In a state and a country where women are underrepresented in the halls of political power, the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee held its 14th annual luncheon on Friday at the Montecito Country Club to discuss electing and keeping women in office.
Susan Rose, one of the committee’s founders and a former county supervisor, moderated a panel discussion between Supervisor Janet Wolf, City Councilmember Cathy Murillo, and School Boardmember Monique Limón that focused more on their personal achievements than helping women break through glass ceilings. That may be because there aren’t many more glass ceilings left to break in Santa Barbara, as the audience demonstrated, with Mayor Helene Schneider, U.S. Representative Lois Capps, and State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson — among others — in attendance.
“When women come together, we get things done,” said Capps in an opening speech, citing the role women played in the 15 percent higher voter turnout in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties in the 2014 midterm elections. Capps went on to call out “tone deaf” Republicans in the House of Representatives for trying to repeal healthcare for women and restrict access to abortion.
During the panel discussion, Wolf, Murillo, and Limón spoke mostly about the passion they have for holding office, and Limón and Murillo both emphasized the pride they take in representing the Latino vote.
“It’s really important to have everyone represented on a governing body,” said Murillo. “People look and see someone in political office, and they recognize themselves, and they think that that person is responding to them and their experience. What if we had 20 Latino candidates lining up right now to run for everything? That would be awesome.”
Overall, the panelists encouraged greater female participation in politics across the board, calling for more female volunteers, committee members, and candidates.
“I hear a lot of women who say, ‘I just don’t like politics’… but we have politics in every space of our lives,” said Limón. “In public office in our community, women are very much needed.” Limón agreed with the other panelists to mentor young women interested in politics. In the upcoming elections, there are going to be 50 open positions in public office at the Santa Barbara County level alone, Rose said.
The discussion ended with a call to action in support of efforts to close the gender wage gap. Wolf advocated for pressuring the U.S. Civil Service Commission, and State Assemblymember Das Williams spoke in favor of Jackson’s recently introduced bill to address the wage gap in California.
The Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee hosts many similar events year-round, as well as educational meetings and candidate-skills workshops, to promote gender equality and other feminist values through political and social action.