CO Women’s Legislative Breakfast’s call to action

Colorado elected officials spoke at breakfast. Photo: Genessa Gutzait · The Sentry

A bipartisan celebration of women’s activism
Colorado elected officials spoke at breakfast.
Photo: Genessa Gutzait · The Sentry

The Colorado Women’s Legislative Breakfast celebrated their 30th anniversary on Feb. 26. The purpose of the event is to “discuss the most pertinent women’s issues of the day,” Duranya Freeman, a member of the planning committee, said.

The event began with introductory remarks from Lauren Casteel, President and CEO of the Women’s Foundation of Colorado. Casteel noted that with its 30th year “today’s breakfast is a milestone,” adding that the event was a great way to celebrate both “women in office” and “individuals seeking to create change.” 

Casteel also mentioned another milestone: Colorado is now one of two state legislatures in the country with a female majority. “Representation matters,” Casteel insisted.

The breakfast featured a panel that included current and former office-holders, Former Sen. Beth Martinez-Humenik, Sen. Julie Gonzales, Rep. Leslie Herod, and Former Sen. Nancy Spence, as well as Chaer Robert, Family Economic Security Program Director for the Colorado Center on Law and Policy.

The panel was noticeably bipartisan, as Martinez-Humenik and Spence are Republicans, while Herod and Gonzales are Democrats.

Acknowledging the importance of bipartisanship, Martinez-Humenik said, “We need to have everyone at the table talking about things… We all have different perspectives.”

Crisanta Duran, the former Colorado Speaker of the State Legislature and the breakfast’s keynote speaker, echoed this sentiment, stating, “In times of challenge, we must work together.”

The event speakers also discussed challenges of being female leaders. Sen. Gonzales said, “I did not come to this work lightly… I had to be asked multiple times.” She said she then realized many less qualified men were running and decided she needed to “step up.”

Duran described a similar experience with being a woman running for office, stating, “I knew I worked twice as hard to be the first Latina Speaker of the House in the country.”

Sen. Martinez-Humenik also extended the need for female leaders to step up to audience members, insisting, “Any one of you can run for office. You just have to have the will.”

Organizers also used the event to highlight issues that many women struggle with. Casteel discussed how many women face “anxiety that comes from paying for childcare,” or “trying to pay for sick family members.”

Judith Marquez, a lead organizer for 9 to 5 Colorado, also spoke at the event and spoke of women juggling multiple responsibilities. 9 to 5 is an organization that advocates for paid family leave, an issue affecting many young parents in Colorado and throughout the country.

“Women carry so much of caregiving in our society,” Marquez said, adding that she knows of women returning to work 10 days after giving birth.

Freeman, as an event organizer, believes student activists should take inspiration from the women’s breakfast and the featured speakers.

“Students, who are right in the mix of current issues and are already so passionate about making a difference, are absolutely the ones who need to get involved with advocacy organizations and campaigns to shape the Colorado they want to see in the future,” Freeman said. “I think the panelists spoke well to how important it is to take action on issues you care about, no matter how young you are.”

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