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As part of HERstory month, female politicians speak to students about their successes

USGD held a women in politics panel in honor of HERstory month

Conversation on Civic Engagement

(From left to right) Tamika Lamb, Cynthia Aragon, Rebecca Rios and Deedra Abboud speak during a conversation on civic engagement on ASU's downtown campus in Phoenix, Arizona, on Thursday, March 22, 2018.

In the aftermath of the #MeToo movement, the subject of sexual harassment has risen to the front of industries across the country.

From national figures like U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn) to local representatives like U.S. Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Don Shooter (R-Yuma) the movement has hit politics. At a HERstory Month event on March 22, female politicians spoke to students about the reality of being a woman working in politics.

House Minority Leader Rep. Rebecca Rios said when she first started in politics, there were far fewer women. Despite progress in the number of women in politics, Rios said "the fight is still there."

When she was young, Rios said women brushed off inappropriate behavior from men.

"It was just that 'He's a dirty old man, ignore him,'" Rios said.

Now, Rios said, the 14 women in her caucus "don't take anything."

The event was planned by Daria Jenkins, Undergraduate Student Government Downtown's director of diversity & inclusion and a journalism freshman. Jenkins said it's important for young women to see representation in a male-dominated profession.

"It’s important to talk about what it’s like to be in politics so girls who are afraid to get into politics have some one to look up to or someone to ask for guidance," Jenkins said.

Aly Perkins, USGD presidential candidate and public policy sophomore, has been a Senate page for two years. 

Perkins said it's important to hear the truth from women who are working in politics because "other women need to know that (the maltreatment of women) is not okay and this will not be tolerated."

Alongside Rios, Democratic Chief of Staff Cynthia Aragon and U.S. Senate candidate Deedra Abboud spoke about their time in Arizona politics.

Aragon spoke about obstacles throughout her life — from having a child at 16 years old to becoming an integral part to the House Democratic Caucus in Arizona.

“I heard people say ‘She’s pregnant. She was going to do something with her life. Her life is over,'” Aragon said. “That really hurt me, and I remember that when I heard it, and it was not to my face and I said, ‘You watch.'” 

Aragon said keeping the focus on her work has contributed to her success, even though there have been large obstacles in her path.

Many ASU women leaders are heavily involved in not only ASU politics but also state politics, where they are inspired to get as involved as possible in politics. 

Perkins said even as a freshman there were obstacles in her path to political success, but they didn't stop her. 

"Originally I didn't get the job," she said. "I was really disheartened by that ... I remember getting that call and being really disappointed because I wanted to get involved in Arizona politics."

Read more: Teaching in the time of #MeToo

Perkins eventually received the Senate page position when a spot opened up — a position she said has inspired her. 

"It's really empowering to see women in leadership like for example in the Senate where I'm a page, the minority leader and the majority leader are both women, and that's really cool to see," Perkins said. "Additionally, it was really cool to see the House take action and really bring the Rep. Don Shooter issue to light." 

Abboud, who's campaigning to fill U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake's seat, said she's faced judgments from others during her campaign but maintaining her sense of self and not changing her political ideals has been important.

“No matter what anybody throws at you, you have a choice whether or not to absorb it,” Abboud said. 

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