Mayor of San Luis Obispo, Heidi Harmon speaks to Cuesta students about working in male dominated fields.
Photo by Josh Pachio / Cuestonian
By Rachel Barnes
On the anniversary of her election, Mayor Heidi Harmon spoke at Cuesta about her experience working in the male dominated field of politics.
Harmon showed up donned in all red with her signature rose in her hair looking very red-riding hood esque with a fire in her eyes about a subject she was clearly passionate about.
“Women need to realize we are self selecting out of this process,” Harmon said regarding women’s roles in politics.
With very few women in politics right now, the Cuesta Cultural Center reached out to Mayor Harmon. The Cultural Center has an ongoing talk series of women in dominated fields that they hold once each semester. In a previous semester the cultural center hosted Deanna Cantrell, San Luis Obispo Chief of Police.
Harmon said she believes that being a woman in politics is a very important job. She mentioned that before her election, she had never been in office before and thinks that encouraging women to run is a very important first step into more representation for women in political careers.
“Generally speaking, we’ve come a little way but not very far and we’re not moving,” Harmon said.
Harmon provided that the United States has only three female governors, including that only one is a female of color. She also stated that under 21 percent of California legislature is female.
As the only female mayor in the county, Harmon believes she experiences sexism from both men and women alike. She is passionate about being okay to take up the space she’s in and being confident.
“If I am really adamant about a policy and strong willed, maybe I’m not determined — I’m just a bitch,” Harmon said, referring to how sometimes if a man exhibits certain behavior it is viewed in a different way than if a woman exhibits the same behavior .
She believes that women have a different set of skills that benefit politics like communication and connection.
“Moms make good mayors,” she joked, mentioning that her motivation for passing legislature is to do something that will make her kids proud.
Some of her most challenging parts of her career have involved sexism, she said. She, and people close to her, believe that now is the most toxic time in history.
Harmon thinks it’s important to take a stand against toxic masculinity.
“More women in office is better for everyone,” Harmon said.
She believes that one of the main reasons that women don’t run for office is that they don’t feel confident enough. She said it starts with parents not encouraging their girls to run for office, therefore making many women believe they are not good enough or ready.
Harmon called on people to help encourage women to run for office. She said that the easiest thing to do is to just ask a woman to run and support them. If anything, she wants to encourage any woman to run and get involved in politics.
Harmon also has strong ties to Cuesta as she and both of her children attended school here. She mentioned that she would love to mentor any students that are interested in politics.
“I would love to strengthen my relationship with Cuesta,” she said.
Harmon believes in being as open hearted as possible and encouraging and pulling other women up.
“I am trying to save the world right?” Harmon joked.