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Speaker addresses gender disparity in elected offices

Gender disparity in elected offices was the focus of the “Women in Politics: The Next Generation of Leadership” dinner on Nov. 2.

Cristina Uribe, the regional director of EMILY’s list [Early Money is Like Yeast] spoke about the setbacks that many women face in seeking an elected position. She answered question about why more women don’t hold political office with accounts of the financial and societal barriers that prevent more women from considering running.

Uribe said that once women decide to run, the biggest challenge they face is raising enough money.

“It’s $30 million to run for Senate,” Uribe said to an audience of mostly ICL students and professors at last Wednesday’s dinner event in the Bender Room.

“I’ve never heard a reporter ask a man how he balances family and work,” she said.

She said that another barrier that women face is that they don’t believe that they can hold an elected position.

“Women are less likely to be told that they should run for office – I ran a marathon three years ago and I didn’t just wake up one day and run,” she said.

Uribe’s slideshow presentation looked primarily at the misconceptions held by women about running. One of her slides was a list of what someone would need to do to prepare to run. The list suggests looking at your voting record, researching your criminal record and asking yourself what you’d want to accomplish by running.

Uribe’s organization provides funding and training for pro-choice, democratic female candidates and raised $44 million last year to support their effort to bring more women into elected offices.

Senior and ICL student Elizabeth Baribeau said she would answer Uribe’s challenge by running for an elected office in Maine sometime in the next 10 years.

“More women need to be in electoral politics. While I think it’s great that many women in my program are committed to grassroots organizing, we need people to be involved on the policy level,” she said.

Mills and UC Berkeley professor Ben Brown also spoke at the event. He talked about the significance of the Supreme Court nominations.

Brown furthered the discussion by looking at the role of the constitution. He was originally going to discuss the Harriet Miers nomination, but she retracted her bid before the speech, and so he focused on her replacement, Judge Samuel Alito.

“The reason Alito was chosen was because he answered the problem that Miers couldn’t answer,” he said.

Brown looked at the significance of some historical cases, such as Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade and the role that they had in establishing legal precedents.

“We must be sensitive to the need to keep the constitution on the side of equality. The difference between Alito and O’Connor is a matter of politics. Alito will favor the constitution instead of favoring the rights of women. He will subordinate women to needs of husbands, children,” Brown said.

ICL interim director and women’s studies professor director Judith Bishop said she enjoyed the event.

“It went very well. I was definitely impressed with EMILY’s List [and] how convincingly they are able to address the issue [of getting women into elected offices].”

The event, which was initially organized by Hilda Hernandez-Gravelle, senior advisor to the President in the office of diversity and student retention, eventually became a collaborative effort between her office and ICL.

Hernandez-Gravelle said, “My own experience of women at Mills is that they are engaged, civic minded and care about issues.”