You Should Run with Elizabeth Fiedler
On Episode 5, we cure our political fatigue with an interview with Elizabeth Fiedler, a progressive Democrat running for a seat in the PA House. We also chat about wage equity laws, salary negotiations, and why you—yes, you—should run for office.
If you’re anything like us, you’re tired as hell of what’s happening in politics: corruption, sexism, and misogyny are on full display. Immigrants are under attack, reproductive rights are under attack, environmental protections are under attack. The list could go on. But despite it all, we’re not about to sit and sulk. Instead, we want to talk about the legislation and candidates we’re excited about—because we could all use some hope right now.
So many of us are held back just by that feeling that like, “Hmm, maybe there’s someone else out there who is more qualified. Maybe there’s someone else who would be better at this.” And in some cases: sure, there is. In many cases, there is not. It’s us! We’re the ones.
—Elizabeth Fiedler, Candidate for PA House District 184
Here’s what’s on the docket in Episode 5:
Hey employers: pay up
First up, we talk about one of our favorite topics: getting paid—fairly. Here in Philly, we’re upset about more delays on our first wage equity ordinance, which would bar prospective employers from asking about your past salary (which is one of the major ways employers justify continuing to underpay workers from marginalized groups). The law was supposed to take effect in January, but the Chamber of Commerce filed suit—again. Their first lawsuit, last summer, was thrown out for lack of evidence that it would harm businesses.
But wage equity laws are coming. California’s went into effect in January, and a bunch more are cropping up all over. And when an economy the size of California makes a law, it tends to have a ripple effect. Now some big employers are announcing that they won’t ask for past pay info, either.
While we’re on the topic of compensation, we also chat about how to negotiate those challenging money conversations—and how to avoid getting backed into a corner (or in Katel’s case, a phone booth) to accept an offer that’s not up to snuff.
Elect. More. Women.
Next on the show, we talk with Elizabeth Fiedler, a candidate in May’s primary for a seat in the PA House, representing the 184th District. That’s the heart of South Philly, where Sara and Jenn both live. Lizz took a break from knocking doors (literally—she is always out there knocking doors) to talk with us about her run. We cover:
Showing up at campaign events with an infant strapped to your body.
How much we need single-payer healthcare in Pennsylvania—and everywhere.
Wearing blue blazers and real pants. Like, without stretch.
How to know if you should run for office (hint: if you’re thinking about it, you probably should do it).
We love Lizz. Here’s where to get all the deets on her campaign:
Seriously though: Let’s elect some women.
After chatting with Lizz, we look at the stats for elected officials in Pennsylvania. It’s not great. We’re ranked 49th in the nation for having women in office. Here are the facts:
- Pennsylvania has never sent a woman to the US Senate.
- It’s never had a woman governor.
- We currently have ZERO women elected to the US House—out of 18 representatives!
- Only 19% of the Pennsylvania Legislature is made up of women.
But good news: women all over are fed up, and a record number are running for office in 2018. Rebecca Traister had a great article about it in The Cut last month. Plus, we’re super excited about folks like Danica Roem, who won a seat in the Virginia Assembly last November, becoming the first openly transgender person to be elected to a state legislature.
Know a woman who’d be great in office? You probably do. Tell her you think she should run.
This episode of NYG is brought to you by:
WordPress—the place to build your personal blog, business site, or anything else you want on the web. WordPress helps others find you, remember you, and connect with you.
[Ad spot] Sara Wachter-Boettcher This episode of No, You Go is brought to you by our friends at Shopify. No, literally. Because so many of the coolest designers, writers, and developers that I know have all recently joined their team. Shopify’s mission is to make commerce better for everyone, and they’re hiring more awesome people—people like you!—to help. Join a diverse, intelligent, and motivated team, and work on the leading global commerce platform for entrepreneurs. Visit shopify.com/careers to see what they’re all about [music fades in].
Jenn Lukas Hey! Welcome to No, You Go, the show about being ambitious—and sticking together. I’m Jenn Lukas.
Katel LeDû I’m Katel LeDû.
SWB And I’m Sara Wachter-Boettcher.
KL On today’s show we’re talking about politics, and why it’s so important to have representatives that, well, represent us. We’ll also be joined by Elizabeth Fiedler who went from public radio reporter to candidate for the Pennsylvania legislature. Lizz took a break from knocking on doors and calling donors to tell us all about her life as a first-time political candidate, a mom, and a badass woman. But before we meet Lizz, let’s talk about just one of the many ways that professional is political: money.
SWB Katel, Jenn, have you all heard the latest on Philly’s wage equity legislation? It was supposed to go into effect in January, but it’s been pushed back again because of lawsuits from the Chamber of Commerce. And I’m getting super frustrated by this, because I’ve been so excited to see it happen. The legislation is actually designed to prevent employers or prospective employers from asking you about your salary history when you’re in the interview process. And it’s meant to help close the pay gap by prevent people from kind of keeping salaries articifilally low. Right, because so often women and people of of color, and particularly women of color, go into these interview processes and are asked or demanded to share what their prior salary history was, and they end up unable to catch up to their peers, even when they change jobs. So this legislation is supposed to stop that. And it was signed like, a year ago, but it hasn’t been enacted yet because of these ongoing lawsuits. So at this point, I’m starting to get super frustrated.
JL I think there was something similar in California.
SWB Yeah so I was actually reading that there was some disappointment that Philly didn’t get to be the first in the nation to enact the law because the lawsuit slowed everything down. Because it was supposed to be first but California very quickly thereafter enacted very similar legislation that also ended up going into effect in January and what’s amazing about the California legislation is that, as you might be aware, California has kind of a massive economy and so so many big companies are headquartered there and that means that they hold a lot of sway over how business is done in general in this country. And so what we’re now seeing is all of these big companies, and especially tech companies, which I think is important to a lot of our listeners, are starting to change their policies whether or not somebody is in California. So I was just reading that Amazon has announced, for example, that it’s not going to ask people about salary history during the application process, no matter where it is that you might be working for Amazon because, you know, if you are starting to compete against companies that can’t ask those kinds of questions, it starts to make sense to kind of go with the flow. And so I hope a lot more companies go with this particular flow.
