Guest editorial: Council mistake illustrates messy path ahead in Park City’s social equity push
Executive director, Park City Community Foundation
Surprised, not surprised, disappointed, and yes angry. These are the emotions I felt when I listened to the January 16 special meeting to choose our next City Council member (filling the seat vacated by Mayor Beerman). I felt those emotions again listening to KPCW’s report of some of those comments and a few more from the City Council’s recent retreat.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with what I am referring to or haven’t listened, let me recap quickly. Among other considerations, Council discussed whether a specific female candidate could make the position work, considering her other priorities, priorities most people have — work and family. I felt these same range of emotions listening to public discussions of how/if Council member Becca Gerber’s pending parenthood is going to “work”.
It’s personal for me. My husband and I have two young children and two full time jobs. I was 8 months pregnant when I applied for the job I have now. The balance between working and parenting is very real to my family, every single day.
And that’s what makes these conversations so hard. The truth is that juggling work, parenting, leadership, and service is difficult. But I’m deeply uncomfortable with this as a consideration of whether someone can get the job done. These considerations are what have historically and systematically prevented women access to leadership positions.
Significant work experience and demonstrated commitment to community (including raising a family here) are the reasons men get leadership positions and yet … women get passed by.
In the past few months, the community, led by the City, has embarked on a conversation about social equity. At the retreat on March 2, Council agreed to raise social equity to a critical priority. Probably the most common questions I’ve fielded about this are, “What does social equity mean? What does the work look like?”
It looks just like this. It looks quite messy and very, very hard.
People are going to raise their voices when they identify moments of injustice or discrimination. Smart, thoughtful, and well-meaning leaders are going to need to listen, learn, and change. If we do this right, we’re all going to need to be quite humble, because we’ll all make mistakes along the way. We must give people the space to learn and the space to object.
The fact is, the very people who are making us upset are often our allies. They are often people who share our core values. If we do this work right, we’re all going to get comfortable with very uncomfortable conversations.
Katie Wright is the executive director of Park City Community Foundation and lives in Park City with her family.
“How a neighborhood grows should be a transparent process. If a plan spelled out how a community will grow, then the development process would have fewer surprises.”