobilize more female voters of color.
The organization was founded on the core values of women’s rights, voting rights, civil rights and human rights.
“When we have a four-to-one ratio of men making decisions, women’s rights are not going to be the priority,” Gosewher Hernandez says. “We are hoping to mobilize voters and candidates who care about those issues.”
One thing she and other founders were very strategic about was not aligning with any political group. Instead, they hope to unite people around the organization’s core beliefs.
“A lot of people joined because they really care about their child’s education and access to health care, specific issues they can get behind and know what candidates they can get behind for these issues without committing to this as a political group,” she says.
Many people involved in putting the organization together have run for office or worked on campaigns, and Gosewher Hernandez says they often had similar experiences. For example, female candidates felt like they were constantly having to prove their qualifications and defend their age in a manner that would never be expected of men.
Women of color can join the Empower WOC group as full members, eligible to vote on issues, participate in programs and serve on boards and committees.
Others who believe in the group’s mission can join as allies, participate in events and serve on committees. Nearly 30% of the registered allies are men.
The organization offers endorsements to those whose platforms align with the organization’s beliefs. Women of color who earn an endorsement are also eligible for financial support.
But there’s still the funding issue. First- or second-generation immigrants may not have access to fundraising networks that other candidates do.
“One of our longer-term goals is to mentor and train future candidates for office and to tie them into the community and organizations they may not know about,” she says. “We’re essentially trying to level the playing field.”
Gosewher Hernandez ran for the State House in 2020. She learned that candidates in Collin County try to focus on winning over white, middle-aged women voters since that’s the demographic that has traditionally determined area elections. However, that model does not take into account that nearly half the county is now non-white.
“There is a huge Asian, Black and Latin population, and you are essentially told not to market to them,” she says.
https://www.empowerwocntx.com/Through her new group, she hopes to promote messages that will resonate with more diverse groups and hopefully bring more of them to the polls.
Gosewher Hernandez says her family motivates her to stay involved in politics. Her immigrant parents gave up everything they had to eventually settle in Plano when she was a teenager. Now she wants to ensure her children live in an even better world.
She’s made it a point to get involved in the community through advocacy as a lawyer and volunteer for local organizations.
As the number of people from diverse backgrounds continues to grow, Gosewher Hernandez is aware of the backlash many face. She chalks that up to people being threatened by the rapidly changing face of the community.
“Yes, there are people who only want representation that looks like them, but I think we all deserve representation that looks like our community,” she says. “This is an organization that focuses on empowering a community — not a particular person but making sure that the community’s voice is heard.”
To learn more about Empower Women of Color North Texas programs and event, visit empowerwocntx.com.Empower Women of Color North Texas