JL Yeah, I love this. I mean it’s so often that we can caught in this trap, right? Where you start a job, whether it’s out of school or later on in your career, and you take the starting salary or what they’re offering you and then how do you build up from that? Right? So if people are constantly asking you what you do. I mean so it’s not even one: how do you get a raise at your own job? But then even if you’re leaving, how do you make a significant leap in pay if someone’s asking you what you’re currently making, even though you currently could be way underpaid for your skills and talent.
KL It’s so problematic to think about because, you know, in my career — I feel like I’m, you know, pretty well established and I think back to points in time where I’ve tried to negotiate for a raise or make some kind of move with my pay and I feel like I’ve had that latitude. And I think about not feeling empowered to do that and being really trapped by just the last thing that was on your resume and, you know, just in your salary history — that just feels like such a — it’s like so blocking.
JL Yeah. I mean you start a job and you’re working there and you work really hard and then, you know, you expect a raise to some extent but then what do you do once you’ve gone way beyond the capacity of your job? Right? And we have this problem where often we’re like, “Ok, well we’ll give you a percentage raise.” But three to six percent on top of your current salary, if it’s a low salary and not as justified for what you should be making, isn’t going to get you to where you need to be. And then sometimes I’ve seen companies — well it’s like, “Ok we’ll bump that up to ten percent.” But percentage-based raises are always really tough. And so then what do you do? I mean you start looking for another job, and then you’re looking for another job, and you’re still stuck.
SWB Yeah. I mean I remember earlier in my career getting trapped in these kinds of conversations where I would be going from — kind of, you know, individual contributor roles where I was responsible a pretty narrow slice of things to taking on more leadership, more strategic involvement in the organization, you know like being invited to more high-level meetings with clients, and also taking on management responsibilities. But because it was a smaller company and there wasn’t necessarily a clear path or progression, none of that was necessarily treated as if it was a promotion. And so what would happen is I would go into these reviews and I knew that I had been underpaid, I knew that I was being underpaid dramatically, but you go into the review and they’re like, “Well the number you’re asking for is a 25 percent raise and the standard we’re giving is, you know, five percent or something and we just can’t justify something like that.” And it’s like, “But where’s — how do I ever make up this gap?” And, you know, the thing about percentages, right, is that they’re based on the original number. So if you start a job and, I don’t know, maybe you make let’s say 50 thousand dollars a year and somebody starts the same job and they make 60 thousand dollars a year, their percentages are always going to add up to more money! And so even if somebody gives you a bigger percentage, it’s like you will typically end up further and further behind. And, you know, we’ve seen this happen so many times and it’s often to the people who are least likely to ask for pay adjustments and most likely to be judged harshly when they do which is [ahem] women.
KL Yeah, I remember very vividly one of the first times I made a move to a higher position, I became a manager. I think I skipped a couple levels at that point in time. And I remember the moment where my boss was basically asking me to agree to the pay rate like in a moment between meetings. He literally was basically like, “Shake my hand. Here’s the amount.” Like, “You don’t even get a chance to say anything.”
SWB Were you, like, in a fucking hallway?
KL Yeah, no I’m not even kidding we had ducked into a room that was a phonebooth. And I was just like — I really regret that moment because, looking back on it, I wish I had said, you know, “No, wait. I deserve to take some time and think about this and come back to you with some questions.” But at that point in my career I felt like, “I need to take this. I need to make this move. And, great, it’s a little bit more money. Whatever.”
SWB I wish our listeners could see my face because [laughter] what my face says is: “What’s his name? What’s his social security number? Let me look him up and have a conversation with him,” because I’m angry.
JL It’s a great point, though, that it’s so hard in those moments to be like, “Hold on, wait, I need a second.”
JL But we should be able to say that. There is nothing wrong — I mean what’s the worst that could happen if someone’s going to say, “You know, I’m going to have to get back to you on that.” They’re not going to give you a raise anymore?
SWB Well, I think that though — I would say that sometimes people’s fears are justified, not necessarily that the whole thing is going to be rescinded but that when you start asking questions, when you start advocating for yourself, like, sometimes people do react to that and not positively. And I think that that’s a sad reality that we’re trying to negotiate all the time.
KL Yeah and I think as women there’s been situations where things have disappeared or been removed from the table and I feel that’s just a really real thing for us.
JL I think for moments like that it’s important that we all sort of practice what happens if we’re in a situation like that. And I think for those fears where we are worried about that, which it definitely a justifiable fear, one of the things that I’ve done when I’ve felt uncomfortable is made sure to lead with: “Thank you so much for this offer! I’m so excited to be coming up with a new plan for us or a new partnership for us to work with. Let me just take this back and get back to you.” And sort of, you know, turn the ball where you’re thanking them, not saying that you have to but, again, if you’re playing that sort of defensive, “I need some time,” I think that’s sort of a way to be like: here’s how I can do this without fearing that I’m then causing animosity.
SWB And I totally love what you’re saying, Jenn, about kind of practicing this stuff. In a similar vein, I have sat with friends of mine and talked through how much they were going to ask for in a negotiation and then I’ve been like, “Ok, have you ever said that number out loud?” And they’re like, “Oh! No!” [Laughter] I’m like, “No, ok, here’s what we’re going to do: we’re going to sit down and you’re going to say this number out loud to me over and over again until it stops sounding weird.” And I had a friend of mine who did that a couple years ago and she came back and not only did she, of course, get the job and get the money. She told me that it was really helpful to have said it until it didn’t sound odd and have said it until she was like, “Oh I can own this. I can own this dollar amount.” And … I think that’s hard to do but I think, like, it’s very helpful, I think, to do with a friend. It’s so great when you find somebody you can talk to about this stuff. I love — I love being able to talk to friends about this and being like, “Look, I don’t want to get weird about money. It can be touchy for people. But, you know, whatever the money is that you want to talk about, if you want to talk about it with me, I am so there for that and we can strategize and negotiate and practice until you’re ready to go into that meeting and be like, ‘Look, here’s how it’s going to be’.”
JL It’s really important to, I think, find either friends that you can talk to about that but I’ve even — Sarah, I’ve talked to you about this stuff before, so I definitely am taking you up on that. But, I mean, I’ve even done it, like, to my cat [laughter].
SWB Totally! Yeah.
JL And sat there and just been there like, “Hey! What do you think about this, Azrael? Azrael, I would like to make 700 thousand dollars.” [Laughter.]
