October 3 2013
Remarks by Sabrina Schaeffer
Prepared for Delivery
Independent Women's Forum's
Barbara K. Olsen Woman of Valor Award Dinner
October 3, 2013
Good evening. Distinguished guests, members of the Board, supporters, and friends: I want to welcome all of you here tonight to help celebrate the work of the Independent Women’s Forum.
To our many dinner sponsors, thank you all so much for your help in making tonight a success.
I want to thank the members of our board, who have come in from all around the country. We are especially pleased to have Michaelon Wright join us tonight. Michaelon recently had to step down from our board but she and the Wheeler Family Foundation have been stalwart supporters of IWF and we are grateful for all you’ve done.
I want to take a moment to recognize our Chairman Heather Higgins.
Heather is well-known here in Washington for her wit, her class, and her big, stylish hats!
And because of Heather’s leadership and commitment to coalition building, political strategy, and effective messaging, IWF’s sister organization – the Independent Women’s Voice – is well-respected on and off Capitol Hill.
This year she has embarked on building the Independent Women’s Network – a grassroots alliance, with 32 chapters already established across the state of Virginia, to help strengthen our brand, increase our presence at the local level, and make sure more women of all ages, races and backgrounds are hearing our limited government message.
Thank you Heather, and our friends at the Randolph Foundation, for your unwavering support.
Finally IWF’s managing director Carrie Lukas is here with us tonight from Berlin, Germany. Carrie lives in Berlin with her husband, a foreign-service officer, and their four children. And thanks to the government shutdown Aaron is able to watch the children tonight!
Whether Carrie’s here in Washington, Vienna, Brussels, or Berlin, she has been IWF’s anchor for more than a decade – keeping it true to its founding principles and purpose. I feel truly grateful for her commitment to liberty and for her friendship. [Applause]
Tonight is a celebration. But it's a celebration only in part, because we know that our mission is to help solve one of our most pressing political problems – and our work is far from over.
Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians – we all have a “women” problem.
We all know the numbers. We are failing to convince far too many women – young and unmarried women, in particular – of the virtue of liberty.
Progressives claim our ideas and policies are dangerous for women. And the media often echoes and amplifies that sentiment by highlighting outrageous comments that none of us condone.
But pointing fingers and explaining away our failure to reach women won’t solve anything.
I believe we can fix our “women” problem, if we get over one very serious hang-up and then get serious as a movement about making women a priority.
Conservatives need to recognize that thinking about and talking to women is not the same thing as playing “gender politics.”
And actually, there’s a deep irony in this gender mess we’re in.
Most of us on the Right still accept that there are real and significant, biological gender differences.
And yet in political discussions, we usually ignore or deny that there’s any difference at all in how a man or woman might respond to a particular argument or issue.
We believe – rightly – that the state should never base decisions on gender, or reward or punish one group simply because of their sex. But when we get into conversations about politics and policy we actively ignore how men and women differ.
Now Christina Hoff Sommers is here with us tonight, and she is absolutely right when she says that acknowledging that men and women have different strengths and preferences doesn’t mean we are not all equal; it just shows we have distinct ways of looking at the world.
Progressives, on the other hand, argue that gender differences are imposed on us by our patriarchal culture. Hardline feminists are often gender-deniers.
They insist that there aren’t any innate differences between men and women. If only the Easy Bake Oven had a boy on the box and we could get little girls to stop playing with princesses then we could achieve true equality; then we could have equal numbers of male and female firefighters and kindergarten teachers.
And yet in the political arena, these same liberal feminists and progressives think seriously about how to persuade women that their policies are best. And how to convince women that the Right wants to lock them all up in a Mad Men-inspired jail of misogyny and baseless discrimination!
Now, we all know the “War on Women” crowd goes far beyond taking gender differences seriously in communications – they’re engaged in full-blown gender-politics warfare!
They’ve created a gender tug-of-war; pitted men and women against each other; and advanced gender-specific policies like Title IX, equal pay legislation, and free birth control for women.
But that doesn’t mean they’re wrong to take gender seriously.
In order to solve our “women” problem, we need to stop confusing effective communication with the pandering of the Left.
Certainly it’s not enough just to have good communications. But our side is selling universal principles and policies that are gender-neutral and good for all citizens.
We don’t have to sugar-coat things or use lavender print on all our mailings – the fact is subtlety doesn’t usually work.
But we do need to consider how men and women are different, and make use of the policies, messages, and messengers that we know appeal most to women, or we will continue to fail.
IWF takes gender seriously. And we are dead serious about effective communication.
The need to educate women on the benefits of freedom and choice has never been more critical.
We know that women deserve – and want – a better conversation.
And our fantastic team at IWF is delivering that conversation to women all over the country in a way that resonates with them.
IWF’s communications director Victoria Coley ensures our voice is heard everyday, securing nearly 700 television and radio interviews for our fellows this year alone.
Our fellows filed almost 150 op-eds and more than 700 blog posts with the kind of wit, humor and clear intelligence exemplified by Charlotte Hays.
Our staff has participated in a policy event every month, from Seattle to San Antonio to Chicago and Nashville.
