Berkeley City Councilmembers Kate Harrison, Lori Droste and Linda Maio spoke to students about their experiences as women in politics at a panel Monday evening.
The Women in Politics panel was hosted by the Berkeley National Organization for Women and the ASUC External Affairs Vice President’s office.
Those who attended sat around a table while council members answered questions about how they began working in politics, their accomplishments, the greatest obstacles they have faced as women in the field and their advice for young women hoping to pursue a career in the political field.
“It was cool, as a Berkeley native, to hear from people who have been working to change things,” said campus sophomore Talia Weston, reflecting on how she grew up witnessing the work of the panelists.
Droste talked about her childhood experience growing up in Ohio when her mother was the mayor of the town where they lived. Droste said her mother, a Democrat, instilled in her an interest in politics, but she did not initially think about a political career.
After working as a public school teacher, she went back to school and took a course involving a project in which students created a plan to run for office. After the project was complete, Droste decided to follow through with her plan, and she ran for Berkeley City Council in 2014.
Droste said her main focus when running for office was to address the housing crisis, especially after seeing many of her friends move away from Berkeley because of high rent. Droste said one of her obstacles while working in politics has included balancing life with two young children.
At the panel, Harrison spoke about her entry into politics as a student at UC Berkeley, when she served as an ASUC senator. She said she had always loved public policy and went on to work as a manager for both city and state government.
As a council member, Harrison said she has worked to create smaller housing units and analyzed how much housing developers should be charged. At the panel, Harrison spoke about challenges faced by women in politics, advising women to keep going and try to have a sense of humor.
Maio also talked about her entry to politics during the panel — she first became politically active when she was a student involved in the Black Student Union. Later on, she became involved in managing a campaign, began to attend community meetings and developed a nonprofit housing organization.
Maio said that, often times, in politics, men do not pay much attention to female coworkers, adding that women should not let it put them down.
“This is your life,” Maio said at the event. “You’re going to lead it. You’re going to do your work.”
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