KL My dog really understands [chuckles].
JL The other thing that’s really great is looking online at salaries near you. And I think that some of the resources that people have. I mean there’s been people that have started anonymous Google Docs Sheets and there are surveys about what people are making in the field. And I think that’s so helpful for getting an idea of the number that you can really feel comfortable with. I mean not all of us have people around us that are working in the same fields we are. So I think it’s really important to rely on the internet and other resources, if you don’t have someone near you that you can talk to about this. So I think it’s great that some of those are out there. And we should definitely link to some of those in the show notes.
KL Yeah, that’s such a great point. Like, companies have to do market research to figure out what they’re going to pay people, so you should definitely do that as well.
SWB It’s important to keep in mind that all of that secrecy around pay which companies will often really try to get you to have — it’s like, “Oh, don’t talk to people about salary, don’t talk to people about money,” that’s coming from a company because it’s in their best interests when people don’t talk about money. That doesn’t ever mean it’s in your best interest when people don’t talk about money. The reality is if you are working at a company that you do not have any ownership in and you are doing a job, you know, you have to be the person who’s going to advocate for yourself … I mean all of this strategizing, all of this practicing, all of this go get your friends to talk about salary with you — I think all of that is great and I’m glad that we’re all doing it but I’m so glad that we’re starting to see legislation that will actually support these kinds of things because, honestly, as much as it’s a good thing to be able to do given the circumstances, we all have better ways to spend our time than trying to talk to our cats about how much money we should be making. So I’m so glad to start to see some legislation and I hope that we can push for more legislation that helps with pay equity. You know, it’s been a long time coming [music fades in].
[Music fades out][ad spot] SWB We’re so happy to have wordpress.com as our sponsor on No, You Go again. Whether you’d like to build a personal blog, a business site, or both, creating your website on wordpress.com helps others find you, remember you, and connect with you. You know, we use WordPress here at No, You Go. It was the first place I went to build the site. And what’s great is that you don’t need experience setting up a website. WordPress can guide you through the whole thing from start to finish. They have great customer support. I know they have great customer support because I have asked them questions and they have answered my questions without me getting frustrated or upset. They’ve got that customer support seven days a week and they also have plans that start at only four dollars a month. With every single plan you can get a custom domain name for the entire life of the plan and they’re just great people. So if you go to wordpress.com/noyougo you can get 15 percent off your website. That’s wordpress.com/noyougo [music fades in].
Interview: Elizabeth Fiedler
SWB Elizabeth Fiedler is a candidate in May’s Primary for a seat in the PA House, representing the 184th District, which is the part of South Philly where both Jenn and I live. I first heard about Lizz back in the summer of 2017 when our friend, Sekoia, told me about a super progressive woman that she had met through a local moms group. And she said she was considering running against a long-term incumbent who I wasn’t particularly excited about. So I was pretty intrigued and a bunch of us headed over to Lizz’s one night to hear more about her potential run. Since then Lizz has gone from pretty unknown to somebody who has posters with her name on them all up and down my street. Lizz, I’m so excited to talk with you right now, in the middle of your campaign. Welcome to No, You Go.
Elizabeth Fiedler Thank you so much for having me.
SWB So, first off, can you tell us a little bit about your platform.
EF Sure! I am always happy to talk about my platform. So, I am the mom of two little kids and that’s important for me to mention in the beginning because healthcare has actually really been a struggle for my family, accessing healthcare through the marketplace, CHIP, Medicaid — so it’s taken many more of my life hours than I expected. And I know a lot of other people are also struggling to access healthcare. That’s something I’ve heard from a lot of people across our district. And so that is one thing that is — one of the primary points of my platform is working toward a healthcare system in our fair state of Pennsylvania. A healthcare system that will work for all of us. So it’ll prioritize our lives over profits for corporations and over making the super rich richer. It would be similar to a single payer system: Medicare for all, these things that are discussed as ways that we can, as people, make sure that we have a healthcare system that prioritizes our health.
SWB Yes! I mean I also have spent my fair share of time navigating the healthcare exchange, navigating getting insurance as a self-employed person, and it is so time consuming and so hard to figure out and so frustrating and that’s, for me, for somebody who has, so far, been a relatively low user of the system and also — I’m somebody who the system has kind of worked for … and it’s still a pain. And I know that I’m very lucky that it’s only been a pain and I’ve still been able to navigate it.
EF Definitely. I actually recently just started … sort of sharing my own story about trying to get my two little kids covered on health insurance and I got this phone call and, this is after weeks and weeks of me submitting all of this documentation and calling them and saying, “Do you need anything else? I’ve got these two little kids. I need them on health insurance. I need them on health insurance.” And I got this phone call a few weeks ago and the woman said, “I’m really sorry to tell but neither of your kids have any health insurance right now. There’s a problem in the system, we had delays, they have nothing.” And so — and my kids are three and seven months —
SWB Oh my god. Yeah.
EF — and she said — and this is after I had submitted more paperwork than you can imagine [laughing]. Or maybe you can imagine. And she said, “If anything happens to either of them during this time, you can’t take them to the doctor. They can’t go to their regular pediatrician. You have to take them to the emergency room and you have to plead with the nurse on staff: ‘I have a child here who’s uninsured and who’s injured, can you please them?’” And I mean, my god, no parent should have to say that, no person should have to say that. It’s just appalling to me that we live in a country where that is part of our healthcare system where people are uninsured or underinsured and I just — I can’t — I feel very motivated to work toward a better healthcare system and so that’s always been — you know when I’m out there knocking on doors and talking to people that personal connection, and similar ones I’ve heard from so many people, that’s always on my mind.
SWB It’s so shocking for what it is and then also just that this healthcare worker would explain that to you almost like it’s the most normal thing in the world. They’re so used to navigating this completely broken system that they’ll just walk you through all of these wild steps that you’re supposed to go through as if that’s — that’s just how it is!
EF Yeah, absolutely.
JL I can’t imagine as someone with an eleven-month-old and I feel like, for me, I’m calling all the time. So as a new parent, I’m constantly like, “Um, can you just check to make sure my baby’s ok?” And so to have to go from the opposite is yes, it makes my heart sink hearing that for you and for everyone that has to go through that.
