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Rep. Donna M.C. Baringer Speaks on Female Leadership and Polarization in Politics

By Anna Hermann

Compton City

On Tuesday at ALA Missouri Girls State in Hyland Arena, Rep. Donna M.C. Baringer gave an

exuberant keynote speech to the citizens of MGS as an inspiration for the young leaders attending.

Baringer spoke about the start to her career and key events such as championing child locking CBD gummy packaging which highlighted her determination and relentlessness to prevent the harming of children in Missouri.

After her speech, Baringer spoke with the Leader regarding her achievement of leadership roles as a woman. Baringer, representing St. Louis in the Missouri House of Representatives, felt several obstacles in the start to her career, particularly regarding gender equality.

“When I first started working,” Baringer said, “women weren’t even allowed to wear pants in the office.”

Baringer went on to describe the strict dress code which limited her and her female colleagues. These restrictions included always wearing pantyhose and never wearing shoes that showed their toes. Because men didn’t have similar restrictions, Baringer felt that the dress code was “harder on the women, especially since we were making less money.”

These obstacles, while clear expressions of unfairness, did not stop Baringer from launching her successful career as a representative doing what she loves most: solving problems.

Baringer was also asked what her definition of leadership is, and if that has changed throughout her career.

“My definition of leadership is someone who is able to persuade others or encourage them in a positive way, but if that's ever negative, I don’t consider them leaders,” Baringer said.

Baringer has led a strong career as a servant of the people, protecting them in many ways including safeguarding seniors, improving education and helping her community of St. Louis feel safe. Baringer has also won several awards for this stellar leadership such as the Women of Distinction Award, Outstanding Leadership Award and Outstanding Community Volunteer, St. Louis Schools.

Baringer was also asked if polarization in politics has increased due to the boom in social media usage.

“I think social media, when it comes to politics, is the most horrific, toxic thing,” she said.

Continuing on, she described the importance of fact checking information seen on social media, as “no one is held accountable” for falsifying information on social platforms. Baringer recommended doing extensive research on a significant piece of information found on social media due to the risk that it may be false. Violent and hateful speech can ruin careers due to “cancel culture,” especially in the world of politics.

Baringer was asked if opposing viewpoints were beneficial, and how to disagree productively without resorting to this hateful speech and further separation of parties.

“You don’t always want everyone to think alike,” Baringer said. “Being urban, someone rural may open my eyes to opposing viewpoints.”

Baringer emphasized the importance of learning from opposing viewpoints to mature your own.

Lastly, Baringer recited one of her sayings: “I have no permanent enemies. I have no permanent friends. I just have permanent issues. If you want a best friend in politics, get a dog.”

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