Letting Go of the Political Reins

NWPC members get schooled by a Gen-Z Panel.

8 mins read
Woman participating in a Zoom conference

Generation Z, also known as “Zoomers,” is the demographic cohort born between 1997 and 2012, making them 12–27 years old in 2024. They are the first generation to be completely immersed in the internet since birth and are often called the first fully “digitally native” generation.

More than 30 participants logged into The Intergenerational Conversation Zoom meeting hosted by the National Women’s Political Caucus of Greater Pasadena. The meeting featured a moderated panel of Gen-Z school-age girls discussing their political aspirations and how NWPC+ members can help the girls achieve them.

A woman smiling for the camera
Blair HS teacher Joy McCreary moderated the meeting. Photo: NWPC

Moderated by Joy McCreary, NWPC State Caucus Representative and a faculty member at Blair High School, the panel of young girls asked questions of members and also gave beyond-their-years sage advice on how to engage their generation in the political process.

McCreary focused the meeting on the importance of hearing and listening to all the voices around the women’s political involvement, soliciting questions and comments from the young panelists, which included:

  • Middle-schooler Aziza, who wants to make sure women have their own spaces and progress;
  • Tenth-grader Michelle wants women’s opinions heard, especially women of color;
  • High school junior Kennedy believes women in politics are underestimated;
  • Hi school junior Savannah reminds participants that girls should have the same opportunities as boys.  
Phlunte' Riddle wearing a striped shirt and smiling at the camera
Dr. Phlunté Riddle. Source: Campaign

The panel invited Phlunté Riddle, a recent candidate for State Assembly District 41, to give her firsthand experiences running for office and discuss the importance of including the youth perspective in the intergenerational conversation about women in politics. 

“There are not enough young voices from ages 16-35 out there,” said Riddle. “We’re losing a critical voice, a critical component of what the next generation thinks is important and where they would like to see our country, state and local politics go.

“I remember not feeling safe and feeling like someone would judge me…”

Phlunté Riddle

Riddle’s safety comments are echoed in a recently published study by Jamie Ballard and Anabel Iwegbuep in Cosmopolitan Magazine in which “Forty percent of Gen Z women (compared with 25 percent of boomer women and 30 percent of both Gen X and millennial women) say threats to physical safety are a problem for women in local elected office. Thirty-six percent (compared with 21 percent of boomers and about 29 percent of both Gen X and millennials) say the same about threats to psychological safety. And nearly 50 percent of Gen Z women, more than any other generation, think that protections against these threats would better help women in office succeed.”

How can older generations of women support younger women in politics?

“The best way to get involved in politics is to seek out a woman candidate or a woman officeholder and volunteer or work in their campaigns,” said Susan Kane, NWPC+ Vice-Chair, Political Action Committee. “All you have to do is ask. We are more than happy to offer ourselves as mentors. If you want to learn, go to an organization and ask.”

“I would love to see us have a youth council and have regular conversations and programs that focus on different topics important to young people,” she continued. “I chair the political action committee. We interview candidates to consider them for endorsements. I would welcome having young people in those interviews so that we can hear their perspective on women who are running and who we should support politically and financially.”

A woman posing for the camera
Jasiri Jenkins-Glenn. Photo: NWPC

Co-Chair of Communications, Jasiri Jenkins-Glenn, agreed.

Our young women are so outspoken right now. But when they say that they’re not feeling heard, we need to open up a forum for young people to share. We really have to set the tone. I’m listening to you, and I’m going to apply what makes sense. I’m going to share with you, and then we’re going to build that bridge together so that there’s understanding.”

The panel also asked the question of Jacque Robinson-Baisley, former Pasadena City Councilmember and Chair of the Education and Training Committee. Her response was reminiscent of what the nonprofit world calls “Founders’ Syndrome,” also known as founderitis, which occurs when founders, board members, or other longtime leaders of an organization become resistant to change. This can cause the organization to become stagnant and ineffective and lead to a loss of support and frustrated employees and members.

“…our wise elders don’t necessarily want to let go of the reins…”

Jacque Robinson-Baisley
A woman smiling for the camera
Jacque Robinson-Baisley. Photo: NWPC

“My daughter’s been going with me to events since she was a baby,” said Robinson-Baisley. “That’s the best way to get people engaged – invite young people to the table and encourage them to speak up and have decision-making roles. When I was on the city council, I would get invited (or asked to invite my peers and younger women) to be involved in organizations that have older members. But then, when you get there, our wise elders don’t necessarily want to let go of the reins and allow the young people to have decision-making roles. Allow them to be actively engaged in the organizations so they don’t get discouraged and then drop out.”

Robinson continued. “Men get up tomorrow and say, ‘I’m going to run for mayor or president’ without a second thought. It’s ingrained early. We have to support young women and girls early on in their careers and encourage them and make sure that they know that they are enough, they are qualified as they are, and they, too, can get up tomorrow and say, I’m going to run for whatever they want. You don’t have to be perfect. Training will come. You learn it by doing it.”

What role do mothers play in encouraging their daughters to get involved in politics?

