A group of professional women and elected officials came together to discuss sexual harassment, health care, lack of equal representation in politics and other issues facing Texas women at The Texas Tribune’s first women’s symposium in Dallas. Watch the full event above, or check out this recap:
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: “We have to value women.”
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, expressed her support for the #MeToo movement and made it clear that she’s not making excuses for former U.S. Sen. Al Franken, a fellow Democrat who resigned from the Senate after several women accused him of sexual misconduct.
Gillibrand, who has two sons, said she would not be a good mother or leader if she stayed silent about men from her own party who are accused of sexual harassment.
“The question is, fundamentally, do we value women? And if the answer is no, then that is not good enough. We have to value women,” Gillibrand said.
Gillibrand said she believes the women who have accused President Donald Trump of sexual harassment are telling the truth, and said it was outrageous that there have been no hearings to “give these women one measure of justice.”
Access is key when it comes to women’s health care in Texas.
A group of women’s health professionals joined Republican state Rep. Stephanie Klick to discuss the state of health care for women in Texas. Giving more women easy access to that health care was the underlying theme.
Marsha Jones, the executive director of The Afiya Center, which describes itself as a reproductive justice organization, said her biggest concern about women’s health care in Texas is the lack of conversation about how maternal mortality and HIV are affecting black women specifically.
Klick said there are a lot of things that can still be done in the Legislature to improve access to health care for women, and said lack of access to health care for rural women is her biggest worry. Thirty-five counties in Texas don’t have a single physician, and 147 counties have no OB-GYNs, according to Klick.
Women need to know they’re qualified to run for office.
State Rep. Helen Giddings, D-DeSoto, Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman, Dallas County Republican Party Chairwoman Missy Shorey and Margo McClinton Stoglin, Texas state director for the nonpartisan women-in-politics group IGNITE, discussed unequal representation of women in Texas politics.
A record number of women in Texas are running for Congress this year, but the panelists said the state is still behind when it comes to the Legislature reflecting the population. Giddings, who is not running for reelection this year after serving as a state representative for 20 years, said everyone needs to do a better job of helping women understand they are just as smart and capable of running for office as men.
Guzman, a Republican, said even small monetary contributions can make a big difference in women’s campaigns, and having conversations across Texas about how to encourage women to run and support them is important.
Women lifting up women is essential.
A group of Texas businesswomen talked about the challenges they have faced with gender disparity in the workplace.
Alexandra Williamson, the head of brand for the Texas-based social and dating application Bumble, said it’s important for women to act as their own advocates and not be afraid to ask for a raise. She said she makes sure the women who work under her are getting raises so it becomes normal for female employees to see other women getting raises and want that for themselves.
The panelists agreed that the lack of affordable childcare in Texas is not just a women’s problem, but society’s problem. Malinda Gaul, the president of the Texas Employment Lawyers Association, said employers will lose a lot of great workers if they make women choose between their children and their jobs.