BWLN symposium addresses women’s impact in the workforce and political spheres

On March 5, the Birnbaum Women’s Leadership Network (BWLN) hosted a half-day symposium exploring policies to address the unique hardships faced by women during the pandemic and ways to sustain and deepen women’s civic engagement in the future. 

The event concluded with a keynote conversation between US Representative Katie Porter, who represents California’s 45th Congressional District, and Frederick I. and Grace Stokes Professor of Law and BLWN faculty director Melissa Murray. Porter shared ways in which her experience as an attorney and law professor and her scholarship on consumer bankruptcy have helped her address complex issues as a legislator, and she discussed the benefits of strengthening social safety nets and the importance of increasing diversity among government leaders.

Selected remarks from the discussion:

Katie Porter: “[In] academia, people would say to me, ‘Well, it's so nice that your work can be understood by regular people,’ meaning that I had simple ideas about simple, you know, everyday people, and corporate bankruptcy was just a little too tricky for me. That was not true then, it’s not true now. The reality is I was fighting for individual people and thinking about family and household economic stability, because in a capitalist society that’s the building block. In a democracy, that’s the building block. And if families can’t make ends meet, if they can’t afford childcare, they can’t afford college, they can’t afford a roof over their head, the rest of the economic and social issues start to fray.” [Video 2:49:44]

Porter: “[More diversity in the US House of Representatives] has made a huge, huge, difference in terms of what issues get talked about, and what issues get priority. Because we’ve not just increased the number of women or the number of people of color, but we’ve increased

the representation, the representation of those women. So we have women now who have been nurses, we have women who have been single moms or are single moms like me, we have lesbian mothers, we have people whose siblings and children are non-binary or non-gender conforming, and so we read legislation and think about issues from a different perspective.” [Video 3:03:05]

Melissa Murray: “This year, we really saw [that] even the basic things that families have come to rely on, whether it’s cobbled-together childcare networks, grandparent childcare networks, and schools, just absolutely collapse in the weight of this pandemic. Not only could families not withstand those shocks, the economy couldn’t withstand those shocks. So why hasn’t it become clearer to those in Washington [DC] that if we don’t support the family, if we don’t stop thinking of the family as a private entity—and, you know, family distress is not simply a personal failure, but a collective public failure—[then] we’re not going to have an economy that runs and can withstand the kinds of shocks that we’ve experienced over the last year?” [Video 2:51:12]

Watch the full discussion on video:

Politics, Power, and Women’s Leadership: Panel 1 - Rebuilding Better

Politics, Power, and Women’s Leadership: Panel 2 - Maintaining Momentum

Politics, Power, and Women’s Leadership: Keynote – Being the Leader You Want to See in the World

Posted July 20, 2021