Friday, March 11, 2016

Women in Leadership Conference 2016

From politics to progression in representation, I love anything that stands for the recognition of women. When I learned that I was going to be able to attend the Women in Leadership conference at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston with the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus, I was beyond excited. The event took place on March 7th, and the setting was beautiful. The building was brand new, and everything was set up very nicely. The event honored both Democratic and Republican women that publicly serve or have served in federal, state, and local levels. Everyone from Senator Elizabeth Warren, to City Councillor Ayanna Pressley, to Hawaiian Senator Mazie Hirono were in attendance. It was so refreshing seeing so much diversity within one event, and especially because it was full of strong, female political figures. Throughout the four panels, topics ranged from the presidential election, to female and minority representation, to public housing, to self love. Everyone discussed the issues that they all have faced because they are women within United States politics, and it was amazing getting to hear their stories and triumphs.

After being welcomed by Mrs. Victoria Reggie Kennedy, Senator Elizabeth Warren made an introduction, sharing her experience as a female candidate. Senator Warren stated that when she considered running, some told her “just don’t do it” and that “Massachusetts was not ready to elect a woman senator.” But despite all warnings she stood her ground, raised her voice, and won the 2012 election as the first female to be elected as Massachusetts’ Senator. And now she works to change the warnings of her past into a different message for the little girls she tends to come across. Senator Warren likes to engage with her young admirers and makes it a point to look them in the eyes and let them know that the reason she ran for senator, was simply because “that’s what girls do”.

The first panel was titled “Twenty and Counting,” and was moderated by NECN political reporter Alison King. This panel analyzed the progression of women within the senate..  The panel consisted of US Senator of Maine Susan Collins, US Senator of Hawaii Mazie Hirono, former US Senator of Arkansas Blanche L. Lincoln, and US Senator of Maryland Barbara M. Mikulski. Each of these women’s stories were very interesting.  I especially found Senator Lincoln to be fascinating. She was a woman from the deep south who became the youngest women to be elected to the U.S. Senate at the age of 38. Along with this, she was the first female to serve as Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. She brought up a very interesting and almost aggravating story about an event that she has attended in her career. She stated that as a female politician at the time, wearing a skirt and stockings was the professional attire, and that she would never wear a pant suit. Skirts and stockings were what was seen as the standard, so she followed that standard. During an event, on the stage were stools, and this is where her and her male counterparts would be sitting. She later found out that they personally requested the stools, and it was as if the system had set her up for failure. It was the standard for women to wear skirts, but when she did she was forced to either expose herself to the audience below, or stand for the entire event while everyone else got to sit. This story made everyone in the room upset, and I believe that this story is a great analogy of what women and all minorities have to face and succumb to.  All four of these women had many firsts, and it was enormously inspiring.

Then the second panel came. This one being titled “Our Common Wealth.” Along with moderator Natalie Jacobson, former anchor for WCVB, the panel consisted of Senator Linda Dorcena Forry, Deborah Goldberg, Shannon O’Brien, and Keiko Orrall. The third panel, titled “Local Politics, Unlimited Leadership,”which was moderated by POLITICO reporter Lauren Dezenski, City of Boston Councilors Andrea Joy Campbell and Ayanna Pressley, and City of Boston Council President Michelle Wu were interviewed. Both of these panels touched on issues that everyone in the room was interested in, and it was so exciting getting to hear these accomplished women speak. During breaks, people could talk to each other and connect and socialize. I found this to be very rewarding, in that I got to meet women from all different types of organizations and backgrounds. Being so young, it was great to hear from women that have spent time fighting for a cause, whether they be apart of an organization or a politician themselves.

-Courtney Lynch, Intern