The Colorado Fab Five Won on Progressive Platforms, Not Wedding Plans

Last month, Colorado voters made some important decisions. Those decisions ended up flipping Colorado’s state Senate, thanks to the Colorado Fab Five — five women* who ran on progressive, action-oriented platforms.

But you wouldn’t know that based on the coverage of their sweeping win. People Magazine published an article named “These Five Women Were Bridesmaids in Each Other’s Weddings — Now They’re All State Senators.” The headline practically begs for an obligatory “aw!” Unfortunately, it’s not warranted. Only one of the women — Senator-elect Faith Winter — acted as a bridesmaid in the wedding of Brittany Pettersen, one of the other Fab Five to win a state Senate seat.

Upon further inspection, it seems everywhere I look, the incredible accomplishments of the Colorado Fab Five are simply an afterthought to an inconsequential — and again, false! — anecdote. This kind of rhetoric implies these five women overcoming the odds to win their Senate seats isn’t the most important part of the story. This impressive feat, just like most things relevant to women, is deemed second best. People’s article is evidence that the accomplishments and potential of women are often demoted, and usually to the detriment of new avenues leading to positive change.

So why is this incorrect hook meant to capture our attention, instead of the critical issues these women ran and won on? The details of their weddings certainly didn’t guarantee victory. In reality, their success can be credited to their legislative priorities, many of which elevated “women’s issues” to what they truly are — Coloradans’ issues. Articles like People’s divert attention from these women’s strategic success, reducing their role in Colorado’s political future to a “cute” story instead of what it actually is: an important and powerful shift that has far-reaching implications for Colorado families and our state economy.

Senator-elect Kerry Donovan understands the importance of low health care costs, especially for Colorado’s struggling middle class. She and Winter — who continuously fights for family-friendly policies — both sponsor the FAMLI Act, which would make paid leave more accessible for Colorado workers. A dedicated education advocate, Senator-elect Tammy Story is pushing for fully funded schools and increased teacher pay. Policies focusing on entire families and education accessibility are important issues for Pettersen, who sponsored a bill designed to address the child care needs of low-income parents going back to school. Senator-elect Jessie Danielson, a staunch supporter of affordable access to child care, sponsored a bill with Donovan to increase wage transparency to encourage equal pay.

Women’s presence in politics may be nothing new, but neither is the pervasive culture of women being overlooked when it comes to their important role in the economy, the future of work, and overall quality of life. This imbalance and the Fab Five’s action plan to address it is precisely why they won votes last month… not the color of their bridesmaid dresses.

We can’t continue to ignore women and the solutions they champion, siloing them as just “women’s issues.” Just like women, these issues have been snubbed, when really they are the answer to helping Colorado truly thrive.

As it stands, our antiquated system of workplace policies are no match for the rapid evolution of our workforce. Disruptors like automation and alternative work arrangements are barreling ahead, but many of the jobs considered high risk for automation are in industries dominated by women. While contingent and gig work is more attractive to women, it lacks protections and benefits integral to economic mobility. As our recent brief about the future of work and implications for women shows, these challenges and more won’t go away without intentional action. Continuing to disregard women’s powerful stake in the financial health of Colorado is to our own chagrin. One obvious place we see this? The current pay gap robs Colorado women and our state economy of $14.5 billion each year.

The vision of the Colorado Fab Five to address these issues and a host of others proves the future is now. And if you haven’t been paying attention, we’re well on our way. Colorado’s success is dependent on embracing the incredible potential of women like the Fab Five and the issues they fight for, not their wedding plans.

*Author’s Note: It’s important to note “women” isn’t inclusive of all people who identify as a woman, female, femme, etc.. While this piece is not meant to be exclusive, this term is used for sake of relevancy, since the “Fab Five” identify as women.

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