In January, Gender Justice welcomed former Minnesota state legislator Erin Maye Quade as our new advocacy director. Maye Quade is a longtime champion of women’s, reproductive, and LGTBQ rights, and received national attention for fearlessly speaking out against the pervasive culture of sexual harassment within the statehouse. As a 2018 candidate for lieutenant governor, Maye Quade was the first LGBTQ person - and one of the youngest - to be endorsed on the ticket of a major political party in Minnesota.
We asked Erin to talk about some of her recent experiences and outlook for the coming year.
What brought you to Gender Justice?
I’m excited to join an organization that is rooted in ending gender inequities and has been successful in seeking justice and enacting change in Minnesota.
How did your experience calling out sexual harassment in the Minnesota legislature shape the way you approach your current role?
When I first reported the harassment to leadership, I had to contend with how few options there are to get relief--and the few options there are were wildly unsatisfactory; I came forward in part because I had few other options. Doing so helped me understand the power and importance of telling your story, even when it’s hard. Maybe especially when it’s hard.
What’s it been like to return to the legislature in your new role?
It’s been fun! I have a passion for policy work and being part of policy coalitions as the Advocacy Director has allowed me to apply the unique lens of being a former legislator to that work -- I enjoy being able to continue doing some of my favorite aspects of my old job in my new one. It has also been fun watching friends, colleagues, and new legislators represent their communities and change the lives of Minnesotans. As a member of the Paid Family Medical Leave coalition, my dream of not attending committee hearings late into the night has gone, sadly, unrealized.
What are some things you learned about gender equity in Minnesota in the course of your statewide campaign?
As I traveled across the state, I met so many Minnesotans who are aware of this fact. What I was struck by most were my interactions with women in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s who were almost apologetic that gender inequities are still as prevalent as they are. Gender inequity exists everywhere in Minnesota; it hurts women, it hurts men and it holds our state back.
What has been most surprising to you as you’ve worked to further our legislative agenda this year?
I’ve had more interaction with the Minnesota Senate than I did as a legislator and I have been surprised by how much they stand in stark contrast to the Minnesota House this year, both in tone and in urgency.
What should we be watching for in the coming year or so?
We need to start listening to young people. We should always be listening to young people, however their future looks increasingly bleak and we can’t keep messing with that and expect them to stay quiet. Additionally, women made historic gains in representation in the 2018 elections and I’m excited to see the policies that reflect that change, including addressing the legal standard for sexual harassment to ensure dignity in the workplace, Paid Family Medical Leave, ending abortion restrictions, equal pay for equal work, etc.