The Asian Pacific Islander Caucus hosted Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, State Senator Holly Mitchell and Mayor Pro Tempore of Sierra Madre Rachelle Arizmendi, who discussed their experiences as women in politics Friday at Ronald Tutor Campus Center.
As women of color, each of the panelists had to overcome the perceptions of their peers to not only get elected, but also to make a difference.
“When I first ran, I was told I wasn’t qualified because I didn’t have enough life experience, and I didn’t have a husband,” Garcia said. “I think we have multiple cards of our identity. I’ve been hustling because I’m a woman, because I am brown, because my parents are immigrants.”
Ultimately, the most important part of that skillset is self-confidence. Mitchell, a state senator, said that she identifies as a “grown-ass woman” who is capable of taking charge of her life and exerting control in a male-dominated world.
“I’m teaching a seminar at Mount St. Mary’s, and I am struck by number of times I am asked the question ‘How do you manage in a male-dominated arena?’” Mitchell said. “Frankly, my initial response is ‘How does a man manage in my world? He must have a hard time.’”
Confidence and self-knowledge helped each of the women to feel like they belong in the world they chose to work in, even when they don’t have all the answers.
“As long as you know why you’re running, who you are, what you value and what your principles are and you’re abiding by those, you should never feel like an imposter,” Arizmendi said.
In the midst of establishing themselves in the political sphere, Mitchell said it was difficult to maintain their own lives, especially as a mother.
“There is no such thing as balance,” Mitchell said. “I think juggle is a more accurate term, and your goal is to never let a ball come crashing down. You never have it all completely together or perfect even.”
Part of the “image of flux” has to include a place for taking care of yourself, Garcia said.
“When I first got into office, I was actually the worst example of remembering myself,” Garcia said. “I had to figure out weaknesses and have someone who would supplement them boss me around. I’ve become a much better legislator as a result.”
The panel also discussed the difficulties in raising funds for campaigns, each noting that it’s easier in many ways for a man to do so than a female candidate.
“People will give more to men then they give to women, and they don’t even know why. Institutionally, there’s some bias,” Mitchell said. “We have to figure it out.”
The state senator also put out a call to action for women to become more active in giving financial support to female candidates.
“Women have to learn to write checks and give,” Mitchell said. “That’s not something we’ve done across the board in terms of political donations.“Women have to break through that glass ceiling of writing checks of significance to your candidates of choice.”
The panelists were also asked about their thoughts on the Women’s March that occurred last weekend. Though each of them believed the march was beneficial, they wanted to see it as a beginning to something larger.
“Hopefully that’s just a start, a spark for people to really get to the next step because really it was an amazing day, great pictures, great energy and just the passion that people had,” Arizmendi said. “That passion and energy needs to carry over and result in some kind of action because that in itself will not change what everyone is so angry about.”