Persist 2017 Conference Aims to Inspire Women to Get Politically Active

Spearheaded by UCR’s Women’s Resource Center, the event will connect students with politicians, policymakers, activists, and scholars

Persist 2017 Women’s Political Engagement Conference

The inaugural Persist 2017 Women’s Political Engagement Conference will take place Nov. 3 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in HUB 302.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — Women comprise more than half the U.S. population, but that percentage shrinks when it comes to political participation.

For example, roughly 22 percent of California State Legislature members are female, along with 25 percent of those in state legislatures nationwide, according to data compiled by Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP).

The striking disparity inspired Denise Davis, director of the University of California, Riverside’s Women’s Resource Center, to act.

In the interest of getting more young women involved in politics, Davis spearheaded the organization of UCR’s inaugural Persist 2017 Women’s Political Engagement Conference. The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place Nov. 3 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in Room 302 of the Highlander Union Building (HUB).

“Women are terribly underrepresented in the political arena,” Davis said. “The main goal of the conference is to get women more interested in all aspects of government, whether it’s running for office, working for an elected official or a nonprofit organization, or just being an everyday activist who engages with political and social issues on a regular basis.”

Persist 2017 will bring together politicians, policymakers, activists, and academic scholars with connections to the Inland Empire for a series of keynote speeches and panel discussions.

The conference’s keynote speakers include three California state politicians — Sen. Connie Leyva, who represents the 20th District; Assemblywoman Eloise Gómez Reyes, who represents the 47th District; and Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes, who represents the 60th District.

“Getting women engaged, excited, and involved in politics and public policy is vital to the success of our local communities, state, and nation,” Leyva said. “I’ll be speaking about the status of women in government and politics; I also plan to offer some brief advice and life lessons that I have learned over the years to help women succeed during their educations and in their careers.”

Rounding out the selection of speakers are Delaine Eastin, the only female candidate set to compete in California’s 2018 gubernatorial election; Torie Osborn, principal deputy for policy and strategy under Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl; poet and actress Yazmin Monet Watkins; and Kimberly Ellis, a California Democratic Party chair candidate who was the first African-American state executive director in Emerge America’s national network.

Panel discussions moderated by a variety of academic scholars — including UCR faculty members and staffers — will focus on topics as wide ranging as pathways to student activism, public policy debates related to abortion and birth control access, and LGBT representation in government. Additional opportunities include a lunchtime resource fair and an afternoon networking reception.

Tina Aoun, director of UCR’s Middle Eastern Student Center and a student in the Master of Public Policy program, will moderate a panel discussion exploring the local and regional impacts of immigration, environmental, and education policy, and the experiences of women working to advance policy research.

“We have students at UCR with bright futures ahead of them who want to make institutional change, but they just don’t know how,” Aoun said, adding that one of the most stunning observations she made while co-organizing the event involved discovering how few women of color work in politics or policy research.

In fact, CAWP data indicates that only 7 percent of people serving in the U.S. Congress are women of color (that’s slightly more than a third of the 105 total women serving). What’s more, of the 1,844 women state legislators serving nationwide, only 439 — or roughly 24 percent — are women of color.

“For inclusive policies to be made, we need diverse voices and diverse women to be at the table,” Aoun said. “If this conference can empower just one woman to feel more confident about entering politics or policy research, then I’ll feel we’ve done our jobs as organizers.”

Those interested in attending Persist 2017 can register here. Parking for the event is free in Lot 1, and permits can be obtained at the kiosk on West Campus Drive at the University Avenue entrance to campus.

Co-sponsors of the event include the Women’s Resource Center, Middle Eastern Student Center, Associated Students of UCR, School of Public Policy, Department of Political Science, and Highlander Empowerment Student Services Referendum.

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-1287

Additional Contacts

Denise Davis
Tel: (951) 827-3337

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