WGPP hosts five powerhouse female policymakers for discussion on women in elected office

April 7, 2015

Women and Gender in Public Policy (WGPP – pronounced “whip”), a student organization at the Ford School, recently hosted five of Michigan’s leading female policymakers for a discussion on women in elected office. The April 2nd event was covered by Emma Kinery in the recent Michigan Daily article, “Female elected officials talk experiences in office.” Discussants included:

  • United States Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI),
  • Former Michigan Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing),
  • State Representative Gretchen Driskell (D-Saline, MPA ‘15),
  • U-M Regents Chairperson Kathy White (D-Ann Arbor), and
  • State Representative Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit, MPP/MSW ‘14).

During the event, the distinguished panelists addressed a raft of issues, including increasing women’s representation at all levels of government, the critical skills women bring to the policymaking process, and the unique challenges that women face when running for and holding elected office. Whitmer, who will teach a course at the Ford School in fall 2015, noted that the 2008 general election brought the chamber’s gender ratio to an all-time high of 12 women to 38 men. Illustrating a significant decline in that number over recent elections, she said that, “in the last session, there were more men named John in the Michigan Senate than women.”

When asked about the motivation behind organizing the discussion, WGPP leader Megan Foster Friedman (MPP '16) said, “this is an issue really near and dear to my heart – getting more women to think about running for office.” Hearing from women leaders at multiple levels of government, she said, will hopefully encourage them to do just that. At the event’s conclusion, the panel posed a question to the audience: “who here is considering running for office?” A sea of hands rose around the room.

Congresswoman Dingell, a member of the Ford School Committee, had earlier called for women to continue supporting one another in their work – a call which she and her fellow discussants happily answered, as they often do, by offering their support and mentorship to the next generation of female policymakers and thought leaders. WGPP leader Myra Lee (MPP '16), who co-organized the event with Foster Friedman, expressed her gratitude for "being approached by each panelist with a sincere interest to stay in touch and willingness to provide support to my aspirations to run for office."

To view photos from the event, visit the Ford School's Flickr album.

--By Nick Pfost (MPP '15)

Formed in 2002, Women and Gender in Public Policy engages the Ford School community in a dialogue about gender and related domestic and international public policies. WGPP promotes professional development activities by facilitating communication and networking among current students, Ford School alumni, faculty, and working professionals to form a lasting community of policy professionals. This event was cosponsored by the Ford School's Graduate Career Services Office.