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The shine theory: How the growing voice of women in Annapolis are looking to uplift others

From left Ruth Martin, vice president of Workplace Justice Campaigns at MomsRising; Caryn York, executive director of the Job Opportunities Task Force, Michelle Siri, executive director of the Women’s Law Center; and Del. Ariana Kelly, D-Montgomery, at the corner of Main Street and Francis Street in Annapolis. (Editor’s note: Del. Kelly was Photoshopped into the photo.) Photo by Maximilian Franz/contributing photographer

From left Ruth Martin, vice president of Workplace Justice Campaigns at MomsRising; Caryn York, executive director of the Job Opportunities Task Force, Michelle Siri, executive director of the Women’s Law Center; and Del. Ariana Kelly, D-Montgomery, at the corner of Main Street and Francis Street in Annapolis. (Editor’s note: Del. Kelly was Photoshopped into the photo.) Photo by Maximilian Franz/contributing photographer

Ruth Martin, MomsRising’s vice president of workplace justice campaigns, says that one of her favorite things the advocacy organization has done in Annapolis is having members showing up as their full selves.

She has brought her two daughters, Vivienne, 9, and Beatrix, 7, to sessions including having them sporting superhero capes for a number of years to urge state legislators to use their legislative superpowers to pass the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, which passed last year.

“When you show up with kids and their wagons and their toys and you make yourself seen and heard, it can have a really big impact,” Martin said. “I’m definitely excited about the time where that seems less out of the norm and you see Annapolis become overall more family-friendly.”

Vivienne has become really passionate about politics and wants to become a state legislator one day. She even wrote a school report on Del. Jheanelle Wilkins D-Montgomery.

“I think (Vivienne) sees the process and how it works and why it matters to have people show up and share their story,” Martin said. “But she also recognizes that this is not something that everybody can do and why it is so important to listen to your friends and your family members and take their stories to Annapolis and show up and be there for the people that can’t make it. … So when we go we want to make sure we are not just there representing ourselves but we are representing all the people that can’t be there.”

For many years, women were underrepresented at the Maryland General Assembly, but that is changing. Women are becoming a growing voice in Annapolis, creating positive and necessary change. This year’s session welcomed the largest number of female representatives yet, not to mention the increasing number of lobbyists, activists and staff members.

Martin is excited by the way women are supporting each other. “For so long, people inaccurately want to write this narrative how women compete with each other, and that is just not my experience,” she said. “I think there is a real power in this squad approach, this Shine Theory approach to working together, lifting each other up and how much more we can accomplish. I think, in my experience, (this is the) way that women naturally interact with each other, and it’s really inspiring.”

A look at the growing voice of women in Annapolis will be the opening panel at The Daily Record’s third annual Women’s Leadership Summit on March 20 from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Coppin State University. The summit brings together Top 100 Women, Leading Women and the state’s network of women professionals to learn about important topics facing women, discuss community involvement and create mentoring relationships.

“It’s going to be inspiring,” said Michelle Siri, executive director of The Women’s Law Center of Maryland. “You are going to get to meet really interesting women that are doing great things. It is a chance to network and it is a chance to learn and hear things from a perspective that you might not already be considering things in. … Right now (in the General Assembly), there are just so many exciting things happening.”

Siri will be moderating the panel featuring Martin, Jo Saint-Charles, political action chair of the NAACP Maryland State Conference, Del. Ariana Kelly, D-Montgomery and Caryn York, Jobs Opportunity Task Force (JOTF) executive director discussing women’s growing voices and a wide variety of topics, including workplace harassment, uplifting the voices for women of color and economic security.

Saint-George believes women understand the intersectionality of laws and bring that knowledge to politics.

“(Women) are looking at things in a very holistic perspective not just what I often see is in these narrow, singular minded ‘I just want to address one thing’ (issue),” she said. “Women say ‘No. We want to address that one thing but we want to look at how that one issue impacts other issues’ and how the laws work synergistically to have an impact that is not only addressing the single issue but it doesn’t create unintended problems or it helps support other issues that are just as important as that one issue. I think because of our multitasking (abilities) … we bring a very holistic perspective to lawmaking and lobbying.”

Raising the minimum wage and women’s equal pay are top priorities for the NAACP this session.

“The Fight for $15 is almost paramount, and the reason being is you have so many black and brown women in roles and positions in jobs where they are so sorely and grossly underpaid — that should be the fight for our life right now because women are the leaders of their homes,” Saint-George said. “They are single mothers. They are raising children. They are also leaders in their organizations, and when they are grossly underpaid it contributes to the poverty in our community.”

JOTF’s mission is to eliminate education and employment barriers to allow low-wage workers to advance to high-wage jobs. York notes a majority of their policy agenda this session is focused on decriminalizing poverty, reducing instances where individuals are interacting with the criminal justice system as a result of poverty and increasing minimum wage.

With more women getting elected, more women are becoming interested in employment opportunities that allow them to be advocates and/or lobbyists.

“So you are seeing more and more women in our state houses, in our city halls, in our local government buildings and entities because they realized that for so long, we haven’t been at the table,” she said. “Many of these policies are dictating what we can and cannot do, and the policies are crafted and dictated by men — honestly, white men. You are finding more and more women are forcing themselves at the table and setting the table and then dictating what dinner is going to be served to their respective constituencies and the like.”

