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When Women Lead: Public Discussion At Albany City Hall


A Women’s History Month discussion with Kathy Sheehan, Albany’s first female mayor, and Albany author and activist Barbara Smith is set for Wednesday evening at City Hall.

In recent times there have been many examples of women's leadership and successful organizing. Take November 2013, for example. Kathy Sheehan ushered in a new era as Albany's first woman executive.  "There's been a lot of interest in people being politically active in ensuring that they're making their voices heard, particularly among women. There are a number of women's groups that have sprouted up, grass roots, throughout the Capital Region."

Sheehan has teamed up with author, activist, and independent scholar Barbara Smith, the city’s special community projects coordinator and WAMC Roundtable panelist. Smith works to help implement an equity agenda. The two will discuss women’s participation in movements for social justice and what they say is the need to recognize the impact of race and class as well as gender and sexuality when working to make change. "Barbara and I are gonna talk about this movement and intersectionality, which is really just understanding that issues that impact women run deeper than just our gender."

Smith chimed in: "The mayor and I, of course, like many have observed that women are paying a particularly significant role during this period because of some things that have happened south of here, as afar as the new presidential administration but, besides that, women have always had a really important role in social movement. They're not always just focused upon gender issues. So we thought it would be great to have a dialog between us, because both of us in different ways, and sometimes in similar ways, have been very involved in both being leaders as women, and also encouraging women to be leaders."

Sheehan added  "We have to ensure that we have women in leadership roles, not just in government, but in business and in the not-for-profit. We really need to ensure that we are looking at these issues through multiple lenses. And that is one of things I'm very encouraged by because we've seen a lot of women step up, be active, they're looking to support women candidates or run themselves."

Smith and Sheehan regularly hold public discussions on a variety of topics. Smith is looking forward to Wednesday night's talk, especially to the audience Q and A.   "I am always so thrilled, as is the mayor, by how diverse our audiences are, how large our audiences are, and the kinds of dialogue that we have."

"One example that I look at is, you know, we talk about the wage disparity between women and men. And we know that it exists and it’s significant. But when you break it down between the disparity between white women and black and Latino women and men, you see an even greater the disparity," said Sheehan.

Smith says the two are ready to field just about any question that could come up during the audience participation segment of the talk.  "I think they may be asking, like, 'How do you define women's leadership,' 'When did you come up against/kind of hit the wall of omigosh, I don't even know what is happening here, I've got to go back to the drawing board, I've got to listen and learn to find out what other people who are different from me and yet who share certain aspects of my identity, that is being a woman, what they're concerned about.’"

The discussion is scheduled for Wednesday from 5-7 p.m. at Albany City Hall.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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