Ever since 2016, when Bethesda’s Rosie Rios stepped down from her role as the 43rd Treasurer of the United States, she has been a mission to help girls reach their full potential and prepare to step into future leadership roles.
Speaking Sunday at the 2018 Women’s Legislative Briefing, held at The Universities at Shady Grove, Rios said that many young girls don’t grow up envisioning themselves as the ones with the powerful jobs because they have few female role models.
“Young girls need to see their future,” she said. “We need inspiration in order to have aspirations.”
That need for inspiration is why, as Treasurer, Rios pushed to feature a such a female hero on United States currency, it is why she is so excited that former slave and abolitionist Harriet Tubman will soon replace former President Andrew Jackson on $20 bill. The only countries to have never had a female figure on their paper currency are United States and Saudi Arabia, she said.
Rios’ efforts also include a push to have more statues of female historical figures placed in city parks across the United States. Of the 23 statues in New York City’s famed Central Park, Rios noted that the only ones depicting women are of fictional characters Mother Goose and the titular protagonist of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.”
In addition, Rios said the only two statues depicting women can be seen in the nation’s capital – one which depicts educator and activist Mary McLeod Bethune, and another commemorating First Lady and United Nations Ambassador Eleanor Roosevelt.
More are coming, Rios said.
Soon, Topps, famous for its baseball trading cards, will be rolling out a line of trading cards of famous women, starting with Susan B. Anthony. She also pointed to a new series of state quarters, which will debut in 2021, featuring women.
Rios urged the women in attendance to stand up for themselves, as they cannot count on either a “knight in shining armor” or politicians in Washington to save them.
“It’s about you,” she said. “One person can make a difference.”
Sunday’s event featured seminars covering such subjects as economic justice, advocating for change, education, healthcare, justice reform and human trafficking. For the first time, the event featured seminars for young people, including a session for middle and high school students on determining real news from fake news, and a seminar on sexual harassment for high schoolers.
The theme of the daylong event was “Enlightened, Empowered, Engaged,” and over the course of the day, many speakers stressed the importance of women stepping out of their comfort zone and into their greater community.
“Leave here more knowledgeable and with a louder voice,” said Lorna Forde, Chairwoman of Montgomery County Commission for Women, the organization which put on the event.
As he stepped up to the podium to speak, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) looked out over the almost-all female crowd before declaring that “the challenge for us is the people who are not in the room,” including parents of immigrants, “the mothers working two or three jobs and cannot afford to be here” and Muslim women who might be too fearful to speak out against bigotry.
“There are an awful lot of women who are not here,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of Governor Larry Hogan (R), Maryland’s Department of Aging Secretary Rona Kramer, expounded on the state’s efforts to end the “horrific crime of human trafficking,” as well as programs to help senior citizens age at home.
Also addressing the crowd was Congressman John Sarbanes (D-3)
Speaking for himself as well as the rest of Maryland’s congressional delegation, Sarbanes said he and his colleagues are fighting for policies to bring women’s salaries in line with those of men, paid sick leave, and an end to sexual harassment and exploitation of women.
“We are fighting every single day to do what is our mission, and that is to level the playing field.”
However, the current condition of things is more a minefield than a level playing field, he said.
Toward the end of the day, three women were inducted into the Montgomery County Commission for Women’s Hall of Fame. They were Catherine Leggett, wife of the executive director, County Council member Nancy Floreen and Delegate Sheila Hixson, a Democrat representing District 20.
The County’s Commission for Women is a 15-member advisory board created in 1972. It advises the County executive, council and county, state and federal government agencies on issues of concern to women.