Michelle Bernard to discuss how women are changing politics as spring 2015 Mary Louise Smith chair

AMES, Iowa – Simply judging by the numbers may not provide a complete picture. Even though women only hold about 20 percent of the seats in Congress, they are making an impact in the political arena. Michelle D. Bernard, an attorney, author and political analyst, will explain how in her lecture “How American Women are Changing Politics.”

Bernard, who is the founder, president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy, will speak Tuesday, March 31, at Iowa State University as the spring 2015 Mary Louise Smith Chair in Women and Politics. Her lecture will start at 7:30 p.m. in the Memorial Union’s Sun Room and is free and open to the public.

Dianne Bystrom, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, says Bernard is known for her analysis of a variety of political and public policy issues, both domestic and foreign. She has written extensively about women political candidates and campaign strategies to attract women voters.

“Bernard has argued that political candidates, both female and male, can best attract the votes of women by crafting sensible solutions to the problems that affect women, men, families and children,” Bystrom said. “She believes that political candidates need to talk to women about all issues – and not just so-called ‘women’s issues.’ She believes all issues are women’s issues as women are affected by questions of war and peace, economic turmoil, education and more.”

Bystrom adds that despite the small numbers, women are making a difference in Congress through their collaborative leadership style. For example, women of both political parties worked together to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling in 2013.

“A recent study showed that women U.S. senators are more likely to co-sponsor legislation with a member of the opposite party than men. In addition to women in political office, women voters continue to impact the political process by registering and voting in larger numbers than men in most elections as well as demonstrating differences in positions on many key issues such as war, immigration and health care,” Bystrom said.

An attorney by training, Bernard is a frequent political and legal analyst on MSNBC. She appears regularly on “The McLaughlin Group”; is a guest commentator on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered”; and is a contributor for the Huffington Post and the Washington Post’s “She the People.” In July 2008, Newsmax magazine named Bernard as one of three "fast trackers" on its list of the nation’s top opinion leaders.

Bernard is the author of “Moving America Toward Justice: The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, 1963-2013” and “Women’s Progress: How Women are Wealthier, Healthier and More Independent Than Ever Before.”

About the Mary Louise Smith Chair

The Mary Louise Smith Chair in Women and Politics was established at Iowa State University in 1995 to honor the Iowa native and longtime political and civic leader. Smith – the first and only woman to chair the Republican National Committee – was a mentor, friend and role model to many in the world of politics and civic, government and community affairs.

The purpose of the chair is to bring nationally known political leaders, scholars and activists to Iowa State to enrich the experiences of students and educate citizens about the role of women in the political process.

The event is sponsored by the Catt Center, the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost, and the Committee on Lectures, which is funded by the ISU Government of the Student Body.