Groups aim to get women on board

GLENDALE — Glendale’s civic boards and commissions have historically been largely staffed by men. Tonight, the Commission on the Status of Women will host a mixer at the Alex Theatre in an effort to stoke more participation by women.

For whatever reason, city officials say women have traditionally made a meager showing in terms of applications to vacancies on the city’s 17 boards and commissions, offering little chance for the City Council to increase diversity among the combined 77 seats.

The lackluster application rate among women is evident in the current makeup of the commission, according to city records.

Of the 75 current commissioners, 17 are women, and five of those will see their terms expire this year.

Even of those 17, seven sit on the all-female Commission on the Status of Women, which was established in 2004 to promote and raise public awareness on women’s issues in Glendale.

“It would be nice to see this testosterone lock broken,” Mayor John Drayman said.

But his colleagues, as they are picked on a rotating basis to fill commission vacancies as needed, can choose only from the applicant pool, “so until that pool increases, you won’t see a big change in the numbers,” he added.

That’s why the Commission on the Status of Women is hosting the mixer and seminar program at the Alex Theatre tonight, Chairwoman Karla Kerlin said. City officials and current women commissioners will be at the event to field questions, offer advice and give a rundown on what it takes to serve on any one of the wide-ranging commissions.

“It’s a matter of getting the word out,” she said.

But publicity can go only so far in addressing the myriad issues that may be preventing qualified women from applying for the seats, city officials and volunteers say.

Seven of the commissions are made up entirely of men, with several others having just one woman serving on them. The male-dominated boards may give some potential female applicants pause, said Laura Friedman, who as chairwoman of Design Review Board No. 2 is one of just three women on what is an otherwise all-male cast for the commissions serving the Planning Department.

“From the outside, it really looks like a boys club on some of these commissions,” she said.

“It can be a little intimidating.”

Potential candidates may also be too busy addressing career and family pressures to carve out what can often be more than a dozen hours each week for their commission duties, said Kerlin, who has two children — a 7-year-old and 9-month-old.

Time is a major issue for some of the more laborious commissions, City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian said.

“We’re asking for quite a bit of commitment for some of these boards,” he said.

But many factors can blend to make it feasible, city commissioners say, including an amendable boss, sharp time management skills and passion for the issue.

Friedman endured a grueling battle with cancer last year while serving on what is considered to be one of the city’s busiest civil boards, which she now chairs. Pile on the site visits and hours worth of environmental documents and drawings, Friedman said, and it takes more than just qualifications to fuel the service.

“If you care enough about some issue, if it’s really burning you up, it’s really the best way to make an immediate, direct and obvious impact,” she said.

It’s a sentiment that prompted Terry Chan to apply for a vacant seat on the Glendale Water & Power Commission, for which she was confirmed on April 29. With her two children off to college, the electrical engineer decided to parlay her passion for energy efficiency and the environment into civil service.

Chan — who has worked in distribution, planning, price forecasting and customer service at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power — will attend her first meeting as a commissioner in July, “and I am very excited,” she said.

Intimidation wasn’t a factor when deciding to apply for the seat, said Chan, who also holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering and business administration.

“If somebody is going to make these important decisions, I want to be a part of it,” she said.

“I want to be part of this movement.”


 ANGELA HOKANSON covers education. She may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at angelahokanson@ latimes.com.

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