UMBC’s Women Involved in Learning and Leadership (WILL) will host a panel discussion this Wednesday, October 10, called “Women in Politics!,” featuring campus, state and national leaders (7:00 p.m., Lecture Hall 4). Kelly Martin Broderick and Cassandra Morales, UMBC undergraduates who are among WILL’s co-leaders, tell the story of their inspiration to plan and host the event.
WILL (Women Involved in Learning and Leadership) students are committed to bringing issues of gender equality to light in addition to actively working to resolve these issues. Within our group, we have maintained an equal-power structure, in which no member, including the co-leaders, has a bigger voice than the others. Most of all, WILL remains a safe space to talk about every day confrontations with gender inequality. WILL is a student group, but we are also supported by the GWST program and have a Living/Learning Community in Harbor Hall. If you are interested in WILL, please contact Kate Drabinski in the GWST Program.
This past June, WILL’s co-leaders participated in the United States National Committee-United Nations Women conference at George Washington University. The final panel focused on why it was important for more women to be in politics. The panelists discussed obstacles women face in politics, including the fact that when a woman is asked to run for office, she has to be asked three to five different times before she even seriously considers it. This is a significant statistic because a man barely has to be asked; all it takes is being approached once. This is why when asked what advice she would give to women, Erin Prangley, the Associate Director of Government Relations for the American Association of University Women (AAUW), simply stated “RUN. FOR. OFFICE.” This was repeated four more times—encouraging every woman at the conference to get out there and run for office. It doesn’t matter how big or little the election, just get out there and get on a ballot.
Great feminist activism almost always starts with empowerment. Attending the conference and hearing the advice of these amazing women gave us the willpower to believe that we could make an impact on women in politics. What followed was weeks of conversation on how to bring our inspiration back to campus. We decided to host an event and brainstormed about whom we wanted there and what we wanted to achieve. During this time, we learned both the stresses and satisfaction of activism. What resulted was a strong foundation for a great event.
With the inspiration of the conference, we spent the rest of the summer planning and brainstorming. We wanted WILL to kick off this semester with a solid event: one that not only our members would be interested in, but all of campus. Cassandra and I were fortunate enough to also attend the National Organization for Women’s (NOW) Annual Conference. We kept hearing the same message: Young women need to be more involved. This doesn’t mean that each of us has to run for office, but we do have to be more politically aware. We need to not fear the word feminism and to recognize that, yes, women have come a long way, but we still don’t have equal pay or state-funded maternity leave, we only make up 17% of Congress and this year has shown us that we again have to fight for basic health care, like birth control! So, with an idea and some good old-fashioned networking, we set about inviting guests.
The Women in Politics! event will feature State Delegate Ariana Kelly, from Montgomery County; Brooke Lierman, from EMERGE Maryland; Linda Mahoney, president of Maryland NOW; and Erin Prangley, associate director of government relations at AAUW. Each of these women has either run for office, supported other women in their runs for office, or worked to increase the number of women running. Even our moderator, UMBC Student Government Association President Kaylesh Ramu, has the experience of running for office. This Wednesday, we all will have the privilege of sitting down and talking with them. We hope to see you there.