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Closing Gender Gap Could Boost Economy

Randa Coniglio, president and CEO of the Port of San Diego, said that flexibility for both men and women would help women in the workforce.

"When I was younger coming up through the ranks and having babies, I wished my husband could have had the same leave opportunities than I had," she said. "I was making more money than he was, and it made more sense for him to stay home with the baby."

Rachel Michelin, executive director of California Women Lead, an organization that works as a non-partisan support system for women running for office, agreed.

"I think women are tired," Michelin said. "There are still a lot of traditional demands that are placed on women, and that does weigh heavy on women, especially when you move up the ladder."

Michelin said the government is more likely to support those kinds of issues if women have more equal representation. She said that San Diego used to be a "trend setter" for having women in elected positions, but that's changing.

"San Diego's power in Sacramento from a female perspective has decreased a little," Michelin said. "Locally there was always a really strong team of women leaders, and we've seen that decrease as well."

Sherri Lightner, the San Diego City Council president and first woman in the position, said she's worried the council will lose its gender balance in the upcoming election. Right now, four of the nine members are women, but two, including Lightner, are termed out.

"We've come a long ways and yet we haven't," Lightner said.

She remembered the time before equal opportunity employment laws and maternity leave and how much a difference they made in the working lives of women she knew.

An engineer herself, she also champions programs across San Diego designed to interest girls in STEM, but she said there's still more that needs to be done. She wasn't sure if San Diego can achieve the McKinsey report goals by 2025.

"Ten years is a very short time," Lightner said. "That's what I've become aware of working here at the city."

The McKinsey report called out San Diego's lack of female mayors as one of the main social issues to address. The last ended her term in 2000.

Lori Saldaña, who is running for mayor and served in the state assembly from 2004 to 2010, recalled the conversations she had with other women serving in the legislature about growing the number of women in elected positions.

"We would often joke how it's difficult to get women to run for office because they feel their skill sets are somehow not the right match for serving as an elected official. Men are born thinking they're ready to run for president," she said. "You can have the most skilled, talented women with business experience and advanced degrees and wonderful resumes, but they don't believe it's a good match for elected office."

Big cities across California also have few female mayors. Two -- Oakland and Fresno -- currently have women in the position, and Fresno's will end her term with the upcoming election. No woman is running to replace her.

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