The Student News Site of San Luis Obispo High School




The Student News Site of San Luis Obispo High School



San Luis Obispo’s City Council is all women: A step forward in inclusivity?


Photo Illustration courtesy of senior Linnaea Marks.

  In the 2020 election, San Luis Obispo elected five women to fill all the seats of the city council, creating excitement and hope for council members and the San Luis Obispo High School (SLOHS) community alike.

  In the 145 years of the elected council’s existence this has never occurred, standing as a historic event for San Luis Obispo.

  Before this, the council had four women including now former Mayor Heidi Harmon, Vice Mayor Erica Stewart, and Councilmembers Andy Pease and Carlyn Christianson. Aaron Gomez, a male councilmember whose term ended in early 2020 chose not to run for re-election, was replaced by Councilmember Jan Marx, filling the seats of the council with only women.

  SLOHS teacher Sholeh Prochello says that this provides hope for citizens of the city as she explained, “It makes me feel good to think that the city is open to bringing women into power, and giving them that opportunity to prove themselves.”

  Echoing this sentiment, SLOHS senior Talia Doane said that “It’s a step forward for women in politics and positions of power in general.”

  Stewart believes that this female representation helps to make the council a more effective policy making body. As she explained, “On average, [the council has] a lot more interest and concern for women’s issues like childcare.”

  According to Prochello, childcare and providing mothers the support they need ensures equality for women in the workplace as she furthered that, “I think we’re still at a place in our culture, where there is a lot of assumed responsibility put on the mother. Giving women a chance to pursue their career while also having a family just like a lot of men have the opportunity to do is important.” 

  An increased focus on childcare creates tangible reform. For example, last year the city council was able to pass new policies on zoning regulations for childcare, so that childcare could exist anywhere, from residential areas to commercial ones so women across the city can find childcare if they need.

  Stewart attributes part of this efficient policymaking to the council being women, as she explained that because the council is all women “We’re not spending time starting the conversation on why childcare is important, we all agree on that and it’s a solid given value.”

    Overall, Stewart is hopeful for the future, believing that the council’s women signal the progression of the city. As she puts it, it shows “that our community is open to many different people, making policy changes and moving the city forward in everything.” 

  Besides allowing for childcare reform, representation on the council also incentivizes political engagement from women.

“Having more women in office, and in visible political positions, is associated with more women engaging in activities like protest or talking about politics, and contacting a representative more frequently,” said Associate professor of political science at the University of Kentucky TIffany Barnes

  Stewart exemplifies this, telling the story of a biracial woman who came up to her after a panel. “She wanted to get into criminal justice and she said seeing me gave her hope that she can be part of doing the work in her job or as an elected official.”

According to Stewart though, this increased diversity and representation on the council isn’t a complete solution to inequities for women in politics. “There’s still comments like what are you doing with your kids or you should be playing the role of a typical woman in her 50s.”

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