COLUMBIA — Girl power emanated from the recital hall of Historic Senior Hall at Stephens College on Thursday as three women in civic leadership roles spoke to a crowd of students and staff.
Michigan State Representative Pam Byrnes, North Dakota State Representative Kathy Hawken and Boone County District I Commissioner Karen Miller spoke as part of the new five-year-long lecture series "Women in Civic Leadership." The series is funded by a gift from Mary Josie Cain Blanchard, a Stephens alum who works in the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The lecture was based on empowering women and inspiring them to seek more leadership roles.
"We want to expose more of our students to women in these positions of leadership," said Carol Jullian, vice president of development and alumnae relations.
The three women all had two things in common: they were alums of Stephens College and believe there needs to be more women in government to really bring about change.
Byrnes, Hawken and Miller attributed their success to the educations they received at Stephens. Byrnes, a Democrat, said she had been a Republican when she first came to Stephens. When a professor questioned her party alliance, she began to examine her own views.
"Stephens College absolutely changed my life," Byrnes said.
Hawken, a former educator, regarded her life in civic leadership as a "phenomenal educational experience."
Sarah Palin and her impact on how women are seen in politics was a big topic of debate. All three agreed that she has not done much to positively portray women in government.
"I think she set us back in politics," Miller said.
The two representatives are also visiting classes on the Stephens campus this week. On Thursday, they visited a global ethics class taught by Catherine Withrow.
"We need more role models in order to get more women in politics," Withrow said.
The lecture series aims to host two women speakers at Stephens each year for a total of 10 speakers during the next five years.