Insight from a State Legislator on Women in the Public Sector and Community Engagement
by Linda Dorcena Forry, State Representative of the 12th Suffolk District in Massachusetts
I was thrilled to see women of all ages and cultures come together under one roof for the 7th annual Massachusetts Conference for Women (MCW) this year. The MCW is the pinnacle event for women-owned businesses and entrepreneurs to learn from each other about best practices and advance their professional careers. One of the highlights this year was the new concept, only in its second year, of a Local Leaders Meet Up Corner. Speaking with attendees at that event, I was able to offer insight from my experience as a state legislator and in my role as the House chair of the Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Business.
It was wonderful to see more women aspiring to become political, business, and civic leaders within their communities. There is a lack of women’s voices in government at the municipal, state, and federal levels. Out of the 200 members in our legislature in Massachusetts, only 49 are women, and of those only five are women of color. We need more women in the public sector not only because women advocate for and support the issues most important to women, but because we bring unique perspectives and talents to every issue.
Despite spending my entire career in public service, the thought of running for office never really occurred to me and that is not unusual. Studies show that women are significantly less likely and less willing than men to run for elected office, but when they do, they have an equal chance of winning. I first ran for office in 2005, won as an unknown, and have won ever re-election since then.
So in the spirit of the MCW, my suggestions for those thinking of becoming more actively engaged in the public sector or growing their small businesses are these: discover and know the currently available resources around you; start building relationships with others who have the same interests; and most importantly, get involved in your community. If you have any questions, you can contact my office at (617) 722-2080 or visit lindadorcenaforry.org.