GOFFSTOWN — Former Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift encouraged young women to enter the political arena and stressed the importance of integrating work and life while speaking at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College Monday night.
Swift was a keynote speakers for the college’s woman annual National Education for Women Leadership program taking place June 8 through 13. The program is hosting 24 young women during the five-day residential program.
Swift was 25 when she became the youngest woman ever elected to the Massachusetts State Senate in 1990. She decided to run at the urging of State Sen. Peter Webber who was not running for reelection. That “invitation to run” was critically important, Swift said, and she extended an invitation for every woman in the audience to run for office.
Her career was further helped by another unlikely mentor, a conservative elder statesman who was both male and a Democrat. Swift told the audience that men can be just as effective as woman as mentors.
She was 33 and pregnant with her first child when Gov. Paul Cellucci asked her to run for lieutenant governor.
“This series of life-changing events was not without controversy,” Swift said.
The ensuing debate over the role of working mothers overshadowed the real issues, Swift said, such as the fact that an overwhelming percentage of women have to work as a matter of financial necessity.
When Cellucci resigned in 2001 and Swift assumed the corner office she was pregnant with twins. The continued focus on her role of working mother distracted from the more important issues she was working on, such as education and foster care reform, she said.
Integrating life and work has been easier to achieve outside of the public eye, Swift said.
“In all of the roles I have in the private sector I have the opportunity to reach personal and professional goals, work in issues I’m passionate about, and be an involved and active mother,” Swift said.
If she knew then what she knows today, Swift said she would still do it over again. The privilege of serving and the difference she could make was worth it, she said.
Pursuing a career in politics will provide an opportunity to impact issues they’re passionate about in a meaningful way, Swift said.
“I also know as a community it’s important that we elect more women to leadership roles,” Swift said.