Judy Matthews, a 2020 recipient of the Woman of Distinction honor, included mother figures in her reply. 

Matthews said, “Politically active mothers and mother figures affect the daughters’ levels of political engagement. Their influence outweighs that of politically active fathers. Their political engagement is influenced by their social background and other characteristics. The earliest experiences and impressions may have the most enduring effects. A political mother or figure can enhance the odds of having a politically active daughter.”

Matthews felt the group should “identify young ambassadors to shadow our leaders because, through shadowing, we share ideas and thoughts. Young people’s ideas are very important, contributing some things we may not have thought of that should be implemented.”

“We are the next presidents and the next government.”

Kennedy, high school junior

Panelist Kennedy expressed some frustration about barriers to involvement in politics. 

Kennedy said, “Even though we are young, we pay attention. We know what we want our world to be. If you can hear us, we want the world to be run by strong, powerful people who make a difference. We need more conversations that ask for our input on what’s going on politically. We are the next presidents and the next government. For younger women, conversations about politics usually end with, ‘I can’t vote anyway.’ It’s a struggle to find other people of the same age who are willing to participate. But we actually have a voice and can make a difference. We have to be given some opportunities and resources – given a bit of help.”

Michelle commented, “If women are all given a safe space and a platform where we can share ideas and beliefs, discuss political issues, and hear our opinions, then we can be involved in politics so that it’s not just men.”

Azzy remarked about barriers young women face when trying to enter the political sphere. “There are vast differences in society now, as opposed to even 20-30 years ago,” she said. “A lot of the ways that you get into the political sphere have changed, and how you represent yourself has changed. I think it’s a little bit harder to navigate.”

How do social media and TV influence youth and their political thoughts?

“Social media is a big part of our generation’s opinions,” says Michelle, “because everything you see on your phone forms your opinion. If you see a bunch of people who believe this opinion, then you start to believe it, too. People pose opinions and rumors as facts. You think that you’re getting facts from whatever you see on Instagram, but you really don’t know what type of information you’re receiving. If you don’t fact-check it, you’re not going to know completely what you’re taking in.”

“What about ‘girls will be girls?’”

Gen-Z Panelist Savannah

“It is so important for the media today to spread things that are very positive,” said Savannah, “things that will help us instead of hurting us. We should definitely make it our duty to spread positive things so we can start changing people’s negative opinions to positive opinions. We should use social media as a tool for good, not just for spreading around bad or sad things or just to get the most clicks. Being a girl, especially a black woman, society teaches young women to be quieter, take up less space, be smaller, be less vivid and vivacious. Don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t explore. But society doesn’t do it when it comes to boys. Like the saying, ‘boys will be boys.’ What about ‘girls will be girls?’ Where’s that representation for us? I feel like this forum is definitely the embodiment of that for us. I’m so proud to be here. Events like this will make future women who look like me want to stand up and say, ‘Oh, my opinion is this or that, or we should do this or that.”

How to get involved with Gen-Z?

Of course, the answer was TikTok, with Instagram coming in second.

“At my school,” said Michelle, “we have a debate team, and sometimes they talk about politics. But other than that, I feel like my school doesn’t really have a set group for politics or just women.”

Kennedy echoed the debate club comment. “There are not many schools with clubs that really talk about these political issues. We see it in the media, or we talk about what we see in the media, which isn’t always factual. If we had more things from school, maybe we could hear the correct information and talk about that. At my school, we allow guest speakers to come in during the study hall period, or they can just be on Zoom. It usually rounds up a good group of kids who want to help and want to talk about politics.”

Savannah brought it back to the youth moment. “Make it fun, make it bright, make it something that people our age would want to join. Having young people reach out to young people would be supportive.”

Summing up the generational task

“We’ve heard many thought-provoking answers from Susan Kane, Jacque Robinson-Baisley, Judy Matthews, and members of our next rising generation, as well as the brave people who shared their personal opinions with us,” said Kennedy. “We have reviewed and learned that if you ask us for our opinions, we are willing to help and willing to share because this is also our world. We want to help, and we will share our opinions. We talked about social media influence and how it can be painful to political views, but it can also help reach out to other young minds.”

“We should leave with a really strong call to action,” said McCreary, “to make sure that this is not the last time that we have a conversation with another woman about how we can get our young people and particularly our young women involved in politics.”

A person posing for the camera
Charlotte Bland, President, NWPC Greater Pasadena. Photo: NWPC.org

“It’s kind of hard to let go of the reins,” said NWPC+ President Char Bland. “The lesson learned tonight listening to the girls is that the older generation just needs to release and let the younger generation take control. That’s my little gold nugget takeaway because I jumped into the chat a few times, and then I retracted. I’m excited that they’re a part of this. I’m even more excited that we can stay connected with them.”

The short URL of this article is: https://localnewspasadena.com/zzal

Sheryl Turner

Sheryl is Local News Pasadena's Publisher and Pasadena Media Foundation's Founder. When not saving local news, she devotes her spare time to finding the best meatloaf in town.
Email: [email protected]

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