UMD College Democrats Host Panel on Women in Politics

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The panelists ready themselves for discussion as a member of College Democrats introduce the women chosen to speak.

by NAOMI HARRIS

As of this year, women hold 18.5 percent of seats out of 535 in the House and 20 percent of the 100 seats in the Senate.

So why are the numbers so low?

Last Tuesday, a panel hosted by College Democrats convened to discuss why women hardly run for office, why it’s essential to have a more equal ratio and why women face discouragement.

“I was doing what other women do, asking others to run, primarily men,” Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) said at the panel.

Edwards didn’t run for Congress until 2006 despite an early start in the political world. She said that women aren’t invited to run and aren’t given the same opportunities in politics as men.

Despite losing the first time, she ran again in 2008 and won the election with 86 percent of votes.

“When women run, they win at the same rates as men,” government and politics professor Frances Lee said to the room of students at Stamp.

Edwards faced criticism about her short hair and her smile while she campaigned and at one point received an email critiquing her fashion choice by a male voter.

“It becomes about how she looks and not what she can bring to the table,” Daniella Urbina, program coordinator for Emily’s List PAC, said.

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The panel consisting of Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Professor Frances Lee and program coordinator Daniella Urbina.

She said that in the political world, men have established their presence.

“The reason for that is men have been doing this longer.”

Lee echoed Edwards’ story of being discouraged from running.

She also stated that women are actually perceived to handle health care, education among other topics more successfully.

But the number of women in office still speaks volumes.

“Your generation is going to flip the script on the way my generation and past generations have written it for women who want to move up,” Edwards said.

When speaking on women running for office, Edwards said, “Don’t let anybody talk you out of it.”

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