Meet the presenters

Michelle Daugherty Siri, Esq.

Executive Director of the Women’s Law Center of Maryland

View More: http://danamariephotography.pass.us/msbaheadshots2018Michelle Siri is the Executive Director of the Women’s Law Center of Maryland, a statewide nonprofit dedicated to ensuring the physical safety, economic security, and autonomy of women across Maryland. This work is achieved through free legal services, education, and legislative advocacy. A practicing attorney since 2003, Ms. Siri is a former Board Chair of Planned Parenthood of Maryland, President-Elect of her Law School Alumni Board, Treasurer of the Maryland Legislative Agenda for Women, and sits on the boards of the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence and the Baltimore County Bar Association.

She is also a Fellow of the Maryland Bar Foundation, the Public Policy Conflict Resolution Fellowship Program, and the Towson University Professional Leadership for Women Program. She has been awarded The Women’s Bar Association’s Rita C. Davidson Award in 2018, the Daily Record’s Leadership in the Law Generation JD award in 2016, and was twice named one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women by the Daily Record.   She currently lives in Cockeysville with her husband, two young sons, and new puppy and enjoys running, bicycling, and travel.

Del. Ariana Kelly

Maryland House of Delegates

ariana-kelly-head-shot-300Delegate Ariana Kelly has spent her career advocating for the diverse needs of women and families. In 2010, she was elected to Maryland’s House of Delegates representing the 16th District, which includes Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Potomac. As Deputy Majority Whip, Delegate Kelly serves on the legislature’s Health and Government Operations Committee, and Chairs the Health Occupations and Long-Term Care Subcommittee and the Montgomery County Delegation Economic Development Committee. She also Chairs the Joint Committee on Children, Youth, and Families and served as the 2018 President of the Women Legislators of Maryland.

Delegate Kelly’s background in advocacy is extensive, including having served as Executive Director at NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and Pay Equity Campaign Director at MomsRising. A specialist in women’s health and economic security, Delegate Kelly has passed landmark legislation making Maryland first in the nation for access to contraception, as well as legislation requiring parental leave and investing in child care. This past session, she passed legislation to require consent education be included as part of Maryland’s sexuality education curriculum, as well as legislation addressing sexual harassment in the Maryland General Assembly.

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Ruth Martin

Vice President of Workplace Justice Campaigns at MomsRising

Ruth Martin is Vice President of Workplace Justice Campaigns at MomsRising. Before joining MomsRising, Ruth worked at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, where she led a campaign to increase the public affairs capacity of affiliates. She established and led new initiatives at the Women’s Campaign Fund, including  “Appoint Her,” a campaign encouraging women to seek appointed office.

Ruth also directed People For the American Way’s state policy and grassroots advocacy with a focus on election reform issues. Ruth serves on the board of directors for the Maryland Legislative Agenda for Women and formerly served on the Montgomery County Maryland Human Rights Commission, which works to eliminate discrimination, prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry in housing, recreation, education, health, employment, and public accommodation as well as her local PTA. She lives with her husband, two daughters, dog and cat in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Jo Saint-George

FHG Media

jo-saint-george-intro-300Jo Saint-George is founder and CEO of FHG Media Enterprises, LLC, the legal industries first woman and African-American/Native-American legal media and tech company whose mission is to promote minority and women lawyers as digital thought leaders through its digital diversity all legal TV network, directories, publications and big data diversity tracking applications located at www.MinorityCounselorTV.com and www.TrakitPro.com.

Jo recently served as Interim General Counsel for a global cement company managing international supply chain distribution and corporate governance. Jo also served as the Associate General Counsel to Empire Petroleum Partners, LLC, a start-up national petroleum distributor, where she was responsible for creation and implementation of the legal department’s national fuel distribution and retail real estate acquisition and management systems, licensing and environmental compliance programs.

Born in Los Angeles, CA, Jo earned her JD from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles and B.A., cum laude from Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles. Jo has been married over 20 years, enjoys a plant-based lifestyle, is a former basketball player, is founder of www.HealthyLawyers.org and is a plant-based health advocate.

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Caryn York

Executive Director of the Job Opportunities Task Force
Caryn York is Executive Director of the Job Opportunities Task Force (JOTF), an independent, statewide nonprofit organization that promotes policies and programs to help low-wage workers advance to high-wage jobs. Caryn is JOTF’s youngest Executive Director and the first African American female to lead the twenty-three-year organization.
Caryn works tirelessly to encourage key policymakers and stakeholders to adopt and support policies and programs that eliminate educational and employment barriers and facilitate the successful entry, or re-entry, of low-wage workers. As such, Caryn has been instrumental in leading numerous state and local policy reform efforts including, but not limited to, ‘Ban the Box’ on job and college applications, expansion of criminal record expungement and shielding laws, postsecondary access and affordability, and reducing the impact of incarceration on working families through development, passage, and implementation of the Maryland Justice Reinvestment Act and statewide bail reform.
Caryn received a B.A in International Studies from Washington College, and has worked within state and local politics for over 10 years.

This article is featured in The Daily Record’s Path To Excellence: A Woman’s Guide To Business. The mission of the Path to Excellence magazine is to give our readers the opportunity to meet successful women of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs and learn how they define success. Read more from Path to Excellence.

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