African-American women in politics share the obstacles they face – and how they overcome them

Since the 2016 election, women have been running for office in record-breaking numbers. Georgia State women share their experiences of what it is like being a woman studying political science.

She Should Run, an organization that trains women interested in being politicians, saw an increase of annual inquiries from 1,800 to 15,000 since November 2016. The increase hasn’t been just from Democratic leaders eager to take a leadership role, but also from members that want more women as representatives.

“If we want to see equity for women in government in our lifetime, we have to have record-breaking election cycles in the next few cycles to come,” said Erin Loos Cutraro, CEO of She Should Run. “We know this isn’t going to happen overnight, but we cannot let off the gas right now.”

Back on Georgia State’s campus, Assistant Professor of Law Courtney Anderson who has practiced law before teaching at Georgia State says that running isnt all that easy, and that she had to be persistent for a lot of the issues that were important to her.

“Discrimination issues that African-American women and men face are still present, specifically in the law contact where minorities are underrepresented,” Anderson said. “It just puts you in a position where you have to speak on discrimination issues and you may be the only African American that’s doing so.”

Anderson said she believes the reason behind the increased involvement from women is challenging their societal expectations.

“Women have mobilized to counter attacks on their equality and autonomy, and have successfully transformed grass roots organizations into political success that aligns with the culture shift the country is experiencing with respect to women’s rights,” Anderson said.

For younger politicians, feeling intimidated is not an option.

“I know how valuable being an African American woman is whether it’s in this field or a different one so that’s all I really need to remind myself of,” political science major, Bri’a Smalls said.

Smalls, a freshman, is already getting first-hand experience in her field as a member of the Student Government Association (SGA). She said there was something else she noticed within the association.

“Being involved in student government it is easy to see that there is a larger number of males involved than women, however from my experience thus far, I don’t feel like I have had to prove myself or that my opinions were overlooked,” Smalls said.

Smalls said that since she is dedicated and spends so much time with student government she has already proven her point by being an African American women in politics.

“The fact that my peers and I dedicate our time and passion to be a part of student government makes it where we all proved ourselves already male or female and our opinions all matter because we are all students, so that makes us one team,” she said.

Smalls said that the biggest obstacle she thinks she would have to face being an African American woman in politics is making sure that she is doing right by her community. As a future lawyer, Bri’a said that she is very passionate about fighting against the way the foster care system treats children and adolescents.

Senior Ebony Carter, voter registration chair of the Young Democrats of Georgia State, said she never lets being an African-American woman deter her from her goals and aspirations.

“The world is only as male-dominated as you allow it to be. I never allow the perceived male-dominance of politics to deter me from my goals and aspirations,”Carter said.

Carter said she’s chosen her role models to reflect who she wants to be.

“ In my experience, I have mostly worked with female employers and candidates. Seeing women in these positions is a breath of fresh air and it honestly is echoed in the faculty and staff of my majors at Georgia State. It has been empowering and it has fueled me to continue my work in politics,” Carter said.