International Women’s Day event highlights women’s progress in politics, leadership

Sage Smith

The 2019 International Women’s Day Celebration was held at the Ames Public Library on Friday.

The Ames High step team kicked off the event with a performance that included powerful words and chants on women empowerment. Four team leaders of the step team shared what empowers them as young women of color.

The time capsule from 2014 was opened and talked about briefly. Throughout the room, there were responses from community members from 2014. At the end of the night a new time capsule was filled with responses to be opened in another five years in 2024.

The moderator Karen Kedrowski, the new Iowa State Director of Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics started off the discussion by introducing the panelists.

The panelists included Monic P. Behnken, an assistant professor in the department of sociology, Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen, Ames City Council At-Large Representative, Niki Conrad, member of Webster County Board and Kelly Winfrey, an assistant professor in the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication.

The discussion began with an evaluation of the status of women in elected office nationally, statewide and locally.

Winfrey told those in attendance listed off statistics about women in politics, including the statistic of women making up 24 percent of the U.S. Congress, 18 percent of U.S. Governors are women and currently there are 45 women in the Iowa State Legislature.

Topics the discussion panel spoke on were what inspired them, perspectives of intersectionality and social movements such as the #MeToo Movement. The women shared the importance of their positions and how they can impact their community.

“I have a voice,” Conrad said. “I can use it for others who don’t have one.”

The panelists said the way they were raised, the development of their leadership and the leadership they witnessed played a large role in their attitudes toward their work.

“I was raised in the South, in a family and community that didn’t vote,” Behnkan said. “I was waiting for someone to get in office and save us. No one came so I decided to do more.”

For the panelists, discussing intersectionality within politics and leadership was pivotal.

“From the research perspective, I am very aware of my own identity and of what I don’t know,” Winfrey said. “We need to listen and bring people to the table and think about what’s missing and that awareness is important and something all of us need to think about.”

Behnken said her academic expertise and background looking at the system we have. She also discussed her data she has analyzed within her academic expertise in the Justice system had throughout her life to understand how society has been shaped.

“I have found that there is a tremendous desire in our community to do the right thing,” Behnken said. “Having someone with different perspectives and skills is really useful.”

The topic of white women supporting elected officials who are not advocates for women was brought forth by audience members, which the discussion of internalized sexism was discussed by the panelists.

“I think it has a lot to do with women’s internalization of sexism,” Beatty-Hansen said “Some women out there are still not believing that women have the worth of men perhaps.”

Suleiman Ameh, an Ames resident in the audience, enjoyed the conversation about different perspectives.

“I’ve been surrounded by white women in my five years in the United States,” Ameh said. “I would like to learn more about the issues women face and educate my children on those issues.”

The discussion was productive and well received by the audience and panelist members.

“I thought the conversation was at a very high level,” Kedrowski said. “The panelists grappled the complexity of questions and shared their experiences with respect.”

There is hope for another International Women’s Day event next year. Five years from now the new time capsule will be opened and the progress women have made will be assessed.

“I love women and politics and hope next year is at least this good,” said Kimberly A. Hope, a program assistant for Women’s and Gender Studies program. “I’m also thankful for the audience, the panelists, and everyone else that made this happen.”