Student Government celebrated women’s history month Wednesday night with a panel discussing women in politics.
The panel, held in the Russell House Ballroom, not only featured local council people and senators, but also women in politics-adjacent positions like journalism or lobbying groups.
Panelists included state senator Mia McLeod, public relations adviser Amanda Loveday, political reporter for AP News Meg Kinnard, city councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine and policy lobbyist for Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN) Ashley Lidow.
The panel was hosted by Student Government in partnership with South Carolina WREN. Student Body Vice President Mills Hayes, who spearheaded the idea, said she thought the event was important for women’s history month, especially because she is the only female executive on the presidential staff.
“I think it was really important for me to showcase to students that it is possible to be a female in the political landscape and hear from them,” Hayes said. “Being able to see other women who have succeeded in their fields, specifically with politics in mind, it’s really encouraging, and I think we need more women in government.”
During the panel, Hayes asked the women various questions about their backgrounds, history in politics, perspectives and other topics. At one point, Devine spoke about how women are important in politics beyond mere representation because of the perspective they bring.
“We need more women because we add to the conversation,” Devine said. “If you don’t have women at the table, if you don’t have African-Americans at the table, if you don't have Jewish-Americans at the table, the list goes on and on. You have to have diverse voices in order for you to get the best policy.”
At another point in the panel, Hayes asked the panelists their thoughts on the idea that encouraging women to run from office discouraged men from doing the same. Ashley Lidow of WREN responded by saying that men aren’t discouraged from politics in the way that women were.
“Basically our entire society has always told us to play a certain role, and we are supposed to stay in our lane. So when we are trying to change what our lane is, people see it as a threat, because they think we’re coming in their lane,” Lidow said. "It’s not something that men should be threatened by, and if they are threatened, then they need to toughen up and actually do better.”
First-year public health student Laura-Louise Rice, who attended the event, found the panelists' words significant because she is interested in politics.
“It was really awesome to hear from different women in so many different areas of politics in areas of the South Carolina community talk about their leadership and what their experience has been as women in politics,” Rice said. “I think that female representation and equality in those type of positions is really important so that they can accurately represent the interests of everyone.”
Devine said she hoped that the event would encourage female students at the university to consider political careers for themselves.
“We need more women in elected and appointed bodies,” Devine said. “It really doesn’t matter whatever obstacles you think there are. Women have always overcome obstacles, and so you can actually see yourself in these positions by just coming to events like this.”