More women serving on state, local boards and commissions
By Lou Fancher
Claiming to have the highest proportion in the United States of women serving as appointees on state and local boards and commissions, California Appointments Secretary Mona Pasquil Rogers suggested women in the state can be proud, but must never rest on their laurels.
Instead, approximately 75 women attended an appointments training workshop Jan. 23, at the downtown Walnut Creek Library as Rogers, joined by Assemblywoman Catharine Baker and Rachel Michelin, executive director/CEO of California Women Lead, urged continued participation.
The biggest obstacle to women assuming leadership roles in government is women themselves, Rogers said.
“Women overthink or think they’re not qualified,” she said.
Baker offered tips: gain knowledge, don’t talk yourself out of applying or assume someone else is better suited, support other women. Top of the list: never allow anyone to talk you out of following your passion and participating.
Rogers challenged women seeking equity and a greater voice in government.
“If you don’t step up, there are a lot of young women watching what you do. If they don’t see women take a chance, they don’t know the possibilities,” she said. “If we’re going to talk about how we’re going to empower each other, we have to be there.”
The process begins with easy steps. Online at www.gov.ca.gov, one click on the red “Appointments” tab opens a “Boards & Commissions Appointees” window. Selecting links to areas of interest provides information, including descriptions of purpose, terms, incumbent members and vacancies.
An online application follows, and snail mail is used to submit resumes and letters or recommendation. Rogers advised that resumes are brief and to avoid sending form letters. “Make sure (a letter is) from people who really know you because we’ll go to them,” said Rogers.
If the first action is simple, the vetting process is intense. Rogers said it can take two weeks or two years, depending on the position sought or the vagaries of availability. The appointment office provides critical support.
Often, Rogers, staff, or the governor, re-direct applicants to areas in which their particular skills sets are best used. Subsequent interviews and vetting are aimed at discovery.
If an applicant’s history contains conflicts of interest, anything that will generate “thousands of letters opposing you” or “be an embarrassment to the governor,” the disclosures won’t necessarily eliminate an applicant but might require more time for re-alignment.
A typical term is four years and the frequency of meetings varies from four times annually to monthly. “Pleasure” appointments can be rescinded at any time by Gov. Brown; “term” appointments cannot be revoked unless violations cause a vote to oust a member.
Applicants of all ages are welcome. The youngest ever was 16, and the oldest is a current, 95-year-old appointee. Typically, per diem covers travel and meal expenses.
As Rogers repeatedly encouraged women at the meeting to follow their passion, Michelin emphasized life experience as a guide tool.
Michelin discovered she was uniquely qualified to serve on a security guard approval board because she’s a member of the public and a woman with a perspective about safety that is different from that of men. Because she wears glasses, Michelin is valued in her current position on the California State Board of Optometry.
Jency James, 24, of Martinez, said in an interview after the workshop, “I feel more empowered because there’s a support system for new applicants.” Still considering her area of interest, the Republic Services recycling coordinator said environmental commissions might be her focus.
“Regardless, real change comes from grassroots. Getting more diversity and more women involved makes government leadership better,” she said.
Kimberly Lam, 27, from Concord, said momentum from the recent women’s marches Jan. 20-21 fed into enthusiasm at the workshop. “It’s women’s moment to shine, to have a larger voice,” she said.