News Post

Panelists Advocate for Women's Politic Engagement
Panelists Advocate for Women's Politic Engagement
amahnke
Women make up 51% of the population, but only 19.3% of Congress. That’s a statistic four recent Agnes Irwin speakers are hoping to change.

Tuesday morning in Upper School assembly, students heard from a panel of four women who have run for office or held positions on political organizations and committees, as part of the Center for the Advancement of Girls’ Women’s Leadership Journeys speaker series.

Speakers included Renee Amoore (R), who has held several positions in the Republican Party and currently chairs the Pennsylvania New Majority Council; Laura Wagoner '09 (R), Executive Director of the Republican Committee of Chester County; Lindy Li ’08 (D), the youngest female Congressional candidate in U.S. history; and Lynn Yeakel (D), founder and president of Vision 2020: Equality in Sight, who ran for Senate in 1992 and narrowly lost to incumbent senator Republican Arlen Specter.

The panelists fielded questions from student leaders, sharing what sparked their interest in public service, their own experiences as women in politics, as well as their thoughts on the current presidential cycle — and its vitriolic discourse.

“On both sides, we are so far on the extremes,” Wagoner said. “Our biggest issue is we are pointing fingers rather than having respectful discourse. …At the end of the day, you probably learn a lot from the [opposing] person — even if you disagree with them.”

A common thread in discussion was how sexism continues to play a role in how women are talked about and treated by colleagues and media.

“I’m usually the only young female in a room of a few hundred people, and one of only a handful of women,” Wagoner said. She recalled how early in her career, a female colleague advised her to wear more suits, wear her hair up, listen more, and talk less in meetings if she wanted to be taken seriously. “Three years later, I’m still not wearing suits or wearing my hair up: I don’t think that defines who I am as a person, or how I operate in my career.”
 
When Yeakel ran for office in 1992, “some of the harshest media comments I received were written by women.” One woman, she said, “wrote that I had a high-pitched voice that lacks authority – and that was funny, because I don’t even know what that means, except perhaps that authority can never be vested in women’s voices.”

Li and Amoore shared similar experiences they’ve encountered as women running for public office, and Wagoner noted that these trends have continued into 2016: “What Hillary wore, or how Carly Fiorina has too harsh a face, or what Sarah Palin wore, what her hair looked like. I think part of why women shy away from politics is that there is so much criticism about our appearance or what we’re wearing rather than our issues and our platforms.”

“If we’re alert to these kind of [disparities], and if we call people out on them, it’s something we can change,” Yeakel said.

Acknowledging and discouraging sexism is something everyone can do. But a major part of the solution, each of the panelists agreed, is also to see more women engage in the political process and hold public office. The panelists encouraged students to vote, educate themselves on issues and platforms, volunteer for campaigns, seek out women mentors, and consider running themselves. 

“Fifty one percent of the population is women, and women’s issues— domestic violence, childcare, and others — are real. There needs to be a voice out there for women, and that comes through representation,” Wagoner said.

The overall message, was simple. As Amoore put it: “We need you to be involved — to be out there."