One hundred years after women earned the right to vote in America, Asheville seated its first all-woman City Council on Dec. 1, 2020.
It’s a historic first in the state of North Carolina and a rarity nationwide.
Led by Mayor Esther Manheimer, new Council members Sandra Kilgore, Kim Roney, and Sage Turner participated in a (virtual) Council meeting Dec. 1, joined by Vice-Mayor Sheneika Smith and Councilwomen Gwen Wisler and Antanette Mosley. Three members—Smith, Kilgore, and Mosley—are African American.
This historic change comes in a year in which the nation elected its first female vice president, Kamala Harris, who is also of a woman of color, and elected or re-elected a record number of 26 Black women to Congress. Notably, the City of Asheville is also served by an African American woman, Asheville City Manager, Debra Campbell.
Why does this matter? What might this dynamic bring?
“It matters that there’s an all-female Council because it represents a glass ceiling that’s being shattered,” said Leisha DeHart-Davis, professor at the NC School of Government at UNC Chapel Hill. “We know from research that when governments look like the people they serve, it benefits communities. And the racial diversity on this Council is a real positive.”
Here are some takeaways from members of the new all-woman Asheville City Council.
Vice-Mayor Sheneika Smith
“Since elected to serve on Council in 2017, I’ve been a part of several historic gains, but none more comforting and life-giving than the sacred opportunity to work alongside two other passionate Black women [who] are also Asheville natives and deep rooted in the community. That’s a game-changer and comforting!”
Council member Antanette Mosley:
“I think it’s important for people to associate women with leadership. I also think it’s important for little girls to be able to see themselves in their leaders… This is the first time three African American women have served together on Council. We each grew up here, and we’re able to bring that perspective to the table. I’m especially proud that Sandra [Kilgore] was able to win more votes than any other candidate this election. Her ability to gain support among the largest/broadest coalition speaks volumes.”
Council member Sage Turner
“Women belong in leadership roles as much as men and these women are brilliant, dedicated citizens from a variety of backgrounds and experiences.”
Council member Kim Roney
“With healing as our focus, resiliency as our goal, and equity as our demand for how to get there, let’s share in the work to take better care of the planet and each other.”
Collaboration is key
Research shows that women tend to work more collaboratively. And the value people place on relationships is a strong influencing factor on whether and how they collaborate, according to the Harvard Business Review. Relationship-heavy cultures are marked by inclusion, personal connection, and relationship-based decision making.
When women run, they (mostly) win
The fact that all these women stepped up to the plate speaks well of their commitment to public service, said DeHart-Davis. “It’s a tough job.”
Women don’t run for elected office at the same rates as men do. “But actually they do quite well when they run,” DeHart-Davis said.
“I’m thrilled that Asheville has taken this step forward,” DeHart-Davis added. “It speaks well of the inclusiveness of the community that they elected an all-female slate.”