Santa Monica Lookout
Former State Senator to Talk Women in Politics at Santa Monica College
By Jason Islas
March 12, 2013 -- Former State Senator Sheila Kuehl will tackle issues surrounding women in politics today at Santa Monica College's “Women at the Political Table: Set It or Sit at It?” discussion on March 21.
Kuehl, who is also the founder of SMC's Public Policy Institute, will bring her 14 years of experience in the state legislature to the discussion on the roles of women in politics.
“I think in terms of every different kind of community, there are actually different life experiences and voices.” said Kuehl, who became California's first openly gay State legislator in 1994 when she was first elected to the position.
Three years later, she became the first women to serve as Speaker pro tempore.
“It does make a difference who sits at the table,” Kuehl said. “It gives an impression of who is important and who isn't.”
That's why, Kuehl says, she's always willing to meet with groups of young women who are considering going into politics and tell them, “Yes, this is a good way to spend your life.”
A more diverse legislature, Kuehl said, means that a wider range of important issues are likely to be addressed.
She said that, until recently, “no one was paying attention to prenatal care,” a fact that has changed since more women legislators have been elected to office.
Because research grants are often tied to government money, the legislators can influence the direction of research.
“It's only recently that people have started paying attention to why women have heart attacks for very different reasons than men do,” she said. “While men will care (about these issues), they don't think about it first.”
One problem facing women in government is that, in general, fewer women run for office.
“There are just a lot more men who risk running,” Kuehl said. “You're taught more to risk as a boy.”
It's also important that more woman are seen taking positions of power, she said.
“(The) image of a woman pretty much controlling the flow of business,” Kuehl said, is an important one for people to see. “I think it influences what the public think that women are capable of.
Over the course of her 14 year career as a State legislator, “Kuehl authored 171 bills that were signed into law, including legislation to establish paid family leave, establish the rights contained in Roe vs. Wade in California statute, overhaul California’s child support services system; establish nurse to patient ratios in every hospital; require that housing developments of more than 500 units have identified sources of water; further protect domestic violence victims and their children; prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender and disability in the workplace and sexual orientation in education; increase the rights of crime victims; safeguard the environment and drinking water; and many, many others,” SMC officials said.
The program, which will be held in Room 123 of SMC’s Bundy Campus, 3171 S. Bundy Dr., Los Angeles. is sponsored by the SMC Associates, the Santa Monica Commission on the Status of Women and the League of Women Voters.
Seating is limited and is on a first-arrival basis. For more information, call (310) 434-4303.
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