MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - Throughout history, women have remained widely underrepresented in politics. While all women are affected by centuries of inequality, some demographics are disproportionately affected more than others. Certain factors like race, age, income, sexual orientation, political party and religion can all affect the barriers that women in politics experience.
YWCA Executive Director Natasha Lopez Rodriguez is among local organization leaders discussing the impact of Vice President Kamala Harris’ historic inauguration and the impact of having diverse leaders in office. “As I see more and more people of color taking roles in high places, I’m one of few, and I think that needs to start changing as well,” she said.
She believes diverse leaders are essential to making decisions that will benefit all Americans, including minority groups. “It’s having that seat at the table so that we can be part of that decision making. Lots of decisions have been made for women by men. We need to be there. It’s more important now than ever.”
Dr. Yurie Hong, an associate professor at Gustavus Adolphus College and founder of Indivisible St. Peter/Greater Mankato, said lack of representation has lasting effects on policies and American customs. “In order to be an effective policy maker or advocate, it helps to have some kind of firsthand experience,” she added.
Local youth gender and racial equality advocate Sesamae Glacker-Riquelme said, while we have made advancements by electing more diverse pools of officials at local, state and national levels, we still have a way to go. She stated, “We are put into our minds since we were very little that there is little room at the top.”
The United Nations said the issue of inequality for women and people of color is in no way limited to the United States. Women serve as Heads of State or Government in only 21 countries, and 119 countries have never had a female leader.
“What we don’t realize is that if we help each other climb to the top, we become stronger,” Sesamae said. She found Harris’ inauguration very inspiring. “How empowering is it to see a woman and then a woman of color and all these little girls get to look at this woman and see her making decisions for our country? All these young girls, these women, our future, get to look and her and say “hey, she did it, and I can do it too and I can even go higher.”