ICMA President Pat Martel greeted attendees to the Luncheon for Women in the Profession, sponsored by ICMA-RC, by reminding attendees that it is our job to make the changes in our organizations that will support women and diversity. We must put action to our words in order to promote gender balance in local government, to allow women to balance a family and a career.
She introduced Rosa (Rosie) Rios, former U.S. Treasurer, the keynote speaker at the luncheon, who is no stranger to local government. Rosie served the cities of Fremont, Oakland, and San Francisco California in executive management positions for economic development. Ms. Rios explained to the group that her background in local government has shaped where she is today, and she has never forgotten where she came from.
Ms. Rio’s message to the group was to never sit on the sidelines – both men and women in local government, or any organization, must speak up and question practices which do not make sense, especially those which hinder diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
She shared her own story, having joined the Treasury Department prior to President Obama’s inauguration to provide due diligence prior to the implementation of the TARP legislation. While at Treasury, she spent time at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where she observed that there were no “real” women on U.S. paper currency – every female representation was an allegorical concept (i.e. Lady Liberty). This led Rosie to do her homework, creating a database of notable women and their role in U.S. history, before approaching Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to make the case for adding a woman to a U.S. Treasury bill. Her efforts were successful, and in April 2016 it was announced that Harriett Tubman will appear on the $20 bill with the new issue in 2020, replacing Andrew Jackson.
Rosie observed, “If this is how we’re documenting history, why are we missing half the population?” She left the Treasury department earlier this year and has made this question her mantra, beginning a “Count up to 2020” initiative to demonstrate the progress that the U.S. has made toward gender balance and inclusiveness since the passage of the 20th Amendment in 1920. Her efforts include “Teachers Righting History” (www.teachersrightinghistory.org), an initiative to highlight historic American women in classrooms across the country.
Rosie’s closing message was that local government is not just about what we do, but also how we make our employees and residents feel. Human capital is the best investment that we can make, and true leadership is about empowering our team members. To do this, we must continually assess “What is it in or organizations that we are not bringing up or talking about?”