Our Women's Leadership Council Panel Discussion in the News!

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Speaker Series Features Lake County Women in Politics

By Chad Felton, The News-Herald, published 4/14/16 online & print 4/15/16

Are women in the political sphere across the board treated differently than men, particularly in the current atmosphere?

That query, met with audible, expected incredulity, was posed to about 90 attendees at the United Way of Lake County’s Women’s Leadership Council’s Women in Lake County Politics panel discussion April 14 at Mooreland Mansion on the campus of Lakeland Community College in Kirtland.

The question’s overwhelming collective response, regardless of individual opinions of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, was an emphatic, “Yes.”

Five women from various Lake County political offices addressed the sold-out breakfast event, discussing their personal involvement in politics, how their views have changed, what changes they would like to see occur in Lake County politics and advice for women thinking of pursuing office.

The panelists included county Domestic Relations Judge Colleen A. Falkowski; county Commissioner Judy Moran, who also serves as the panel’s president; county Recorder Ann M. Radcliffe; county Board of Elections Director Janet F. Clair; and Painesville City Council Vice President Lori DiNallo.

Falkowski said both women in the presidential race have had “disasters in their professional lives,” but have successfully moved forward, despite still being addressed condescendingly by men.

“Mostly Fiorina and Clinton are called ‘beyotches,’ by so many men, simply because they disagree them,” Falkowski said, referring to the colloquialism of the traditional insult. “They have been treated different. There needs to be variance and compromise so we can have a return to (bipartisan) civility.”

Commissioner Moran concurred with Falkowski, adding that the women in the race, and in politics everywhere, see their “baggage” highlighted exponentially more than any male candidate.

“We all need to work together,” she said. “We’re in such close proximity.”

Falkowski stressed the importance of the United Way of Lake County’s Women’s Leadership Council as an affiliate program to affect genuine change for women in politics and in life, asserting that motivation and commitment can overcome perceived and established gender and cultural boundaries.

“Caring about those in the community and dedicating time to get them in better situations are big challenges, but we are a giving county,” she said. “This organization is a great example of that. People don’t realize how many gaps it fills. We are here to lend a hand and we want to help.”

The Women’s Leadership Council’s underwent a rebirth in 2013 and is now comprised of a volunteer committee, a grants committee, an executive oversights committee and a membership committee.

Last year, the council awarded about $18,000 in grants to seven different Lake County-based agencies, all sharing the mission to help girls and women in need in Lake County, and to impact lives through philanthropic efforts of advocating, educating, giving and volunteering.

Grant submissions for 2016 are being reviewed and are anticipated to be awarded in mid-June.

Tami Lewis, director of marketing and communications for United Way of Lake County, said the event at Mooreland is the first in the organization’s Speaker Series, which aims to help educate the women of Lake County and to empower them to drive the type of change that lifts the community as a whole and creates a better life for Lake County residents.

“We continue to seek new members to join us,” Lewis said. “Our goal is to double our current roster of 50. We want to continue to grow in diversity and represent women of different ages, ethnic backgrounds, professions and interests with the shared belief in the work of the United Way of Lake County’s Women’s Leadership Council.

“These five esteemed women in our community and the challenges and lessons they’ve learned in their respective offices really give a voice to our community and inspire others to do the same,” Lewis said.

As of April 14, Ali Hughes of Polychem Corp. became the chairwoman of the Women’s Leadership Council. Kathleen Buse’s had expired. Buse is a Case Western Reserve University adjunct professor and president of Advancing Women in STEM.

Hughes said she has a lot of great ideas for the future of the council.

“We have a great group of women and we’re going to continue to build,” she said. “We welcome new people to our open meetings. It was great to hear from top leaders in Lake County today. We hope their stories resonate with everyone.”