EF Healthcare also was one of the things that could’ve held me back from making that decision to run. So the job that I had before running provided healthcare. It wasn’t perfect but I had health insurance, it was pretty good and both my children were on it. And so my decision to run affected my family in some very significant ways, including the fact that we all lost our health insurance and had to go through the marketplace to get healthcare. My partner works for a small business and they don’t provide healthcare to dependents. So that was actually a very significant thing for me that I thought a lot about. My kids are on this healthcare, I’m on this healthcare through my work, do I really want to make this decision to run for office and, in some ways, give that up? Right? And I think that’s real for a lot of people: being tied to a job because of the way that our healthcare system in our society is structured and how much health insurance is tied to employment.
SWB Yeah, absolutely, it gives employers a lot of leverage over people.
EF It does and I think it keeps some people in jobs that they don’t necessarily want to be in, right? For what they think that they could earn more money somewhere else or would be more interested in a different career or could start a small business but they’re terrified of the leap it would take them to jump into an unknown healthcare situation.
SWB So you were weighing the decision to run, you were interested in doing it, you were dealing with healthcare, and you were thinking about that pretty heavily. What made you decide to go for it?
EF Gosh, I thought a lot about it. I had a career as a journalist that I really loved and I had been working as a reporter for more than ten years and it was tremendous. I really had the chance to talk to a lot of people across our city in South Philly and it was a great job. And I realized that I needed to do more. I looked at the world that we live in and the world that I’m handing to my kids and we’re handing to future generations with healthcare and schools and climate change and I thought about the fact that, honestly, I’m pretty terrified about the direction a lot of those things are going in. It’s not the world that I want my kids and other generations to inherit and I just really decided I needed to do more. I couldn’t continue to do what I was doing. I was no longer as happy with it as I had been because I felt so compelled to act. And I would like to say that I was the one who came to that realization after careful reflection but I needed a little help getting there. It was actually my partner, we were driving — I don’t know — we almost never drive, I don’t even know where we were driving but I remember we were in the car side by side and I was talking about how — national politics and state politics and I’m so unhappy with what’s happening and I feel like I need to be more involved. And he said, “You know you want to run for office, right?” [Laughing] I think — I don’t know how long it was before I said anything but I hadn’t really thought of that. And I think that’s the case for a lot of people who have not been involved in politics. That’s certainly the case for a lot of women. It’s not a sphere that’s particularly welcoming to us, especially where we are geographically right now, it’s a place that’s dominated by men and by a male culture and I had just never imagined myself being that person, having my face on the literature. [Laughing] you know really — maybe I would work for someone. I had never thought specifically about stepping up and doing that. It’s a big jump, right? It can seem intimidating. It took my partner saying, “You know you want to do this, right?” For me to think about it and I was like, “Oh! You’re right! I do! I absolutely do. It’s exactly what I want to do. I want to have a firsthand impact in affecting and crafting policy. I want to be the one out there talking to people about what’s working for them, so that we can make government work better.” It was like he flipped a switch in my head and suddenly I was — you know, just hearing that from him I was able to see in myself that that’s exactly what I wanted to do.
SWB That’s great. I love to hear that kind of level of ownership that you’re saying. Like, “I want this and I want to put myself out there and make that happen.” And I think you’re right, like women are frequently not taught to do that — to sort of say, you know, “I’m going to put myself in the center of this and I’m going to make this happen.” And that combined with a whole lot of other factors have made it really difficult to get women into office in Pennsylvania particularly. Something I’m super curious about that you started to mention here was what the local political climate is like. Not all of our listeners are in Pennsylvania, they may not realize that Philadelphia is known as kind of a Democratic machine. The city is almost entirely voting Democrat — pretty high numbers like 80 percent or so but it’s not necessarily progressive and it’s not necessarily the kind of scene that might seem welcoming to you. So can you tell me a little what that’s like: being a newcomer, trying to oust an incumbent in this particular area?
EF Sure! So big picture, for people who don’t know, Pennsylvania is 49th in the nation in women in elected office. So that’s every level of elected office, Pennsylvania is second worst only to Mississippi in that stat. So we obviously have a very long way to go. It was quite intimidating in the beginning. The thing that has motivated me from the very, very beginning when I first started telling people I was doing this through us opening our campaign office last weekend was the response that I’ve gotten from people. I knew in the very beginning that I had very strong values, very strong desires of what sort of legislation I wanted to work toward, a strong reason for doing this, but I really did not know exactly how people would respond. And it has been so absolutely amazing. So people I know, people I see at the park, and then all these people who I knock on their door and I introduce myself and I say, “Hi, I’m here to meet you. I want to hear what’s important to you. What’s working in your life, what’s not working in your life, what would you like to see elected officials thinking about and government doing?” Honestly, the response that I’ve received from people has been really, really positive. It’s been: “Thank you for stepping up,” “Yes, oh my goodness! We need more women in elected office. We need more people who really have our interests in mind.” So those are the sorts of conversations that I work hard to remember when I am part of difficult situations and difficult discussions where I don’t necessarily feel particularly welcome. There were some people in the beginning who when I told them what I was doing, they were like, “Woah!!!” [Laughing] I mean I think they were pretty surprised because it is …yeah, you know, I’m a mom and a former journalist and someone who’s active with my local public school. I don’t have a lengthy insider political pedigree, I haven’t been thinking about this for decades, you know? I’m someone who’s stepping up because I really feel called to do it because I want a better health insurance system for all of us. Because I want all of us to have clean water and clean air. And so going back to those principles and those reasons that I’m running and thinking about specific people I’ve talked to and their struggles is how I get through some of those tougher times, honestly, when I don’t feel that welcome.
SWB Yeah, well I think I mean I’m so glad that you’re doing this because bit by bit when we have more women and more people from different backgrounds and people from new generations involved in what is a pretty uh homogenous political scene here. It gets easier for everybody else that follows and I’m so glad to see that happening. I’m really curious: you’ve mentioned being a mom a few times, obviously it’s very central to your life and it’s also central to your campaign, but what the hell is it like to have a seven-month-old and a three-year-old as you’re in the middle of this campaign?
