By Eric He
City News Service
LOS ANGELES (CNS) – When the new Los Angeles City Council met for its first session this week, six women had seats around the horseshoe in the chamber, the most in city history.
This year’s council elections welcomed in three new women in Katy Young Yaroslavsky, Traci Park and Eunisses Hernandez. They will join Monica Rodriguez, Nithya Raman and Heather Hutt.
Rodriguez, elected in 2017, is the most senior woman on the council followed by Raman, who was elected in 2020. Hutt was appointed as an interim councilmember for the 10th District a few months ago.
The newly elected city attorney, Hydee Feldstein Soto, is also the first woman to serve in that role. All the new women officials replaced men in their respective roles.
All of which is on top of Karen Bass making her own history by becoming the first woman elected LA mayor.
Rodriguez said at a briefing Monday that politics, like many industries, has “historically been monopolized by male leadership that has often kept women at the sidelines.”
“We have a compilation and an incredible tapestry of women leaders that are now going to work together to help forge progress in this city,” Rodriguez said.
Women now comprise 40% of the council, an increase from just a few years ago, when Rodriguez was one of only two women on the council from 2017 to 2020. From 2013 to 2017, Nury Martinez — who resigned this year over the City Hall racism scandal — was the only woman on the 15-member body.
Only 23 women, including the three new members this year, have ever served on the council, according to Rodriguez’s office. The first version of the Los Angeles City Council was established in 1850.
Yaroslavsky, who replaced Paul Koretz in the 5th District, said that when she informed people while campaigning three years ago that only two members were women, “it blew their minds.”
“They couldn’t believe that in one of the most progressive cities in the country, two out of 15 [seats] were comprised of women,” Yaroslavsky said.
But, Yaroslavsky added: “Last time I checked, six out of 15 isn’t even a majority, so we’re clearly not done yet.”
Yaroslavsky said that representation matters because of the perspectives and experiences women bring to the decision-making process.
“Because she who holds the pen holds the power,” Yaroslavsky said. “And for too long, women didn’t hold pens. We weren’t even in the rooms where it happened. And our policies tangibly suffered … and they continue to suffer from this lack of representation.”
Feldstein Soto, taking over for Mike Feuer, said that women lead differently than men in that they start with the heart, walking in softly and learning about their surroundings.
“We don’t assume that we can walk in and fix things,” Feldstein Soto said. “We try to collaborate and reach out to one another.”
The six councilwomen come from different backgrounds and experiences, and span a wide ideological spectrum, according to Park, who replaced Mike Bonin in the 11th District.
“We desperately need change that can only happen when we invest in women,” Park said.
In a statement, Hutt said the country is in the midst of “a promising era for women everywhere.”
All five seats on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors continue to be held by women. Around the country, a record 12 women will serve as governors in 2023, and 149 women — also a record — will hold seats in Congress.
“Who runs the world? … Girls!!!” Hutt said. “Today is history in the making.”
Rodriguez, chair of the council’s Public Safety Committee, stressed that she and the rest of the members “have the ability to talk about a lot more than just childcare.”
“There has been a lot of pigeon-holing for women that has existed for centuries, the expectation that women are only allowed to serve in certain roles,” Rodriguez said. “We are going to change that dynamic together.”