ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Teresa Jacobs has been a force in Orange County leadership for almost two decades. Currently, she holds the top seat of the Orange County School Board as its Chair.
- Orange County is seeing a rise in women leadership
- School Board, County Commission made up entirely of women
- Leaders say leadership from women makes a difference
On both sides of her at the Orange County School Board meetings sits a board made up entirely of women. It’s a first for the board.
“It is historic,” said Linda Kobert, Orange County School Board Commissioner, District 3. “I think we are leading the way here in Orange County for the public to entrust a $4 billion dollar budget, and 211,000 children to us, it is a big, big deal. It is a big responsibility.”
Kobert has served three years on the board, overseeing South Orlando schools. She is a proud woman in politics and hopes to pave the way for other female leaders coming up.
“In colleges right now, women are about 60 percent to 40 percent of men, but in positions of power in both politics and business it is still 80 percent to 20 percent, men to women,” she said.
But the school board is not the only female powerhouse in Orange County.
“I also think it is historic that we have an all-female County Commission, and I have already seen a difference,” said Kobert.
Mayor Jerry Demings is the sole man on the board. Victoria Siplin is the Vice Mayor and is elected to District 6. She said she firmly feels women are taking the lead and personal ownership of their communities.
“Because we are tired,” Siplin chuckled. “We are tired of the woman’s perspective not being a part of policymaking.”
“I think that might be why we see so many women elected right now, I think there is a trust factor,” said Teresa Jacobs.
For all three women, they admit getting a seat at the table comes with sacrifice.
“There is always this thing that we are not adequate enough, or we don’t know enough or we are not tough enough for this position,” Siplin said.
“Fear of asking for help, fear of asking for money, fear of putting myself and my family out there in a very public way,” Kobert said.
“It was hard in the beginning. I could not believe that I actually had men yelling at me at the voting places that to read the bible, and that women’s place is to be subservient to men,” Jacobs said.
But even with those doubts and hardships, each said they found a way to persevere.
“With enough success you get to a point where you just blow it off,” Jacobs said, smiling.
“It was my husband who said to me, ‘Linda, you have never let fear be the reason (to) not do good in the world. Why would you do that now?’” Kobert said. “And frankly I didn’t have a good answer for that.”
But how will this shape the 2020 election, where we see a lot of women stepping up?
“We go through these cycles when it seems to be the year of the woman, but I expect that this trend will last for a little while,” Jacobs said.
Already for the 2020 presidential election, five women have thrown their hat into the race.