On Tuesday, November 2, three engaging panelists—Kaitlin Yaremchuk Gastrock '00, Sonya Khan '00 and Chayla White '03—joined fellow alumnae for a discussion on the challenges facing women in politics.
Organized by the Networking Committee of Winsor's Alumnae Board and moderated by Winsor's Julian K. Braxton, the panel explored the factors that continue to drive the gender gap in politics and opportunities for women to change the rules in light of the current political landscape.
"We're at an exciting time because we're all comfortable identifying the fact that we need change and we need more women in politics," said Sonya, program chair of the Boston Women's March and a program director at the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review. She noted that while women represent just over half of the U.S. population, they still make up only 20 percent of the House and Senate combined.
"A lot of people were very inspired by Hillary Clinton's run, particularly locally, regardless of the outcome," noted Chayla, deputy director and legal advisor of the Mayor of Boston's Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing. She added that, in the 24 hours after the election, there were over 1,000 new nominations for different public offices. To her, it's that momentum, in conjunction with the grassroots energy that has been building since the election, that we need to leverage in order to drive change.
"Many women are working in politics in the background," Kaitlin explained. "But the intense scrutiny of public life can be harder on them...and they aren't taking the leap into office." Now vice president of regional communications and public affairs for Teach For America, she served in former Governor Mitt Romney's administration and on his first presidential campaign. She noted that a network of support and strong mentors are needed to help women decide to take the leap and seek office.
Being there for other women—and seeking support when needed—is something the panelists all feel they learned a great deal about at Winsor.
As the discussion unfolded, some common themes emerged on how to approach a run for office. Start local, in your own community, and build support to work your way up from there. Then go for it!
"You know what matters, because it's what matters to your family," reflected Sonya. "There are people out there who feel the same way you do and who need someone to speak up."