Forum seeks to increase female leadership

by Michelle Mooradian | 11/8/93 6:00am

A weekend workshop in Rockefeller Center explored the political involvement of women and how the female role in leadership positions should evolve.

The workshop, called "Women in Public Leadership: An Exploration of Women's Political Involvement," sought to explain how women can increase their representation in elected offices and other leadership roles.

In a keynote address, former Concord Mayor Liz Hager, who ran for governor of New Hampshire in 1992 but lost in the Republican primary, spoke about the need for more women role models and mentors in "traditionally male positions such as high political office."

"Though the number of women in Congress has more than doubled in one decade, women have always been and continue to be under-represented in this and other political realms," Hager said.

The key to success in future elections is leadership and the ability of women to state their beliefs and stand firm, according to Hager, who was attacked in the republican gubernatorial primary for her pro-choice position on abortion.

"Leadership is not an academic enterprise," she said. "To gain and learn leadership you have to practice it, so involvement is the key."

Tobi Walker, a staff member at the Center for the American Woman and Politics , a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, spoke about women and politics through an historical and academic perspective.

She discussed the need to bring women into the political light to prove that women are competent and to break down the stereotypes against women in leadership roles.

"Anita Hill, whether we believed her or not, was key in bringing women into the political light and in showing how male the Senate is," Walker said.

Walker is the coordinator of the NEW Leadership program, a national initiative to educate young women to assume roles in the political light. The program is designed to develop the next generation of women leaders and teaches young women interested in politics about the history of women in politics, connections and networking, and public speaking, according to Walker.

Women in Politics, the student political group that sponsored the workshop, will begin participating in the NEW Leadership program later this year, according to President Kerry Whitacre '94.

Susan McLane, a former New Hampshire congresswoman, stressed the importance of having women in political leadership positions.

"Women hold the hope for democracy in the future," McLane said, "They have the guts to say they don't have all the answers, and will study a problem to get the best answer. Women really feel the issues."

McLane also said that women need to realize their strength in numbers and help one another.

Juanita Bell, a representative in the state legislature, related her personal experiences as a woman and African-American in politics.

Bell spoke about her efforts to get a bill recognizing the nations Martin Luther King Jr. holiday passed in the state Senate.

"The states motto is 'Live Free or Die'," Bell said, " My question is, 'Live Free Where and Die for What?"

Mary Shriver, executive director of the N.H. State Wildlife Federation, and Susan Duprey, a Concord city councilwoman, talked about the difficulties women face juggling family and political life.

Theresa Rosenberger, the only member of the panel not elected to office, spoke from the perspective of working to champion the issues from the grass-roots side. Rosenberger was a speechwriting and research office consultant in the White House from 1981 to 1989.

Rosenberger said most importantly women must always feel confident enough to speak their minds and stand up for what they believe in and what they feel their priorities are.

Also on the panel was Rebecca Lee, a member of the Environmental and Agriculture Committee state House of Representatives and, at 21, one of the youngest state legislators in the country.

Jim Brennan '96 was one of the few males to attend the conference.

"The conference was helpful to me in learning about the phenomenon of women running for political office. Its important to be attuned to all concerns and aspects of politics, so that one day there will be no gender-based issues, only democratic ones," Brennan said.

Kate Neumann '97 said she found the conference to be inspiring and encouraging.

"It was exciting to meet role models that I had never heard of, and to learn that they had done so many impressive things with their lives. I was inspired to follow in their footsteps," Neumann said.

Saturday's workshop was first main event for the Women in Politics group this year. Additional projects scheduled include a year- long program called "Gender Issues and Public Policy," a distinguished speaker series and informal discussions with professors.