Panel Conversation Recap: ‘Women, Leadership, and Public Service’

October 5, 2017

Panel speakers, from left: Mona Pasquil Rogers, Anne Neville, Carolyn Coleman and Assemblymember Cristina Garcia
(Photo by Brandon Manning) More photos available on Flickr »

By Richard Hill

On Aug. 21, the Price School of Public Policy in Sacramento hosted a panel discussion on “Women, Leadership, and Public Service” at the Sutter Club in downtown Sacramento, CA. More than 100 guests attended the event, which was held in collaboration with the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, League of California Cities Women’s Caucus and the Sacramento Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA).

Juliet Lee from the USC Price School, and ASPA Sacramento Vice President, welcomed the audience. She mentioned upcoming ASPA programs and introduced Jan Arbuckle, President of the League of California Cities Women’s Caucus and Council-member for City of Grass Valley.

Ms. Arbuckle emphasized the need for more women in public and private leadership. She cited the low numbers of women in the California Legislature and in politics in general. She declared that more women should be represented in all levels of government. Ms. Arbuckle, and then introduced Dr. Lois Takahashi, Director of USC Price School in Sacramento.

Dr. Takahashi introduced the four-person panel and asked them to say a few words about themselves:

  • Mona Pasquil Rogers is Appointments Secretary for the Office of Governor Jerry Brown, and she is responsible for 3,000 appointments throughout the state. She called her position “a great job” where you can “push people forward.”
  • Assemblymember Cristina Garcia represents the 58th Assembly District, and she serves on several committees. She is also Chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. Assemblymember Garcia commented that her peers need to “get more done” on women’s issues.
  • Carolyn Coleman is Executive Director of the League of California Cities, its first female director. She sees public services as “way to make a difference” and she affirmed her “passion for public servants who work to make their communities a better place.”
  • Anne Neville is the Director of the California Research Bureau. She has worked in the private sector and volunteered for AmeriCorps. She praised “mentors who helped me in my career” and asserted that we “must nurture our networks.”
  • Lois Takahashi (moderator) is a Professor and the new Director of the USC Price School of Public Policy in Sacramento. Her research focuses on public and social services delivery to vulnerable populations in the US and in Southeast Asian cities.

Panel Discussion Summary

USC Price Professor Lois Takahashi directs questions to the panelists. (Photo by Brandon Manning)
More photos available on Flickr »

Why aren’t there more women CEOs and public leaders? Is there something about the competition process that puts women at a disadvantage?

  • A recent survey about job interviews revealed that women often talk about areas they could improve while men simply say “I’m ready”
  • Women must be smarter about projecting themselves and supporting each other
  • Everyone should strive to “broaden the pool”
  • We often compete as “women to women” but we should go after jobs traditionally thought of as “men’s jobs”
  • Form a support group of five or six
  • “Fear of failure” in the workplace is okay
  • Keep competing, just like in sports
  • Only 13 percent of local government chief administrators are women
  • Women are better represented in nonprofits
  • Are women pressured to be in nonprofits like the PTA instead of pursuing other jobs?

How can women “work across the divides” that seem to be part of public discourse today?

  • Must build relationships
  • “Humanize each other”
  • “Spirited dialogs” with different viewpoints are okay
  • Push the dialog to a listening mode
  • We need patience and respect
  • Always “check for open minds” when reading a written report or holding a discussion
  • Spend time with people
  • Be clear about your goals and values

Can the lack of women in technology and similar industries be improved?

  • Harassment seems to be part of some industries
  • But social media brings these issues to light
  • Our mission should be to find qualified women
  • Take the time and “take a chance” on women
  • Consider “whose voice is missing”
  • Silicon Valley has diversity issues everywhere; African Americans and Hispanics are lacking also
  • Some industries “don’t have networks that look like you”
  • “We must be bad ass” at times
  • No easy solutions, but women must “push the envelope”
  • Must follow-up on opportunities

This program concluded with a short question-and-answer session with the audience:

Considering today’s social environment, should women be pessimistic?

  • No, we should acknowledge successes but want more
  • We have done some things right and must do more
  • The challenge is to find your voice
  • You must be strategic to get what you want
  • There are struggles, but keep at it
  • Sometimes easy, sometimes not, often tough – learn to fight!

There is pressure to “stay where I am.” How do you tell women not to give up?

  • Think about your current situation; are you in the right place?
  • Identify helpers for your career
  • Be the woman you want others to be
  • In your current situation: Are you challenged? Are you supported?
  • It is your career, make your own choices
  • Know salaries in your organization and ask for what you’re worth

What advice do you have for getting the most out of my current position?

  • Leaders should bring out different skill sets in staff; is that happening for you?
  • Personal development of staff is key
  • Learn to work with everyone – some people “shout out things,” other don’t
  • Recognize and understand your work culture
  • There is a trade-off on career issues, but some are worth it
  • Listen to other perspectives