by Ryan Potaracke
I recently relocated back to my hometown of Rochester and was looking for more meaningful and insightful adult interaction than I was finding in the local bar scene. I found just what I was looking for when a co-worker introduced me to Women on Wednesdays.
With last season’s topics and presenters, I felt I became more informed on several issues important to the Rochester community that I had previously neglected to consider. As a self-expressed political conservative, I was challenged with topics like “Growing up Black in Rochester” “Modern Day Sister” and “Incarcerated Females: Is Orange the New Black” to think outside of my personal, political, religious and ethical comfort zones, and was provided a wealth of information that helped me make more informed decisions based on information and insight I would not have been exposed to otherwise.
As a woman who has battled depression and other mental health issues for most of my life, I found strength and comfort in listening to the women who spoke at “Intimacy and Illness,” that despite our health struggles being different, I was not alone in my experiences relating to intimacy.
With my grandmother becoming increasingly ill last year, the session on “Integrating the Arts into Clinical and End of Life Care” helped me find a way to communicate with her in new, exciting ways and helped me to create memories that I can now carry with me forever after her passing.
Perhaps most importantly, I became connected with a strong, mindful, and forward-thinking group of women (and men) that I might not otherwise have gotten to know. After just one season of participation, I feel more connected with myself, my beliefs, and my community and I am excited to learn and grow even more with this upcoming season.
The schedule of topics for this season looks to be just as enlightening and relevant to our community, starting with “Women in Politics” on September28. With women featured on this November’s ballots at almost every level of elected office, Women on Wednesdays has gathered a group of panelists who have been elected to local and state office to discuss why they decided to run, what challenges they and other women face, and their experiences in the political field.
“When women run for office, they have the same chance of winning as men do. The difference is that, for a variety of reasons, fewer women run,” said Sheila Kiscaden, former Minnesota State Senator and scheduled panelist for this month’s Women on Wednesday forum. “While there are more women running than when I first ran for office, consider this data: across the state of Minnesota, only 14% of county commissioners are women; 16% of mayors are women; 27% of city council members are women; 33% of legislators are women; 40% of school board members are women.”
While this may sound disheartening, Kiscaden finds a silver lining: “Younger women are thinking about or running for office more than was the case ten or twenty years ago. That is an encouraging sign, especially if we want to have those who serve in office reflect the demographics of our population.”
Other scheduled panelists for this month’s forum include Tina Liebling from the Minnesota House of Representatives and Sandra Means from the Rochester City Council.
“Public service, especially elected service, provides a space at the table which allows decision-making that positively affects the organization and communities served,” said city council member Means.
“Women’s voices may or may not be that different from men, but they certainly have different perspectives based on their life experiences. I believe that women’s holistic voices have the ability to provide different and valued perspectives and approaches as servant leadership. I believe women listen, speak and approach issues creatively to resolve difficult situations and help bring consensus in a very constructive manner.”