Ohio State’s chapter of the American Association of University Women was formed just this semester, and hit the ground running on Thursday by hosting a discussion with Columbus City Councilwoman Elizabeth Brown.
“AAUW is really focused on making sure that women still have a place in leadership and women still have a place in government,” said Helena Rudoff, Vice President of AAUW and fourth-year in environment, economy, development and sustainability. “(Hearing a councilmember speak) gives students an opportunity to recognize their leadership roles right across the street from them.”
Brown, who began her term in January, talked about her work in social justice, women’s rights, and racial inequality in Columbus. She answered questions facilitated by AAUW, as well as from audience members, addressing topics such as unemployment rates in Columbus, the representation of women in politics and the recent presidential election.
“My work in nonprofits and work doing direct service is very important to how I function as an elected official,” said Brown, the daughter of Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. “When you’re fighting for a cause, it’s about the people you’re fighting for, and what you’re fighting against.”
Brown opened up about the difficulty of holding a public office as a woman, and pointed to the bind that she said she and many other female leaders get caught in.
“There is a narrow space that you can occupy that is serious and smart, but also approachable. There is less wiggle room for women to find that space,” she said. “Studies show that women are just as likely to win an election as men are, but are less likely to be asked to run.”
Kyndal Sowers, a second-year in political science, said she found the talk useful to her career aspirations.
“I definitely liked listening to her advice for women who are thinking about running for office one day because I think that’s definitely something I want to do,” Sowers said. “There are definitely challenges for women in office and women running for office, but [Brown’s advice] helped me gain a more positive outlook on that.”
Currently, Brown is working on legislation to combat the unemployment rates in Columbus, specifically among those with criminal backgrounds.
“Central Columbus has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Ohio,” Brown said. “We’re working on something that will hopefully open up more job opportunities to restored citizens.”
AAUW and Councilwoman Brown encourage political activism for students and to network with people in desired fields.
“I hope that women who are interested in public policy and social justice were able to gain some insight into how the process actually functions,” Brown told The Lantern after the event. “The vibrancy of a student population adds so much to the community.”
AAUW hopes that the event highlighted what the club can do for all OSU students, no matter their gender.
“We want this to be an organization for everyone,” Rudoff said. “If you believe that women have a place in leadership, if women deserve to have power over their own bodies, if you believe that they deserve equal pay for equal work, you belong here.”