Women Who Stand: Rhonda Fields+Share
When Tyler wants to talk to amazing female leaders she usually calls Kayla McGannon, former Stand Colorado advocacy director who continues to work in education policy. Kayla put Tyler in touch with Representative Rhonda Fields, an education champion in the Colorado legislature with an inspiring personal story.
What work are you most proud of in your last 2 years in the state legislature?
I’m most proud of having the opportunity to help craft and to pass the Colorado READ act, a bill designed to make sure that every 3rd grader knows how to read before he or she gets promoted to the 4th grade. Essentially, it adds a variety of literacy supports to Kindergarten through 3rd grade classrooms to make sure kids know how to read by 3rd grade. It’s the right thing for our children.
Even for a politician, you’ve endured more than your fair share of name-calling and even personal threats. What motivates you to run again for office and to keep fighting?
After what I’ve experienced these last two weeks I have had doubts. I never thought that being a leader would put me in situation where my life and safety would be at risk. What keeps me going is proposing and passing positive legislation. Leadership is not in a title. It is about what a person stands for and what they do.
I was involved in my community prior to being a state politician: I sought justice on behalf of my son who was murdered [the day before he was scheduled to testify as a witness in another murder trial]. Through my own state representative, we passed legislation for a witness protection program named after my son, so that another family would not have to experience the same trauma that I did. That journey led me to politics, and it’s why I believe in the power of legislation and the power of leadership.
Why do you think women are underrepresented in public office?
For me, it was about self-image. I saw politics as a male dominated occupation. I never thought I had enough influence or money to be in this line of work. It wasn’t until I was asked by three different people to run that I considered it, and it took them reminding me of everything I had already done as a private citizen already.
Now I realize that to be a good legislator you vote your values, your district, your principles. Those three things are really the key to success.
What advice would you give to women who want to get involved?
Don’t doubt yourself. Get off the sidelines! Look for areas of inequities and challenges in your community and start working on making those better.
I believe that women can really change the world. We know how to build relationships, to collaborate. We build more bridges than we tear down. That’s why I think I have been successful. I passed 15 bills in my first term, and that was when the Republicans were in charge. And I was able to do that because I crossed the aisle and collaborated.
The bottom line: get out there and do it! I want more women to run. I want to see Hillary in the White House as the next president of the United States. Women have it going on!