Roundtable discussion on women’s roles in politics kicks off Women’s History Month

About 15 female University students and faculty attended the event held at Coffman Union.

Hayley Odom

Thursday a roundtable discussion involving three high-profile Minnesota women kicked off Women’s History Month.

The panel featured former Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, Minnesota Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer and Minneapolis City Council member Lisa Goodman, 7th Ward.

The women spoke about their roles in politics, their contributions to their communities and how they became involved in public service.

“There is a major challenge in this area pertaining to women in government. People are fearful of raising money for female candidates because of the nature of the job,” Goodman said.

Sayles Belton agreed and said people must stop questioning the basic notion of women in politics.

“There are still people in the community – including women – concerned about whether or not a woman with young kids should be running for public office,” Sayles Belton said.

About 15 female University students and faculty attended the event held at Coffman Union.

“I thought it was wonderful to see women involved in the political process encouraging younger women to become involved,” University senior Julie Birkholz said.

Graduate student Denise Feda came to the event because she is interested in public policy and said she sees herself in the political arena in the future.

“I really enjoyed (the panel discussion). It was very informational and inspirational. My time was well spent here,” Feda said.

The Office for University Women co-sponsored the discussion to give students the chance to learn the barriers panelists faced and what female students can do if they want to pursue a public service career, said Hannah Akrong, a graduate student and an administrative fellow in the office.

“Women by very nature tend to be timid (and) have the tendency to be their own enemies sometimes,” Kiffmeyer said. “Guys don’t take turns and they don’t ask for permission.”

Kiffmeyer joined the panel as a replacement for Kazoua Kong-Thao, St. Paul public school board treasurer, who is in Thailand with St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly.

“It’s great (to come to the University) even though I’m subbing for someone else,” Kiffmeyer said.

The secretary said she actively recruits college students to work in her office and often speaks at university campuses statewide.

The Women’s Student Activist Collective also co-sponsored the panel.