Kathryn Garcia on the Challenges of Being a Woman in New York Politics
On Tuesday, April 26, LM Live hosted New York’s Director of State Operations Kathryn Garcia and Downtown Alliance President Jessica Lappin for its Women’s Breakfast at Trinity Commons. The event marked a number of firsts, including the inaugural LM Live event (post-LMHQ closure) and the first in-person Women’s Breakfast since the start of the pandemic. Trinity Commons’s spectacular new wood-paneled event space provided a picturesque backdrop.
Garcia, who previously headed New York City’s Sanitation Department and the New York City Housing Authority before embarking on a mayoral run in 2021, spoke about the challenges of being a woman leader across typically male-dominated city agencies. Though initially Garcia felt she had to prove herself to staffers, they would often bring their daughters to work to meet her. “They’d say, ‘See, you can be head of the Sanitation Department, you can be head of NYCHA,'” Garcia said. “I was a role model for them.”
Garcia also talked about her aforementioned run for mayor in the Democratic primary last year, in which she came in behind then-Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams by only 0.8 percentage points. Though she proved to be a formidable candidate, initially Garcia said she was plagued by naysayers who questioned her electability, despite her many years of leading city agencies.
“The amount of Is she a viable candidate? that happens for women and not for men is astonishing,” Garcia said, noting that she felt the message was, “‘You’re competent enough, but I don’t know if I can get enough people to vote for you.'”
Still, Garcia said the challenge was worth it. “Running for office is not easy, but fascinating, and a real commitment to the city you love,” she said.
She also had praise for Governor Kathy Hochul, New York’s first female governor, who appointed Garcia as director of state operations last September along with an unprecedented number of women leaders. Garcia said the change in leadership gender dynamics is palpable. “People listen in a way that has not happened before in rooms I’ve been in,” she said.
And Garcia touched on some of the challenges the state currently faces, including the need to bring people back to offices in New York City. The state relies on economic activity generated by office tenants and building owners, Garcia pointed out, but she also stressed that more flexibility for office workers was warranted. “Especially for women, who bore more of a burden in the pandemic with childcare and eldercare,” Garcia said, noting that many women ended up scaling back their careers or leaving the workforce entirely.Tags: jessica lappin, kathryn garcia, lm live, womens breakfast