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“You know what happens if you speak up. It doesn’t ever tend to work out well for you. And Lansing is a small town. I think people forget that there’s a lot of people who can make things difficult for you,” she said.
Lena Epstein, a longtime Republican, former congressional candidate and business owner, stands outside of her home in Bloomfield Hills on April 18, 2021. (Nicole Hester | MLive.Com)
There’s a place for women, but not in power or big money roles
A lot of women work in politics, and make a salary doing it. But it’s harder for women to reach the sort of upper echelons, like managing statewide campaigns, attaining top positions with caucus leadership or owning their own firms.
Men outnumber women in lead legislative staffing roles, although women are closer to achieving parity there. An analysis of top legislative aides of the 146 lawmakers currently in office compiled by MLive found women held 43% of lead staffing roles.
Clark, who founded Athena Strategies on her own, said the principals of political consulting firms are overwhelmingly male.
“When you look at who really has the power and the money, who really makes money, who really pulls the strings, it’s just kind of stunning.”
Kelly Rossman-McKinney, a longtime public relations professional who is now communications director for Attorney General Dana Nessel, started her political career as a legislative secretary in the House in 1979. Back then, she said it was a more freewheeling atmosphere — flirting, relationships and affairs between lawmakers and staff were common.
“I think women, for the most part, felt that they had to tolerate the wisecracks, sexual innuendo, the hugs, the kisses, all that,” Rossman-McKinney said. “Particularly women my age, because there were so few women in power positions, it was all men.”
As she advanced her career and started her own business, Rossman-