Recently, a summit on women leadership in government was held at the Strathallen Hotel in Rochester on Nov. 12 and 13.

“Of 1,087 seats in county legislatures and the five largest city councils in the state, less than 18 percent – only 194 seats – are held by women,” Director of the Susan B. Anthony Center Nora Bredes said. “But elected women do make a positive difference, especially when they’re not isolated. By coming together at this conference, they will get a stronger sense of how their ‘critical mass’ can change the substance and style of political work.”

Continuing, Bredes said, “They will also receive public policy information from the speakers that will help them address issues that are important to the lives of families in their communities.”

The conference was held in order for women in different elected positions in city and county offices to unite their voices in issues such as health care and domestic violence, among others.

It was the result of an initiative by the Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership at UR.

The Center began planning for the Policy Summit after its 2002 survey found that less than 20 percent of New York’s local county legislators and city council members in our five largest cities are women.

Lois Giess, president of the Rochester City Council, opened the program, along with a keynote address by Jody Heymann, associate professor of society, human development and health at Harvard University’s School of Public Health.

They spoke about “Creating a Better World for Women and Their Families.” The program consisted of workshops, and panels conducted by leading women members of the community in business and public policy. Elected women from both the Republican and Democratic parties attended the event.

The conference began with a session on Friday morning titled “How Women Govern, What Political Scientists Say and Find.” The speaker at this session was Georgia Duerst-Lahti, chair of the political science department at Beloit College and co-editor of the book “Gender Power, Leadership and Governance.”

The afternoon session consisted of three workshops – “Safe in the World: The Environment and Women’s Health,” “Safe at Home: Working Against Domestic Violence” and “Secure in Life: Building Women’s Economic Strength.”

Panelists for the second workshop included Director of the Laboratory on Interpersonal Violence and Victimization at the UR Medical Center Catherine Cerulli, amongst other distinguished guests.

Saturday’s session was attended by UR’s Women’s Caucus. The participants of the session drafted a “Local Action Plan for New York Women” that is to serve as a guide to local governments to improve the quality of the lives of New York women and their families, as well as to provide a direction to any further work of the Women Leading Local Governments Initiative.

Senior and Women’s Caucus Chair Emily Feldman attended the conference. She said that it was not aimed at students, but at women holding elected positions in office.

“Volunteers attended to help with registration, and I was fortunate enough to attend some of the sessions,” she said. “Of course, Women’s Caucus was glad to volunteer and attend to participate in such an inspiring and interesting event. It was great to hear and meet accomplished women.”

Krishnan can be reached at

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