Panelists Talk Challenges Faced by Women in Mass. Politics at Harvard Event

Women, Politics, and MA
Five panelists discussed ways to increase female political representation in Massachusetts Wednesday afternoon in CGIS South.

A small group of students gathered to hear female politicians and experts discuss how women fare in Massachusetts politics at a Harvard panel Wednesday afternoon.

The panelists included Mass. Rep. Denise Provost and Rep-Elect Nika C. Elugardo, both Democrats, along with Executive Director of Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus Laurie Martinelli and Northeastern Political Science Professor Eileen L. McDonagh. Each shared her own experience and encouraged more women to run for office.

Sparsha Saha, Ph.D. candidate and Expository Writing preceptor for “Sexism in Politics,” organized the event.

Panelists said last week’s midterm elections made them feel cautiously optimistic about the outlook for women in politics.

“Women voted in historic numbers, and women ran for office in historic numbers,” Martinelli said. “The recent turnout is very inspiring. We must be optimistic.”

Provost and Elugardo said they each faced unique challenges as women running for office in a historically male-dominated field. Provost said she first ran for office in 1993, causing her to realize politics can be “a pretty rough occupation” dominated by “a boys’ network.”

“After I was first elected, I had nails spread across my driveway,” she said. “Park rangers and managerial staff in buildings will call you ‘Honey’ or ‘Dear’ to remind you of your place. You’re frequently asking yourself, ‘Am I going to be the person who objects to this stuff?”’

Elugardo said she received less direct backlash than the women before her, gesturing…

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