It was six in the morning Friday when Robin Swanson started receiving emails from female friends pointing out that, once again, women were under-represented at a California politics event organized by the University of California, Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies.
"We have given notice to this old boys club many times about continuing to host almost exclusively male political panels," said Swanson, a political consultant and former spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez. "This is a business that has incredibly successful and insightful women ready to share their views, and we're getting tired of being polite about reminding them."
Criticizing the absence of women at Institute of Governmental Studies events has become something of a ritual for Swanson and other prominent female political operatives in California. Two years ago, a video in which a cartoon woman tries unsuccessfully to explain the issue to a male colleague went viral.
Of the 13 scheduled speakers at Friday's event in Sacramento -- a daylong discussion of California's revived fortunes entitled "California: Are we back?" -- two are women.
Shawnda Westly, executive director of the California Democratic Party, said women have pushed the Institute of Governmental Studies to incorporate more female voices but have little to show for it.
"It's business for a lot of people, and having your name out on a panel or in a newspaper, those things all matter as far as the advancement of women in this field," Westly said.
Ethan Rarick, who organized the event, said the Institute of Governmental Studies strives for diversity on its panels, both in terms of gender and ideology.
"I think if you look over time at IGS events, you'll see that we do a very good job at those kinds of things," Rarick said. "For any one event or any one panel it can be difficult -- sometimes people aren't available or that sort of thing."
He noted that organizers had invited state Finance Director Ana Matosantos to appear on the state budget panel, but that she sent department spokesman H.D. Palmer in her stead. He also said that two of the panels had female moderators.
PHOTO CREDIT: UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies' panel on the state budget included four men. Not shown in this photo was the panel moderator, Amy Chance. Jeremy B. White/The Sacramento Bee