New York State Senator Discusses Current Issues and Feminism with High Schoolers

Julianna Santella

Members of Manhasset Feminist club were privy to a presentation by Elaine Phillips, a member of the New York State Senate, came to speak this past Tuesday night. At the event, Phillips discussed her background, how she ended up in government, as well as the aspects of her job and the current issues plaguing her district.

Phillips started off the talk by explaining how she got to her position today, which was not how one would think. She majored in Political Science in Penn State University with a focus on Latin American studies. She was the first in her family to go to college. She didn’t know that she wanted to hold public office her whole life. In fact, she had a career in the financial services sector for over 20 years on Wall Street. She was a financial analyst for Metlife and JP Morgan Securities, and later as a Vice President in Institutional Sales at Goldman Sachs. At Goldman Sachs she was able to work part time so that she could care for their children at home while not being completely out of work. Phillips is a mother to three children, Kate, Hannah, and Sarah.

Prior to joining the Senate of New York, Phillips was the Mayor of Flower Hill for five years. During those five years, she decreased taxes of the residents for four and kept them flat for one year. It was also during her term that the Flower Hill Park was created.

She did not think of running for state office until she was approached by a member of the Senate who wanted to move to Congress, who asked her to run for his position. Phillips says the move was all about timing. Had she been the mother of young children, she said, she would have declined the job due to the exposure the job would result in. However, her children were all grown up, and so she ran- and won.

Emily Cruz, president of the Manhasset Feminism club, shared her thoughts of the event: “It  was very informative and a lot of people have come up to me and told me they had learned a great deal about the local and state governments.” When asked what her favorite part of the speech was, Cruz said, “When she was speaking about her time on Wall Street and said it was the age of ‘Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll.’” Cruz is referring to when Phillips was asked about if she experienced workplace sexism when she originally went to work in Wall Street, which was during the 80s. Luckily, Phillips said that she was fortunate enough to have worked for mostly women and did not experience much workplace sexism.

Paige Towers, a sophomore at Manhasset High School, also shared her opinions on the event and the impact it had on her:  “Phillip’s speech was very informative and interesting. I learned a lot of new things about her role in government. I loved learning about how she got into the government.” Towers also learned the number of New York State Senators during this event, as well as how the New York State Senate system functions. Tower’s favorite part about the event was learning about how Phillips got into the government.

During the event, Phillips discussed the women who are currently in New York State’s government. She listed the names, and made sure to emphasize that although our government needs much more women, many women hold positions of power and great influence in our government. As she listed the names of these working women, it was hard not to realize the much higher number of men in comparison to the number of women. When asked about this,  Cruz said, “I believe that, however close the margin may be getting, the United States in generally is still lagging behind many European countries in terms of political equality. However, I do think it is great that on a state level, that there are so many women in such high level positions”.

Phillips also discussed the best parts of her job: helping different families along Long Island, including helping a Military family who lost their loved ones on his fourth tour in Iraq, as well as giving tax cuts to the Seniors of Nassau County. Cruz share her thoughts on the most interesting aspect of Phillip’s job:  “She has a large amount of sway on the local level, especially concerning taxes, which is interesting. However the best aspect of the job is probably the local outreach- like when she mentioned that she went to the lower income levels of her district and taught some of the teenagers there.” Towers also shared her opinion on what the best part of Phillip’s job was: “It was very interesting how many water issues there are on Long Island.” She also shared what she believes to be the most difficult part of Phillip’s job: “Probably finding solutions to problems that all people agree with.”

Cruz also stated that because of Phillips, she is considering a job in Politics. “I had met Elaine Phillips before as a Senate Shadow last may, and that experience was what really made me consider a possible career in politics, her speech just added a few details in.” Likewise, Towers also was influenced in a similar manner. “I might consider a job in government now because she seemed to really benefit the community and I would love to have a positive impact on people’s lives like she does”, she stated.

Student’s found Phillip’s speech to be extremely informative, vibrant, and influential. The speech informed the students on current issues of the Manhasset community as well as the Nassau County community, on how the New York Senate works, and the disproportionate amount of women compared to men in our state government.