SMC celebrates women's history month

She was known as a child actress, playing a character named Zelda on the television series "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis."

She graduated from Harvard Law School.

Once her acting career failed, she went back to her other love, politics.

"When I ran, people felt like they already knew me," she said.

In a lecture commemorating Women's History Month, former state senator and founding director of Santa Monica College's Public Policy Institute, Sheila Kuehl, spoke Thursday on the topic “Women at the Political Table: Set It or Sit at It?”

Kuehl was introduced by fellow colleague, associate director of the SMCPPI and SMC political science professor Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein.

Tahvildaran started working with Kuehl when the Public Policy Institute was established at SMC in 2010 and he was appointed as the associate director by Chui L. Tsang, president and superintendent at SMC.

"She's a trailblazer," Tahvildaran said. "She has incredible integrity and she has been able to do what many folks haven't been able to do and that's to bring their vision of a better community into reality."

"Her job is to bring lawmakers here to the college and into our communities so that citizens, students, people who work at the college, people who are interested in Los Angeles, can hear firsthand what these policymakers are up to and what they're dealing with," he said.

Kuehl made the argument that the question of gender is embedded within.

"Equality is equal outcomes; equal treatment is equal outcome," Kuehl said during her lecture.

Kuehl gave the statistic that women currently hold 97 of the 535 seats in the Senate, and California has sent more women to the state Senate than any other state.

In her lecture, she claimed that women typically do not run for political positions because they generally do not like taking risks the way men do.

"Women believe they can't make money the way men make money," said Kuehl. "Women don't get the same encouragement."

Women are afraid they do not know enough, and people want to make sure the women running demonstrate competence, according to Kuehl.

"We brought a lot of legislation to women in healthcare, pregnancy, violence against women," said Kuehl. "We got to a place [where] we weren't afraid to be different."

Kuehl was the first gay woman in legislation and she carried the first gay bill.

In the question-and-answer portion of the lecture, a woman said that the way politicians run for office is highly masculine.

Kuehl replied that although women are entering a masculine area, it is more collaborative when it comes to sharing issues and passions. Both genders come together to engage in lawmaking on issues they care about.

Kuehl concluded the lecture with her analogy that there is a difference between setting and sitting at the table.

Kuehl's examples of "setting the political table" included proactively advocating for something, as opposed to sitting at it, where one would vote.

SMC communications student Claudette Colbert appreciated what Kuehl had to say.

"It was informative, educational, and fun the way she did things on politics," said Colbert.

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