EF [Sighs] oh boy! Pretty good. Sleep is actually something I prioritize more than other things, more than folding laundry, more than — I don’t know, whatever the other — cleaning our house. I prioritize sleep because I know very personally, I’ve known this as long as I can remember, that without sleep I am much less, much less happy and much less useful in the world. It’s pretty tough for me sometimes at night to say, “Alright, it’s 10pm I’m going to bed,” when I look around and see all of the things that there are left to be done but I work hard to do that because I know it’s important for me and for me to be a good — not just a good mom but a good candidate, a good person, a good human being to interact with. So I try to think about myself and prioritize that. That said: it’s tough sometimes. I mean, I love my kids and sometimes, especially most of the weekend: Saturdays and Sundays, I’m usually gone. I’m usually out knocking doors, sometimes I have one meeting. But I’m usually gone, you know, 9am to 7pm is pretty consistent. 9am to 6pm, sometimes, if I get done early. So I have started to try to come back in the middle of the day just for a little bit. You know get some pre nap-time cuddles, some kisses, read a book to them, I sing my son “Jingle Bells,” it’s still his favorite song. [Laughing] so I try to get home in time for “Jingle Bells,” like things like that that are moments that are — it’s not as much time as I might, you know, in different world want to spend with them, but making sure that I have some time like that with them each day. So that I can think about it when I’m out there knocking doors and it’s freezing cold and my legs, honestly, are a little bit tired. Having those moments because I think without that balance I wouldn’t — it would be much harder for me to do it. I would also say that it’s amazing. It’s really amazing the response I’ve gotten from people. I’ve had people reach out to me who said, “Oh I’ve always — you know I’ve been thinking about running for office but I thought I couldn’t do it because, like you said, I have an eleven-month-old or because I’ve never been involved in politics or I’m pregnant,” or whatever their thing is, right? Sometimes related to kids, sometimes not. But often they’ll say, “Well, I saw you spoke to the Indivisible chapter and you had a five-month-old baby in the baby carrier on you and you were just doing it and you could see his little chubby legs hanging out there and I can do it too.” Like that was a message to me that like, “Oh I could absolutely do that if I want to. I could run for school board, I could run for commissioner.” So that’s really been fantastic and I’ve had people reach out to me who, you know, they like Facebook message me who I have never met [laughing], who I don’t know from across the state. So that’s honestly been inspiring for me to hear from them …and …I just try to remember why I’m doing this. And that’s what, you know, the moments when it’s hard and it’s time for me to go and I give them a kiss and my three-year-old says, “No, no, stay! Do a puzzle.” Um I remember that I got into this for a very specific reason because I really believe we should have elected officials on every level of government fighting for us as people for healthcare and education and water and air and that’s why I’m doing it. And then I give them an extra hug and kiss and tell them I love them and I’ll see them for dinner and then I leave.
EF So, you know, there are some tough times. I’m very, very fortunate to have a wonderful, wonderful partner —
SWB Yeah, so speaking of partner, how did you work out with him what that balance or that juggle, I guess, would look like? Like, how did you figure out how you would keep things running on a day to day level?
EF Oh boy! Four months in, we’re still trying to figure that out! [Laughs.]
SWB I mean, I guess, aren’t we all? But yours seems [laughing] particularly acute.
EF [Laughs] yeah. Always coming from a place of respect and both of us always remembering that if the other person did something wrong or did something differently from how we would’ve done it that it was not malicious. It was not intentional, most likely, it was just an effort to get that thing done. Right? So whether it’s like my son sometimes wearing uh his pajama pants to school or wearing his rain boots when it’s not raining. Or my youngest child wearing a sweater that doesn’t exactly fit — like something like that, right? Or like we’re eating spaghetti for the fourth day in a row, woohoo! You know things that I’m like, oh my goodness, us always remembering why we’re doing this. Why we’re doing this as a family and that we love each other and we respect each other and the other person is doing the best they can. It might not be perfect and it’s probably not going to be. And I also heard from a number of other women who are already in elected office in Pennsylvania and um … it was really great. It was good to hear from them, you know? Hear from them say like, “Yeah, it’s going to be tough. There are going to be times when you think like, ‘This might be too hard. I don’t know about this,’ but you just gotta keep pushing through. Just push through. Do your best. There are going to be moments when it’s messy and not perfect and that’s fine. Accept it. Don’t try to be perfect or have complete control of the situation. Sometimes um it’s ok if your kid eats pizza for lunch and dinner. That’s fine.” [Laughing] things like that that you know when you’re a parent you want to do your very best all the time and we all do, in life, right? You want to wear matching socks, things like that that like oh my goodness, in the scope of the world, it doesn’t matter, um that said: my socks are very much matching right now. I would like to say, for the record [laughs][laughter].
SWB Well, I mean, as a candidate you kind of having to go out with at least matching socks. I’m curious, did you have to buy a lot of blazers to run?
EF So a lot of my clothes — this is — I don’t know if it’s of interest, it’s a personal thing but I would imagine some people have had a similar situation after having a child um a lot of clothes didn’t fit anymore. So I had a fair amount of stuff from working as a reporter for 11 years. I had the blazers and the dress pants but a lot of that didn’t fit or was not particularly comfortable. So I bought a few things on sale with the help of my mother-in-law who is very fashion savvy. I think I look pretty good. I try to wear colors. I tend to like grey and navy and black. But I’m working on it. I’m trying to wear color, trying to stand out. So I did it. I bought two blazers —
SWB No, you’ve gotta be out there in the red and blue, right?
EF [Laughs] I keep my two blazers in high rotation.
SWB That would be tough for me to get used to, having to kind of always go out there and be like, “Ok, I’m going to put it together today and I’m going to project a certain kind of image and that image can’t be gym clothes.”
EF Right. No stretchy pants, no athletic pants [laughter], no athleisure pants, none of that. No, no.
SWB Oh man I feel like I should you know like pour a little out for the athleisure pants here, that’s so sad. We all like stretchy pants.
JL I just try to leave the house without any cat hair on me and that is what I consider a win for the day.
SWB Oh by that measure, I’m also losing. Damn. Ok. So something else that I’m really curious about is what candidate life has been like for you so far. Like is there anything that surprised you about being a candidate?
