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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Women in politics topic of annual lecture at URI

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KINGSTON, R.I. -- October 13, 2005 -- State Senator Elizabeth Roberts (D-Warwick, Cranston), and Jennifer Lawless, an assistant professor of political science at Brown University, will speak on “Women in Politics: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities,” on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the Galanti Lounge on the third floor of the University of Rhode Island library. Their talk, free and open to the public, is the annual Eleanor and Oscar Carlson Visiting Lecture.

“The lecture in the fall usually focuses on women’s political issues,” said Karen Stein, director of the Women’s Studies program at URI, which is sponsoring the event. “The issue of women in politics is really important to learn and understand more about these days, especially considering the U.S. is a global superpower, yet many other countries have largely surpassed us when it comes to women in politics. Other countries have had women presidents, prime ministers and chancellors- why not the U.S.?”

Roberts, who has served in the Rhode Island Senate for nine years and is running for lieutenant governor, said she hopes to tell her personal story of working as a woman in the state General Assembly. She also plans to discuss the trends of why the number of women running for public office is declining. “There are unique barriers women confront when running for office,” Roberts said. “Some of them are due to the way women look at themselves; other barriers are created by our political system.”

Lawless, who recently co-authored the book It Takes a Candidate: Why Women Don’t Run for Office, is running against Congressman Jim Langevin for Rhode Island’s second district seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“If women make up more than 50 percent of the electorate, then why aren’t half of our elected officials women?” Lawless asked. “Women have unique perspectives on the issues facing Americans today, and it’s time we sent more women to Washington.

“Women are more likely than men to consider running for office because the decision-making process is different,” Lawless said. “Women are still responsible for balancing home and work in a way that men are not. Women are also less likely to be recruited than men and less likely to think they’re qualified.”

In 1988, Eleanor M. Carlson pledged $1 million to the Women’s Studies Program. The donation established four endowments in her and her late husband Oscar’s name, one of which included the endowed lecture series.

Click here for a map and directions to the event location.