And Whitney Athayde, Charlotte, and Amber Schwartz ensure that IWF is known for serious but engaging policy forums like our “Lean In Debate” last spring that drew a crowd of nearly 300 guests.
Speaking of crowds. IWF’s policy forums have been attracting unprecedented audiences. And a large portion of the audiences are made up of younger women, hungry for the accessible and relevant intellectual nourishment IWF delivers.
Our Women at Work project pushes back on Progressives who claim the workplace are hostile to women. We acknowledge women’s success, explode the myth of the wage gap, and explain how “protecting” women with regulations hurts the economy and destroys flexibility.
Julie Gunlock battles the Nanny State through IWF’s Culture of Alarmism Project. She responds to the scaremongering and bad science about food, chemicals, agriculture, energy and the environment with incisive arguments and humor, to show that all Americans pay for over-regulation through higher prices, fewer choices, and less freedom.
Inside your program tonight you’ll find the cover to Julie’s new book – From Cupcakes to Chemicals How the Culture of Alarmism Makes Us Afraid of Everything and How to Fight Back – coming out this fall.
From our Prescriptions for Better Health Policy Project, led by our health care policy expert and rising media star Hadley Heath, to our work in educational freedom, IWF is fighting back with a unique and distinctively effective voice.
IWF works to persuade women that the “Life of Julia” – in which men do not exist and the government provides cradle-to-grave support – should not be their goal.
So we’re doing our part. We’re punching way above our weight class. But there’s no denying that we’re still David to the Progressive’s Goliath.
Women’s groups dominate the Progressive political landscape, and they serve a critical role in growing government and keeping them in power: The National Organization of Women (NOW), American Association of University Women (AAUW), National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), the Center for Women and Politics at Rutgers, National Council for Research on Women, Catalyst, EMILY’s List, Women’s Voices Women Vote, the League of Women Voters, and Institute for Women’s Policy Research (just to name a few) compose a research, grassroots, and fundraising machine..
In 2010 – a midterm election year – Women’s Voices Women Vote’s revenue totaled more than $8 million.
In 2011 Catalyst spent more than $12 million on programs and grants.
EMILY’s List raised more than $51 million dollars in 2012.
And they know how to spend that money. They have invested in sophisticated social science research and randomized controlled experiments to determine best practices for more than a decade.
Now IWF and especially IWV have conducted messaging experiments of our own, but the scope and scale on the Left is of a different magnitude entirely.
Against this Leviathan of Progressive women’s organizations what do we have on the Right?
Well we have exceptional individuals – many of whom are here tonight – Christina Hoff Sommers, Diana Furchgott-Roth, June O’Neill, Kay Hymowitz, Karin Agness, Nena Bartlett, and IWF’s own Carrie Lukas.
And we have IWF and IWV fighting for free-market principles and good common sense.
But we need far more investment in communicating with women. Because when it comes to reaching women we are out-numbered, out-researched, and out-spent. And that has to change. [Applause]
I’ll be honest: We need your help. If we can ever hope to shrink – let alone close – the gender gap and start winning in the battle over policy and principles, learning how best to persuade women must be a central concern.
At IWF, we’re not interested in complaining about our “women” problem. We’re working to solve it every day with your help.
So with that, I invite you to enjoy your dinner and the wonderful program we have for you tonight.
Thank you all so much for being here tonight.
Introduction of Bill Kristol
Some say “All roads lead to Rome;” but in Washington it seems “All roads lead to 1150 17th Street, NW.”
If you’re not familiar with that address, some joke it is the nexus of free market thought – it’s the home of the American Enterprise Institute, the Weekly Standard, the Philanthropy Roundtable and more. And it’s where I first crossed paths with Bill Kristol.
Many know that my first job in Washington was at AEI. And during those few years I had the opportunity spend some time as a researcher for Gertrude Himmelfarb… known to many as Bea Kristol.
Bea is an intellectual historian with a focus in Victorian England, and I made numerous trips to the Library of Congress seeking out rare texts. But Bea knew I wanted to write and suggested I start meeting with editors and writing book reviews.
So where better to start than The Weekly Standard just downstairs on the 5th floor?! I met with several editors, including Jodi Bottum, then the Books & Arts editor. And before I knew it I wrote – well Jodi did a great job rewriting – my first published article …for The Weekly Standard.
So I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the 5th floor of 1150 17th Street.
Certainly most of you recognize Bill from his years of appearing on Fox News Sunday, as well as numerous other Fox shows, where he offers astute political analysis.
But what may be lesser known to some in the room is the intellectual tradition from which Bill descends, and the much-needed academic weight he brings to the liberty movement today.
When Bill attended Harvard in the 1970s he was influenced by the likes of James Q. Wilson, Daniel Bell, Harvey Mansfield, and Seymour Martin Lipset. And today as editor of the Standard, as a pundit, and as the quiet brain behind numerous think tanks in Washington, Bill continues to integrate erudite scholarship with wit and humor.
And while you can all read his full bio in the program, one thing not included in there is Bill’s regular willingness to lend an ear and lend a hand to so many in Washington.
His ideas and spirit have always been a part of the Independent Women’s Forum, and I am proud and honored to introduce you this evening to Bill Kristol.