EF Mmm. One thing that has surprised me that I’m really dedicated to working to improve after I win this race is just how hard it was in the beginning — it was difficult logistically. I guess I would say. Like some of these databases you need access to so you can see voters and like starting a pac and figuring out finances and things like that that are very specific things, there are solid answers to these questions but for people who don’t know — and I did not have a particular idea — they can seem daunting and overwhelming. Right? You think like, “Wait, do I start a PAC? Would a PAC be in my name? Would a pac be in someone else’s name? What money does a PAC spend? Does all money go through a PAC?” I mean things like that that like it sounds like it’s in the weeds kind of but it’s actually really integral to running a campaign and running it correctly but I think — I know from talking to a lot of people. Just stuff like that can feel so overwhelming in the beginning that you start to think, “Oh well maybe this isn’t for me. I don’t know how to do this stuff. I have no idea. I don’t even know where to start. I don’t even know — would I Google it? I don’t even know who to call.” Luckily, I personally knew a few people who had run campaigns before and I could ask for help and ended up hiring some really good people who know exactly what they’re doing and could help me with some of the nitty gritty stuff but I think we absolutely need to have systems, programs, organizations that help people with those details of running. Right? So help them come up with their platform, help them come up with their personal narrative and story, but also help them with some of this particular stuff that can feel so overwhelming in the beginning and, I think, can result, honestly, in a lot of people giving up and deciding it’s not for them. People who should absolutely run and would be great elected officials.
SWB Yeah, yeah that overwhelm I think can be so easy [laughing] to sink into and never get back out of.
SWB So, kind of a similar line, was there anything you feel like you got good at in a hurry? Like any hidden talents that came out as you started running?
EF Talking more about my personal experience and my personal stake in this and why I’m doing it from a very personal level. I’m doing this, obviously, for larger reasons of social institutions and economics and social justice and racial justice. But I think it’s so important that elected officials explain to us what’s at stake for them, right? What’s driving them. Why are they so invested in this thing? And that’s something that can be even more difficult for women who are running for office, right? To appear vulnerable, to show that they’re vulnerable about some things because it can be scary, right? [Laughing] And it can be kind of brutal in politics and the instinct for many people is to close up and just start talking about, like, bill numbers and throwing around jargon. And I think it’s so important for elected officials to show that they are, whatever they’re motivating factor is, personally, whatever the thing is that they’ve been through that fuels them and wants them to go out from 9am to 7pm or whenever they’re doing it. I think it’s important … for people to know that.
SWB Yeah! And, you know, one of the things I really like about this message of having to get a little bit vulnerable is that I think it’s also — it points towards sort of a different way politics could be and a different way elected officials could act, right? Like if everybody who was in office was willing to operate at that kind of human level and get real about what they’re doing, I think that we would see government very differently. There’s so much of this … ego and pomp that sort of gets involved that prevents people from being real and certainly there’s so much of that that’s like very gendered. And I think that, you know, if we had more women in office who were willing to get up and talk in that way, you know, I think that the — just like the overall tenor in how things would get done would change dramatically.
EF Definitely. And I think that’s one that we can work, like in our situation in Pennsylvania — that’s one way in which we can work across a partisan divide and urban-rural divide — is to really show that humanity and focus on that humanness and our human needs, as opposed to some of these old divisions that exist and are real but that are often transcended by our needs as people.
SWB So … speaking a little bit more about changing the ratio of women in politics in Pennsylvania, I’m curious what it’s like to run as a woman—a, you know, relatively young woman. I think you’re about the same age as we all are which is, you know, thirty-something-ish.
EF I mean I would say one of the things is that I am — my kids sometimes come to things with me, especially my youngest when he was a little bit younger. So when I announced, Louis was three months old and so was still very much in the developmental stage of needing to eat more often, needing more physical contact, and so he was often in the baby carrier when I would show up at events, when I would show up at big meetings with people, and there were quite a few [laughing] instances when people were astonished that I was the candidate. That I had shown up with a child in tow and so normalizing that — I think it’s important. Period. And I think also as a matter of economic justice, I mean a lot of us can’t afford to have a babysitter to watch the kids all the time. A lot of us don’t want to necessarily do that all the time. So really like normalizing that, I guess, would be something that’s important and some people have been quite surprised and so for me it has been a lot about pushing past that. You know, noting it: yes, true, baby is here. Now let’s talk about the reason that we’re here: I would like to seek your endorsement. You know showing them that it is possible to be doing both things at the same time. That I’m still a person to be taken very seriously. That I still have a lot of experience and am very dedicated.
SWB I love that because I think, yeah, it’s normal. People have babies. Like a lot of people have babies all the time and they’re still people with ideas and plans. And so I’m really glad you’re out there, you know, bringing your kids along and bringing them up regularly and making that so central to the campaign without also letting that be a distraction. It doesn’t turn into just talking about, “Oh my god it’s the candidate with the baby.” Right? It’s like, “We’re here to talk about issues. Also, my kids are very much part of my life.”
EF Yeah, absolutely and that’s something that we’ve stressed with our campaign from the beginning in that — so when we have people going out to knock doors, we just had our office opening party, we have fundraisers, we always work as hard as we can to provide childcare. And that’s actually resulted in a lot of people, a lot of young — youngish parents — I call myself youngish — parents getting more involved in politics, getting more involved in our campaign than they have ever before. Because they didn’t get the message. You know? They didn’t feel like they were welcome, there was no childcare, what are they going to do about it? Approaching it from this perspective of, “Of course childcare is provided, and we would love you to come and knock doors with us from one to four,” has been hugely rewarding and is the way I want to conduct my campaign too.
SWB So speaking of your campaign, I’m curious too: who’s on your campaign team and how did you approach building out that team?
EF In addition to myself there are three paid people on staff. We have a lot of super volunteers who are absolutely amazing. Our paid staff is all women: finance director, field director, and campaign manager … and they’re fantastic. I could not ask for a better group of people to be surrounding me. My campaign manager has been with me since the very beginning. She started as my field director and she’s worked in the last two election cycles, specifically down here. So she’s very experienced and she also lives down here in the district. And we spend a lot of time together. That was one thing someone told me in the beginning was like, “Make sure you like your campaign because you’re going to spend more time with them than you will with any other human being.” And that’s Amanda. And Katie is my field director. She worked as a super volunteer in the last election. Her candidate who won — and she’s the face of the campaign in many instances in the office. When a volunteer shows up in the office and says, “I’m here to volunteer,” they often see Katie. And my finance director is Gretchen and she organizes fundraisers and also helps me with what is called Call Time. Call Time is when it’s me, a phone, and a list of people who I’m going to call, and ask them to support my campaign financially. And uh I guess maybe that has been one thing that has been surprising for me is how strange, especially in the beginning, how strange it was to call people up and ask them for money. I mean, just saying that sentence, like I never in my life had done that before. Um calling people and asking them for money. So getting more used to that, getting more comfortable and thinking about why I was doing it, why I’m running.
