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Idaho women leaders: Step up, step out and lead

Jeanne Huff mug croppedWomen have kind of been in the news lately.

To the tune of millions taking part in the Women’s March on Jan. 21 around the globe.

In Boise, nearly 7,000 marched in downtown Boise from the Statehouse to the steps of City Hall in the Women’s March On Idaho. It was a stunning declaration, of unity, as so many women – and many men and children – took part in standing up for their beliefs. Among other issues, those centered on acknowledging human and women rights carried the weight of the day.

I went to the march – and so did my daughter and two of my grandchildren. It was a moment I will never forget and stirred within me hope for the future and a swelling of pride in our country, in our right to carry out peaceful demonstrations. I was also proud and amazed that the women leaders in Boise who organized the peaceful march – that took place while cotton ball-sized snowflakes saturated the surreal scene, I might add – were not even yet of age to be called women.

People for Unity is the organization that started when Collette Raptosh, a Capital High School junior and her friend Nora Harren, a senior at Borah High School got together and decided to do something to combat the divisive political cycle the country had just been through. In a matter of a few months, they did – and by doing so, became a part of history.

This week, I attended a luncheon put together by the fledgling Idaho Women in Leadership group. It, along with Go Lead Idaho, Women Ignite Idaho, the Andrus Center for Public Policy’s Women and Leadership, are among groups in our state aimed at giving women a step up on the ladder to the top. The theme for the day was “Step Up, Step Out and Lead,” and it began at the Statehouse as attendees were invited to sit in on the legislative process, to see firsthand our political process. The overarching intention was to stir any smoldering desires to step in to that process, to encourage any wannabe leaders to take action.

At the luncheon, KTVB’s Dee Sarton moderated a panel of Idaho Women leaders: Idaho State Sen. Cherie Buckner Webb; Idaho State Rep. Wendy Horman; Megan Ronk, Idaho director of Commerce; Rebecca Casper, mayor of Idaho Falls; and Deborah Herron, director of public affairs and government relations for Wal-Mart.

Sarton asked how they got to be where they are today.“I’ve always been unafraid to open my mouth,” said Casper. Horman began her journey by starting a fine arts program so that her children would actually use their art supplies. Next, she was asked to run for the school board. And so on. Buckner Webb answered by saying: “My mother used to say all the time, ‘disturb the peace;’ and that’s what I intend to do.” Herron got similar advice, she said. “Always take the fork in the road,” adding that “seeing all of you here today, it gives me goosebumps.”

After another question asking about mentors, Ronk said: “We all have mentors. But sometimes you learn from those people in your life who aren’t doing it right.”

The final question came from someone in the audience, asking what can we do, how can we continue to embrace unity in the current divisive arena.

Casper said not to focus so much on what is going on in Washington, that what plays out on the nightly news is not the whole story – “it’s trumped up.”

While Casper was visibly embarrassed at her gaffe, I, along with those who applauded, wholly agreed. It’s time we paid more attention to what’s going on in our own backyards. It’s time for women to come together, to pull each other up, not tear one another down.

As I said before, I am feeling hopeful. And I can’t wait to see who will be the next women in our state to Step Up, Step Out and Lead.

Jeanne Huff is special projects editor at Idaho Business Review.

About Jeanne Huff

Jeanne Huff is the special sections editor at IBR, editor of Women of the Year, Accomplished Under 40, CEOs of Influence, Money Makers, Leaders in Law, Corporate Guide to Event Planning as well as editor of custom publications including Welcome to Boise, Dining Decisions, Idaho Heartland Living and Travelog.