'Women need to run'
Looking back at the history of female politicians in Minnesota, former State Representative Kim Norton says Minnesota once showed promise of achieving equal representation.
“We had a big jump,” she recalls. “And then it sort of died off and it has plateaued for a period of time. We need to be purposeful about it or we will continue to be at a standstill.”
In Rochester, a grassroots group of female politicians and community leaders are now stepping up to encourage more women to get involved in civic leadership.
More Women on the Move is a nonpartisan network of women who, as Olmsted County Commissioner Sheila Kiscaden says, are about “supporting women where they’re at in their own skills.” The movement picked up steam in the early part of 2017 as a 2.0 version of the original Women on the Move group.
The group aims to provide training and mentorship for women running for public office in the Rochester area. They had their first training session on December 6, titled “Are you Ready? Are you right?” They plan to have another session in December (date TBD based on the availability of trainers).
Kiscaden acknowledges that not everyone wants to be a politician, yet she encourages all women to use their talents to be involved in the community. You don’t have to be a politician to make change.
“We need all voices and experiences to make good public policy.” says Kiscaden, who has also served as a state senator. “I think we need to be intentional in sharing what we, as leaders, know and have learned and pass that knowledge onto future generations.”
I sat down with some of the women involved to better understand the impact that the imbalance of representation has on local politics and the importance of encouraging more women to run for office.
Brittney Marschall, co-chair of MWOTM and Marine Corps veteran, hopes that this network will allow more women to manage the balance of home and work, as well as open up doorways for women to run for public office.
“Sometimes women are more likely to analyze the barriers to running for office more than men," she says. "One of the things this group is here to do is provide the human resources — campaign managers and team members — the people who will help you manage those barriers, so the path becomes a little more clear.”
Anna Richey, another co-chair of MWOTM, says, “What we would like to see come out of this movement is for this group to continue to grow and reach different parts of our community — different demographics and socio-economic groups.”
Richey continued with saying, “This is really about building a long-term, continuous, sustainable pathway for women to be stepping into leadership.”
Norton, who in considering a run for Rochester mayor in 2018, adds that one of the greatest obstacles of leading while in office is that it is difficult for colleagues to recognize a woman as the expert.
“We have an expectation of who’s a leader and who’s the expert," says Norton. "All of us have it, but we have to control that knee jerk bias. Women need to run. Women face decisions in a more collaborative way.”
Written by contributor Micalyn Maier. A senior at Mayo High School, Micalyn enjoys reading, writing and traveling. She wants to pursue a career in journalism covering social justice issues.
Cover photo: Kiscaden, right, speaks to attendees at a recent luncheon featuring Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and former Lt. Gov. Joanne Benson / M Brandt Photography