SWB Do you feel comfortable now when you call and ask for money? Has it shifted for you to now you’re like, “Ok, I can do this. No problem.”
EF It’s gotten easier. It’s not always easy, it depends. The idea is that you create this long list of everyone you’ve ever encountered in your life and that includes people you haven’t talked to in ten, or 15, 20 years, you call those people and you tell them, with great excitement in your voice, “I am running for office!” And you tell them why and you hear from them and then you ask them for money … which is pretty strange if like you have not actually talked to them for 15 years and they’re just telling you about their life and their kids and you had no idea they had children and you didn’t know they lived in New Jersey. Things like that where it really feels a little — it doesn’t feel comfortable. I’ve gotten better at that and I’ve received, honestly, really, really amazing responses from people when I’ve asked them for financial support and that’s what made it easier. That and just doing it over and over. Someone who ran for office before told me [laughs], he said, “Call all of your exes and all the people you’re dreading calling.” And I was like, “Oh! I don’t want to do that.” And he was like, “Call all of those people because once you call those people and tell them about your campaign and ask them for money, you can call anyone! You won’t feel afraid at all.”
SWB We are just about out of time so I want to ask just a couple final questions and the first one is do you have any advice that you would give to people who are from groups that are underrepresented in politics who are interested in running?
EF If you’re thinking about it, you should run.
SWB Just that? Period. You’re like, “Look, if you’re thinking about it that means you actually want to already.”
EF Yes, absolutely, and people should think about what office, what level of government makes sense to them, for them, in their lives and given the kind of work that they want to do. But I really think so many of us are held back just by that feeling that like, “Hmm, maybe there’s someone else out there who is more qualified. Maybe there’s someone else who would be better at this.” And in some cases: sure, there is. In many cases, there is not. It’s us! We’re the ones. We’re thinking about it already. If you’re ready to do the hard work and you’re considering running for office and you hear, when you say it to other people, people are like, “Oh my gosh! You would be a really good candidate, of course!” Then you should run. You shouldn’t let any sort of hesitation like that hold you back because we need so many more people to run, so that we can have gender parity and so that we can have our ideals and our values represented too.
SWB So last question: the Democratic primary is in May and a few minutes ago you said something about, “When I win,” so I love that and I’m curious how are you feeling at this point? Are you starting to get excited?
EF I feel good. It’s surprising to me that we are already so close to the election. Time has gone by both quickly and slowly but generally quite quickly, and I feel good. We have a lot of hard work to do before the election. That said, we have a really good team and I know that we are committed to making it happen.
SWB Well, I feel good. I’m very excited.
EF Thank you [music fades in].
JL [Music fades out] well, I loved that. There was so much that Lizz said in there that I could completely relate to.
SWB Yeah, I bet. I mean like all of this balance and juggle of being a new mom and trying to do ambitious stuff. I mean it kind of is pretty similar to the stuff we’ve talked about already.
JL Yeah, completely. And one of the things that I really loved that she touched on was that for their campaign fundraisers how they were providing childcare. So people could canvas and they’d watch their children and I’m constantly struggling with that. I’ve started digging into speaking at conferences again because I took a little bit of a hiatus while pregnant and then in the first 11 months that I’ve had Cooper and so now I’m trying to get back in and I’ve been talking at conferences but it’s hard to figure out what I’m going to do. There’s some conferences that provide childcare for both attendees and speakers which I just think is so cool and so great that people are thinking about these sort of things.
SWB Yeah, I love that too. It’s — one of the things I always think about is that even if only a few people need the childcare, you know it doesn’t have to be a large percentage of people, it’s really meaningful to those people who use it and then to everybody else I feel like it’s also such a strong signal that this event is thinking about you as a person and that people have needs and that it’s ok, right? It’s ok if your needs are childcare, it’s ok if you need to ask for a meal with certain dietary restrictions —
SWB — like those kinds of little details I think really tell your attendees or your audience a lot about your values and I’m always looking for that, even though I don’t have kids, right? If I see an event that has childcare, to me that’s a signal.
JL Yeah, I spoke at and attended JS Confs back in the day and they used to have a Significant Other track. So that you could travel with your family and what they did is they would have like — if you were attending the conference, the Significant Other track would go and do tours of DC, where the conference was. And I just thought it was neat to provide something for that. So if you wanted to travel with your family, to have that there.
KL That’s so cool and I feel like, thinking about potentially a conference organizer’s point of view, it’s like, why wouldn’t you want to be able to get as many people to your conference and include those people because of a variety of different things that they might need. So it just seems obvious, you know?
JL I guess it’s hard though, right? I mean cuz it’s another cost.
KL Oh for sure.
JL And so I think it’s always like — yeah I mean I don’t know it’s hard — I can understand why people’s instinct wouldn’t be to think of it but I wish they would.
KL Yeah, no, for sure.
SWB Running events is hard. Running events is very challenging, running anything is challenging, but I think that what it really means is that there’s a lot of priorities that people have that they kind of perceive as being default, right? Like, ok, for example at a conference oftentimes the default priority is: we need to have an open bar at the party. And people don’t think twice about spending budget there but will think like, “Oh my god! I have to spend money on childcare!” And I think that that’s just a challenge to what the default priorities are. And once you — it doesn’t mean that every event is going to have a budget for everything but it does mean that if you can kind of like let go some of those assumptions then you come at it from sort of a fresh perspective and say, “Ok, what’s really going to create the kind of experience that we value and that sort of like lives out our values?”
JL That’s so true and, you know, a lot of those open bars are sponsored by bigger companies. So maybe conferences need to work with sponsors, maybe sponsors want to sponsor childcare … and they should do this and whatever conference that is should talk to me about speaking there [laughter].
KL Yes, yes. Good idea.
