Challenges and opportunities for women in politics

Kathryn Pearson, Erin Murphy, and Jenifer Loon
University of Minnesota professor Kathryn Pearson, former state Reps. Erin Murphy and Jenifer Loon discuss women in politics at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs on Tuesday.
Courtesy of Lea Chittenden, University of Minnesota.

Two former state representatives discuss the challenges and opportunities facing women in politics.

Former state Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, served from 2009 to 2019. She was narrowly defeated in the 2018 election.

Former state Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, served from 2007 to 2019. She ran unsuccessfully for governor of Minnesota in 2018.

The moderator was University of Minnesota political science professor Kathryn Pearson, who worked on the congressional staffs of two congresswomen, one of each party.

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Professor Pearson said her research shows that women are underrepresented in Congress, and this is "caused by a dearth of women running." Women are less likely to see themselves as qualified for public office than men are, and Pearson said she sees this same gender disparity in the opinions of her young students.

Erin Murphy said bias is often evident when people think about who is "electable." She added that politicians of both genders need to work more collaboratively.

Jenifer Loon suggested that the ability to work collaboratively might be improved if state legislators went back to the system decades ago when they ran without party designation. State politicians get too caught up with national party politics now, she added.

Loon said serving as a state legislator is "a noble calling, and unfortunately too much maligned. We need bright, capable people who will run. That's how we bridge the gap of partisanship and how we work towards solving problems."

"Without that," Loon added, "you end up with the rancor and divisiveness and deep disappointment that I think exists in our political system right now."

The event was held Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019 at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs.