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Women in Governmental Affairs and Public Policy Discuss Gender Equity in the Workplace

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Wipp Panel headshots

With Women’s History Month coming to a close in one of the most historic years for American women, the Women in Public Policy (WiPP) student group focused on the fight for equity in the workplace through an open discussion with School of Public Policy alumni, faculty and government professionals. Though the country elected the first woman of color as vice president, the March 30 panel discussed how women throughout the country are eager to further pursue gender equity in America. 

Panelists Included: 

  • Chloe Schwenke ’02: Schwenke is an adjunct professor at UMD and current president for values in the Center for International Development. As an openly transgender woman, Schwenke holds a diverse perspective of the policy workplace as once a presenting man and now as a woman.
  • Ariana Scurti ’19: Scruti works as a program officer at the Center for Democracy, Human rIghts, and Governance with USAID. Ariana was a Presidential Management Fellow (PMF) and a Robertson Foundation for Government Fellow. 
  • Taryn Levels ’18: Levels formerly worked as a program analyst for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and currently works at the US Department of Agriculture. 

Schwenke explained that there is a “day and night difference,” with men and women's perspectives in the workplace. Where men are more likely to say no to additional work, women say yes despite an already overwhelming workload. Schwenke also emphasized the importance of presenting these different perspectives and keeping “feminist language” in the workplace. She explained leading with empathy is often seen as “naive” or “unrealistic” but keeping this dialogue is necessary to changing policy. 

Scruti also emphasized the need for changes in policy workplaces. It's imperative, she said, to realize that policy changes slowly. Scruti is proactive in her own workplace to make room for women through advocating for fearless ideas. She aims to transfer the skills she learned at SPP to the workforce but illustrates, “we’re coming in having been exposed to so much.” The generational difference in the workplace is a “constant push and pull [but pursuing these ideas] is worth it."

Levels discussed the intersectionality of her identity as a black woman in the workforce and the difficulty with the current political climate. She illustrated the need to center workplace discussions as systematic ways to change. “The term ‘diversity’ has become a buzzword,” Levels said. There is a need, she emphasized, to shift from superficial buzzwords and dialect to inherent change throughout our systems. Levels suggested an open-minded approach and “honoring different strengths” in order to embrace different perspectives in the workplace. 

Schwenke emphasizes that it is imperative to continue to be fearless in your ideas. “It's hard to not get corrupted,” she explains some women “start talking like the guys and park [feminist language and perspectives] when they go into jobs.” But “hang tight and change those paradigms.” 

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