SWB I mean, hell, you know especially in tech you’ve got all of these big tech companies that are like, “We need to show that we support women in technology. We need to have a more diverse perspective. We want people to see that we value this.” Sponsor some childcare instead of sponsoring booze! I enjoy drinking, don’t get me wrong — but I would much rather buy my own wine at the party and see them sponsor something that really matters.
JL Quick thank you to our sponsors for being so supportive of our podcast.
SWB Woohoo! Yeah!
SWB So I want to go back to one other thing that Lizz talked about though and that was the representation of women in politics in Pennsylvania. So she mentioned that Pennsylvania’s 49th in the nation for how representative women are in elected office. So I looked into this and there are some kind of sobering stats about this. So, first off, Pennsylvania has never sent a woman to the US Senate. Did you know that? Never. Not once. [Wow][oof] We’ve never had a woman governor and right now did you know there are 18 representatives in the US House from Pennsylvania? So we have 18 reps, zero of those reps are currently women.
JL How could that be?!
KL I know.
SWB Man, misogyny runs real deep! [Sighs] so it’s not looking great. You know at the state level it’s actually a little better. So the level that Elizabeth is running at: 19 percent of our state legislature is made up of women. So there’s some women but it’s still definitely very, very low but something I’m really excited about that you can see in somebody like Lizz is that there are historic numbers of women running for office this year. So like 2018 is going to have just a huge number of women running at all levels. There was an article in The Cut last month from Rebecca Traister and she talked about how at that point, in January, 390 women said they were planning to run for the House of Representatives. And that’s higher than any year ever. And she also talked about how many of those people were black women. So 22 of them were non-incumbent black women. So new people entering the races and that’s like more black women than are in the House as a whole right now. There’s just like so many women running for office and I’m really excited to see that and I’m so excited for Lizz because I think she’s going to make a great candidate and a great representative.
KL That’s so awesome … I remember the first time I met her and went to her house, I think it was right before she announced, and I was like, “How is this person going to do all of this?” You know it just seemed so daunting and I was levels removed but having seen her, the few times I’ve seen her just out in the field and talked to her, I see her doing it and I hear her talking about how she’s doing it and I’m like, “Ok,” it just makes me feel so much more encouraged and inspired that all of these women are getting into office or are getting into running and that it’s really possible.
Fuck Yeah of the Week
JL Hey! It’s time to celebrate even more awesome! You know when someone makes it a true Daily Double and they get the answer right? Or your home team makes it to the Super Bowl? That’s this next segment: the Fuck Yeah of the Week. Hey, Katel, what’s making you go, “Fuck yeah!” this week?
KL You know I am so inspired by Lizz Fiedler’s interview that I started looking around and there’s great organizations supporting and promoting women running for office. It’s so cool. One called She Should Run, there’s another one called Rise to Run. And, of note, She Should Run, for example, has a tool that they have built called Ask a Woman to Run. It’s so cool. You can go to their website and literally nominate someone to run for office and provide a little information. It’s really, really cool. They also have a She Should Run incubator which meets women who are already sort of in the process, wherever they are in that process, to help them, support them, promote them to run which is so cool.
SWB Wait, so can you tell me more about this? So if I go to She Should Run and I submit somebody that I think should run, what happens?
KL You share the message with that person, so that’s really awesome. And they basically provide a bunch of resources to help them start and get on their way.
SWB But it’s like a little nudge.
SWB You know I love this because when we were talking to Lizz she told that story about being in the car with her partner and they’re going somewhere and she’s like ranting and raving about what’s going on in local politics and how she wants to kind of make a difference and she’s feeling … you know like this urge to get involved in some way, and he’s just like, “You know you want to run for office?” I feel like having that external voice that’s like, “Hey, you know you want to do this.” Right? Like as she was saying, if you’re thinking about, you should do it. But I feel like it’s hard, right? Like I like getting involved with things, I like being civically active, but the idea of running for something is pretty scary and so there’s something to be said for somebody putting a little bit of their faith behind me in like a slightly more organized way than just saying it … over drinks. Like actually sitting down and being like, “No, go do this.”
KL Yeah, I’m thinking back to [chuckles] — I don’t want to take us down a sad hole here but right after the election, the Trump election, I was like, “Shit, I need to mobilize a lot more,” and I just really had no idea where to start. And the immediate thought I had was I need to look at my friends and trust those friends who I know know what to do and where to start. So the fact that there are resources that help you do this now is just incredible.
SWB You know and there’s a lot of new resources cropping up since the fall of 2016, for reasons that are probably pretty clear to our listeners, but there also are organizations that have been around a long time. Like I’ve long been a fan of EMILY’s List and I just recently found out that EMILY’s List is an acronym. I thought it was started by somebody named Emily. It stands for Early Money is Like Yeast.
SWB As in it makes the dough rise. Like, that the entire idea of it is that when you get early donations to a campaign, that really provides the foundation that allows a campaign to be successful.
KL That’s a good acronym.
SWB Who knew?! But I’ve long relied on EMILY’s List for information about who they’re supporting because it’s really focused on, particularly on pro-choice candidates, which is something that’s pretty important to me but … I’m so glad to see other organizations out there bolstering things because, as we heard, right? Like there’s a lot of work to be done to diversify who is in office and lots and lots of organizations to help us do it, I think can only make it better … So … Fuck yeah! Like fuck yeah, we got some work to do, politically speaking. But also a “Fuck Yeah” to all of these amazing women and also folks who are trans or nonbinary who have been cropping up in elections — I don’t know if you all saw Danica Roem this year who won a seat —
KL Ah! Amazing.
SWB — in the Assembly in Virginia as a trans woman. Like, fuck yeah!
KL Fuck yeah! We’re going to do it.
SWB I loved what Lizz said like, “When I win.”
SWB I want us all to bring that along with us, right? Like, “When I win, when women win, when we win …things are going to be a lot better.”
JL And that’s it for this week’s episode of No, You Go, the show about being ambitious—and sticking together. NYG is recorded in our home city of Philadelphia, home of the Super Bowl champions, and produced by Steph Colbourn. Our theme music is by The Diaphone. Thanks to Elizabeth Fiedler for being our great guest today. If you like what you’ve been hearing, please subscribe to our show on your podcast listener app of choice, and be sure to rate us on iTunes. Your support helps us spread the word. We’ll be back next week with another radical guest.
KL Go Iggles! [Laughter][music fades in and ramps up to end].