This Boston Politician Gave Birth While in Office—and Paved the Way for Paid Parental Leave

As the first Asian-American woman on Boston City Council and first to give birth while serving in office, Michelle Wu brings needed diversity to the city’s local government.

The United States is currently 75th in the worldwide rankings of women in the national legislature, below many countries often thought to be behind in gender equality, like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia. So why aren’t more women in office? Some say it’s because women aren’t encouraged to get into politics the same way that men are, and they’re therefore less likely to consider politics as a career option in the first place.

For the final episode of A Woman’s Place, documentary hosts Kassidy Brown and Allison Rapson traveled to Boston and spoke with women of color who have successfully run for city council.

Michelle Wu, the current president of the Boston City Council, told Brown and Rapson her motivation to run for office came from taking care of her three young siblings after her mother became ill. The stress of that responsibility inspired her to start a charity to help families in similar situations. But when she tried to get a charity set up, she ran into a ton of barriers and a huge lack of sympathy.

“The biggest gridlock was in local government,” said Rapson about Wu’s experience. “And she realized that maybe she could get a position in local government and make things easier for people like her.”

And she has. As both the first Asian-American woman city council member and the first to give birth while serving in office, she has sponsored paid parental leave and health care equity. Both passed unanimously.

Brown and Rapson also talked to Andrea Campbell, a first-time candidate in her district who recently defeated 32-year incumbent Charles Yancey .

Campbell decided to run for city council after her twin brother died in prison. She and her brother lost both their parents at an early age and spent time in foster care as a result. Campbell saw firsthand how being labeled a “problem kid” denied her brother a good education, landed him in and out of jail, and ended in tragedy. After his death, she became determined to fix the system that failed her brother .

Wu and Campbell’s stories highlight how more women in politics isn’t just good for women. Diversity in office can mean more thoughtful and well-rounded service to everyone in the community.

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