By ALLIE LEWIS No matter what level of government you might be interested in serving, political hopefuls face no shortage of obstacles when it comes to getting elected - or even just getting their names on the ballot. The number of hurtles women face,
No matter what level of government you might be interested in serving, political hopefuls face no shortage of obstacles when it comes to getting elected — or even just getting their names on the ballot. The number of hurtles women face, however, can dissuade many from even deciding to run in the first place.
Despite making up the majority of our national population, only a small percentage of women hold office. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, as of April 2021, women only hold 26.9 percent of the seats in Congress, 31.1 percent of state legislatures seats and 30.5 percent of local municipal offices.
All of these figures are record breaking numbers.
Thankfully, there are women here in Cranston who are running and winning.
Last week, a handful of these women visited the Cranston Central Library to talk to the Teen Team about what it’s like to run and hold office.
Cranston Citywide Councilwoman Nicole Renzulli shared how she became involved in public service and ways they might consider doing the same. For her, some of her earliest involvement began on student councils and school improvement committees when she was their age.
“I think I learned at a young age that if you want something to change, then you have to be a part of it, you have to ask questions, you have to dig in, you have to bring your own ideas,” Renzulli said. “It’s one thing to have a complaint and speak out, but it’s another thing to say, ‘Hey, I have this idea. Let’s do this instead.’ Because then you’re being part of the change.”
Ward 2 City Councilwoman Aniece Germain shared similar advice with teens. When asked about what advice she’d give to a young person one day hoping to run for office, Germain stressed the importance of finding a cause they were passionate about, and searching for ways they might be able to fix the issue.
A big part of her job, she told teens, is helping her constituents address their problems and concerns. She frequently receives calls and emails from fellow community members, and when she’s sitting in council chambers voting on laws and ordinances, she’s thinking of them.
“My first job is to be the voice of the people,” Germain said.
The work of governing isn’t easy, and when asked about how she balances her current career with all her responsibilities in public service, Citywide Councilwoman Jessica Marino didn’t sugar coat anything. Between her council duties and her work as civil litigation defense attorney, there’s been a lot to juggle.
She knew that going into public service, however, and these were the kinds of conversations she had with her family before deciding to run for office.
While being a mother to young school-age children is often a deterrent to many women seeking political office, Renzulli told a group of young teens that it’s one the reasons that drove her to run in the first place.
“I think it’s really important — especially as a woman and when you have daughters — to show them it can be done,” she said.
At times, Renzulli’s work on the City Council comes home with her, but that isn’t always a bad thing. When her young daughter asked her to come to career day at school, and then proudly told the entire class that her mom was a city councilwoman, Renzlli realized how important an example she’s been setting.
From the Rhode Island General Assembly, Rep. Jacquelyn Baginski (Dist. 17 — Cranston) and Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (Dist. 27 — Cranston, West Warwick) shared a little bit about what happens at the State House, and the important roles they play in getting legislation passed.
In the weeks leading up to their visit to the Cranston Central Library, the Teen Team had discussed the different levels and functions of government, though hearing some real word, first-hand examples from Baginski helped build a better picture.
While Baginski played out examples of ways that local, state and federal laws are different from one another, Gallo went into some of the ins and outs of getting legislation passed. One of the most important parts of getting a bill onto the governor's desk, she told them, is being able to compromise.
“If you’re not able to compromise, then you’re not going to be able to get that bill,” Gallo told them. “Because at the end of the day, unless there’s compromise and everybody can agree on it, then it doesn’t really work.”
Compromises won’t always be reached, and sometimes you won’t be able to get any kind of bill passed, but Gallo, Germain and Marino stressed the importance of not getting discouraged and continuing to press forward.
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