Colorado Women’s Chamber hosts forum on women in government
Panelists encourage local women to get involved
The Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce held a panel titled “Women in Government,” asserting that the purpose of the event was to facilitate “an important discussion on how to get more women into government positions,” according to their Facebook page.
The panel included two Colorado state representatives, Democrat Brianna Titone (pictured second from right) and Republican Kim Ransom (far right), as well as RTD Director Shontel Lewis (far left), Arapahoe County Commissioner Nancy Sharpe (third from left), and Denver City Councilmember Debbie Ortega (third from right). Emerge Colorado Executive Director Michal Rosenoer facilitated the discussion. Emerge is a nationwide organization that recruits and trains democratic women to run for elected office.
Many panelists emphasized the importance of getting involved in one’s local community whenever an opportunity presents itself as an avenue to enter politics. “I was volunteering for people running for school board…I wanted to make sure my children were well-educated,” Rep. Ransom explained.
Other panelists articulated how their personal experiences drew them to politics. Rep. Titone, who is the first transgender representative elected to the Colorado legislature, explained that coming out inspired her to get involved in politics. “I started to become active in the political world because I’d lost all privilege that I’d had,” Titone said.
Lewis, who is African American, also said her personal experiences inspired her to get involved. As a Denver native who benefited from school busing growing up, Lewis explained, “At a very young age I became aware of what it took to create access and barriers to that access.”
As a moderator, Rosenoer discussed challenges new candidates face when running for office. “Unfortunately, running for office and being in office requires completely different skill sets,” Rosenoer said. Rosenoer then asked the panelists how they overcame the often-intimidating process of promoting one’s own political campaign to strangers.
Many panelists described being initially hesitant to knock on voters’ doors during election season. “I knocked on close to 800 doors. I got really good at having a consistent message,” Titone said.
Commissioner Sharpe assured attendees who were considering running for office, “It is not that hard to walk in neighborhoods…people just want to talk to you. They want to get to know you.”
Councilmember Debbie Ortega explained there are certain challenges to being a female elected official. She said male legislators often met with each other to discuss business at bars, and she didn’t feel that she could do that. “I learned to play golf. A lot of people do business on the golf course,” Ortega said.
Ortega, who represented the Auraria campus in Council District 9 before being elected as an at-large city councilmember, also added that there are challenges to being a Latina woman in politics.
“Sometimes you have to work twice as hard to show people you can get the job done,” Ortega explained.
However, Ortega also expressed optimism about the progress that’s been made. “This is the first time Denver has had five Latina women on the city council. We also have majority women,” Ortega stated. This growing diversity could indicate more opportunities for women, especially women of color, will continue to open for those wanting to enter politics.