Ronni Hannaman: Celebrating Carson City’s women during Women’s History Month

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we want to acknowledge local women who have blazed the trail for today’s women continuing to make a difference in a world once dominated by men.

It wasn’t so long ago men dominated the highest non-elected positions in Carson City government. The position of city manager was traditionally held by a male until Linda Ritter broke the pattern in 2003. Since she retired in 2008, two males held the position until Nancy Paulson was confirmed in December 2018 after the resignation of Nick Marano. And, now, the deputy city manager is also female, Adriana Fralick.

Female elected city supervisors weren’t in the majority then and aren’t in the majority today. Since 1969 when Carson City became a consolidated municipality, there have been nine female supervisors. Only two to date have served the full three terms — Kay Bennett (Ward 4) was elected in 1988 and Robin Williamson (Ward 1) was elected in 1998. Ward 3 is the only ward claiming 3 female elected supervisors: Thelma Calhoun (1974); Marilee Chirila (1986); and today is served by Lori Bagwell, first elected in 2004. There hasn’t been a woman elected as mayor.

Just about every major department within the city today is now under female control. Jennifer Budge runs the Carson City Parks and Recreation Department; Courtney Warner oversees the Senior Center; and the Transportation Division within the male dominated Public Works is supervised by Lucia Maloney. In the elected category, Aubrey Rowlat serves as the Carson City Clerk-Recorder and Gale Robertson is the City Treasurer overseeing city funds. Nicki Aaker runs the Health and Human Services Department; Sheri Russell is the city’s Chief Financial Officer; and Melanie Bruketta is the Director of Human Resources.

In the uberly male dominated field of “first responders,” there were two females who may have held interim jobs as sheriff: Anita Smith served from Oct. 23, 1958 until Jan. 4, 1959 and Ruth Hoffman served from Oct. 6, 1966 until Jan. 1, 1967. Other than that, it’s been all burly males.

Research shows the fire chiefs have all been male to date. Today’s lone female in the law enforcement sector is Ali Bannister who heads the Juvenile Probation Department.

Sadly, there has been only one woman elected to the state Legislature from Assembly District 40. Former teacher Bonnie Parnell served two terms beginning in 1998. Our Senate District 16 has never been represented by a female senator. Douglas County has never elected a woman to represent it in either house.

That may someday change since this year Nevada became the first Legislature to be dominated by women with 50.8 percent of the 63 seats. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, this is a cause to celebrate. Perhaps we will see a kinder and more gentle session this year.

Women are far outpacing men when it comes to earning college degrees and have been doing so since 1981. According to the U.S. Census Bureau Population Survey, as of 2017, most of all master’s degrees were earned by women between the ages of 18-24. There were 167 women for every 100 males.

This statistic holds up at Western Nevada College where enrollment in the fall of 2017 showed 56 percent female enrollees vs. 44 percent male.

Though most of the degrees were earned by white women and men, the same statistics were found to hold true among the various ethnic groups. Black, Hispanic and Asian women outnumbered their male counterparts in earning bachelor’s, master’s, professional and doctoral degrees.

And, it gets better, women between 25-34 earned the majority of doctoral degrees. But, that doesn’t mean they earn as much as their male counterparts in the same field. According to a survey of U.S. physicians by Doximity, Inc., female doctors earned about 28 percent less than their male counterparts.

And, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2016, women earned about 80 percent of what men earned.

Each year as I write an article to celebrate Women’s History Month, I’m reminded of the long road women have traveled since the beginning of time, yet there’s still such a long road ahead before there will be equality in the truest sense of the word. Why this topic continues is subject of much debate.

Women’s History Month was proclaimed by a Joint Resolution in the 100th Congress on March 12, 1987,

Because “the role of American women in history has been consistently overlooked and undervalued in the body of American history.” How far have women really come in 31 years since this resolution?

Ronni Hannaman is the Carson City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director.


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