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Museum's 'Who Has The Power' Series Turns Focus To Women In Politics

Hillary Clinton
Gage Skidmore
Women are underrepresented in many halls of power, including Congress and statehouses. Hillary Clinton ran unsuccessfully for president in 2008 and 2016.

A McLean County Museum of History event series focused on “who has the power” will next turn its focus to women in politics, on the eve of another presidential election that will be won by a man.

The next installment of the museum’s Community in Conversation series is 6 p.m. Tuesday, via Zoom. The online, dialogue-based program will engage members of the community in facilitated conversation around women in politics ahead of the current election season.

Women are underrepresented in many halls of power, including Congress and statehouses. Locally, the picture is a little less bleak, thanks in part to trailblazers like former Normal Mayor Carol Reitan, former Bloomington Mayor Judy Markowitz, and former McLean County Board chair Nancy Froelich.

“We still have miles to go before we sleep,” said Diana Hauman, a former Bloomington City Council member and mayoral candidate, who will be a facilitator for Tuesday’s event.

Hauman said she often thinks about her granddaughter, then 10, who was very, very disappointed four years ago when she woke up the day after the election without a female president-elect.

“By not having a more diverse pool of candidates and more diverse representation, what we are saying to our daughters, granddaughters, and our nieces about their value?” Hauman said. “Are we saying that because you’re a woman you don’t have the same ability as other people do?”

McLean County Democratic Party chair Nikita Richards, who ran unsuccessfully for county clerk in 2018, agreed there has been progress locally. But she said she’s troubled by the “the lack of intersectionality that’s taking place.”

“We’re still seeing very little women of color be either encouraged or brought into the fold, not provided with the resources, not even believed that they have what it takes to run for office or serve in government,” Richards said. “We have such a long way to go as it relates to inclusion and understanding who has the power to be heard or served.”

Women candidates tend to face a fundraising disadvantage, especially if they challenge an incumbent. Richards said women of color also may face socioeconomic challenges that make working a day job, running for office, and parenting a very steep hill to climb without help.

“And let’s not forgot how women running for office have to meet this unrealistic measure of being quote-unquote ‘likable,’” Richards said. “It’s this unfair metric that we have to undergo in comparison to our male counterparts.”

Still, Richards said the biggest barrier isn’t all that complicated: Women, especially women of color, simply don’t get asked to run at all.

“The first thing we need to do is ask them,” she said.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.