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Press Releases - County Council

For Immediate Release: Friday, March 15, 2024

From the Office of Councilmember Laurie-Anne Sayles

Montgomery County Councilmember Laurie-Anne Sayles and the historic female majority on the Council successfully hosted an exciting event last Friday for Women’s History Month on International Women’s Day. The event, which took place at the BlackRock Center for the Arts, brought together over 200 women leaders from across the state to focus on this year’s Women’s History Month theme, “Women Who Advocate for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.”

“Before the current Council of six accomplished women holding the majority, there was only one female, Councilmember Nancy Navarro, and eight male members,” stated Councilmember Sayles. “I faced a similar situation on the Gaithersburg City Council as the sole female serving alongside five men. Following the commemoration of the Centennial Suffrage, acknowledging the passage of 100 years since women gained the right to vote, I organized an Annual Women's History Month event to remind women of the progress made and the challenges in navigating spaces not initially designed to welcome us.”

District 2 Councilmember Marilyn Balcombe welcomed guests to her district. Then, At-Large Councilmember Sayles explained the depth and meaning behind Women’s History Month. She then introduced Morgan Johnson, a fourth grader at Spark Matsunaga Elementary School, who read her poem about empowering girls and women. Johnson was the honorable mention winner of the Elementary School Category of the Sixth Annual Montgomery County Commission for Women’s Girl Power 2023 Contest.

“When you try to exclude women and girls, we won’t back down. We will speak out,” Johnson read from an excerpt of her poem. “Because when you try to bring us down and make us frown, we will use our kindness to turn the world around.”

Maryland Comptroller Brooke Lierman, Maryland’s first-ever female comptroller, delivered the keynote speech. She highlighted her efforts to elevate women in the workforce and recognize and eliminate the barriers that prevent them from succeeding financially.

“When women have a seat at the table, hopefully, multiple seats at the table, everyone does better when we all do better,” Comptroller Lierman said. “That’s why we are fortunate to have such amazing women on the County Council. They bring their experiences, and when making policies, they bring what they know to those policies to make them better for everybody.”

For the remainder of the event, Councilmembers Kristin Mink, Dawn Luedtke, Sayles and Council Vice President Kate Stewart introduced guest speakers who thoughtfully broke down four topics (education, economic development, public safety and public health) vital to this year’s Women’s History Month theme.

“Every girl or woman, and every learner, from early care to high school to their career and beyond, should have access to educational resources and opportunities as they need them,” said Dr. Anne Khademian, executive director of the Universities at Shady Grove. “[They] should have the opportunity to develop their unique strengths, to lean into their interests and to live and work true to their values.”

“In light of all of our recent legislative DEI reversals and our 2024 elections, we have got to commit to increasing our own personal advocacy, support and purposeful representation in our local, state and national politics on issues related to DEI and economic development,” said Sylvia Henderson, CEO and co-founder of MindTeam Solutions and president of Montgomery Women.

“What does a firefighter look like? What does a police officer look like? History would say I don’t look like a firefighter, but we’ve gotten there because we deserve to be there,” Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Division Chief Dee Richards said.

For the FY25 Operating Budget, the County Executive proposes an exciting initiative – a new Girls Fire Camp to diversify gender representation in the fire service and encourage and empower girls to consider firefighting as a career.

“Women have historically played pivotal roles in advocating for equitable access to healthcare, diversity in healthcare settings and inclusive policies that address the diverse needs of populations,” said Dr. Kisha Davis, County Health Officer for the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services. “Their contributions have been instrumental in shaping public health initiatives worldwide.”

Councilmember Sayles closed the event by recognizing women leaders in some of Montgomery County’s highest positions and departments and calling for action.

“This November, Maryland voters will have the opportunity to vote on Maryland's Right to Reproductive Freedom Amendment, which, if passed, would add a new section to the Constitution that guarantees a right to reproductive freedom,” Councilmember Sayles said. “It is essential to create the spaces we have created today for women to mobilize around issues of crucial importance as we treat women with dignity, equality and respect. We are the ones who, when together and united, can make a stand and let the country know that our voices and our votes matter.”

Watch a video recap of the event here.

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Release ID: 24-101
Media Contact: Office of Councilmember Laurie-Anne Sayles 240-777-7964
Categories: Laurie-Anne Sayles