Panel showcases women in politics

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April 12, 2019

Two Massachusetts state senators and a Kentucky state representative discussed their journeys into politics, lives as politicians and political engagement at the state level. Massachusetts State Senators Diana DiZoglio and Cindy Friedman and Kentucky State Representative Attica Scott also gave advice to women trying to get involved in politics.

DiZoglio never expected to work in government. She said that, by chance, she got offered a job at the Massachusetts State House, where she was inspired to run for government based on what she saw happening. She first ran in the 2012 election, where she joined the Massachusetts House of Representatives. She held that position until she ran for State Senate in 2018.

In college, DiZoglio majored in psychology and Spanish because she knew she wanted to help her surrounding community, which has a large Dominican and Puerto Rican population. “I knew I was going to be able to make a difference for my community for some of the injustices that I saw and the struggles that I saw,” she said during the panel.

Friedman began her career as a teacher before moving to the field of technology. Even when she was not working for the government, she was very active in her community. Her first election was a special election in 2017, which she won.

Scott was drawn to politics from a young age, since her parents were extremely involved in the political scene. Before running, she was a campaign manager for her friend who was running for office. However, she and a group of her friends noticed a major lack of representation for African American women in Kentucky government and decided to run.

Her first election was in 2014, when she won a city council seat. In 2016, she ran for the House of Representatives for the first time, where she won and defended her seat in 2018. “It wasn’t really about me… I was simply the voice and the body that was carrying the message forward,” she said.

All three women care about the limitations they experience as women in politics and want to encourage more women to get involved. “I think that politician was one of those careers that wasn’t made salient to me as something that women did,” DiZoglio said.

They also all said that beyond entry barriers, elected women in office still face difficulties. DiZoglio mentioned how she used to wear bland clothes in an attempt to look older since other, more experienced members would not respect her.

Friedman also spoke about the importance of self-reflection and not changing because of politics. “If you try to be something other than what you are, you will fail at some point,” she said at the panel. “It’s so hard to not be who you are.”

This event was an Educational Network for Active Civic Transformation (ENACT) course. ENACT is a national program that engages colleges in state-level legislative change by working with different groups to increase policy, according to their website. Their programs give students the opportunity to learn about “participating in the legislative and advocacy process at the state level, with a substantial hands-on component in which they engage directly with that process,” according to the ENACT website.

The talk was part of a series hosted by ENACT, the legal studies and politics departments, social justice and social policy program and the women’s, gender and sexuality studies program.

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