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Shattering the glass ceiling

Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell’s take on leadership

October 27, 2021

Mount Saint Mary’s University recently hosted Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell at the Chalon Campus to engage in conversation with Mount students at the first academic in-person event since the start of the coronavirus pandemic more than 18 months ago. The event was part of the 2021-2022 Legislator in Residence Speaker Series, a program established by the Center for the Advancement of Women to bring timely policy conversations and mentoring opportunities to campus.

LA County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell and Mount students at the Chalon Campus.
LA County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell and Mount students at the Chalon Campus.

Mitchell, who serves as the Mount’s Legislator in Residence, talked about women’s leadership, California politics, and the importance of gender and racial representation at different levels of power, all topics close to her heart as a trailblazer for women’s equity in the state.

“There will be things that happen to you or that you witness that will trigger questions in you and will help you chart your path,” said Mitchell. That’s what happened to her in 2008 when she was the CEO of the nonprofit Crystal Stairs, one of the largest child development agencies in the state, and the California Legislature cut $1 billion of subsidized child care from the budget. “As a single working mom, I literally couldn’t go to work without childcare support,” said Mitchell, “and I knew many families in my community experienced the same situation. I got mad enough to decide that I had a perspective, a skill set and a leadership capability to make a difference.”

Mitchell ran for office in 2010 and was elected to the state Assembly representing California’s 54th District. After a decade in the California Legislature, she was elected in November 2020 to serve the 2nd District of Los Angeles County, where she has a major decision-making role at the largest non-state level government entity in the country. With her election, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors made history with the first all-women board in its 150-plus year history.

Mitchell also talked about how her emphasis on equity and racial justice has helped advance women’s rights at different levels. She was recently honored as a 2020 Visionary by Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine for making California the first state in the nation to ban natural hair discrimination with the CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act. “We need to think creatively and broadly about leadership, and remember that leadership comes with responsibility,” Mitchell told students.

At the end of the session, some students chatted with Mitchell, who handed out her business card. “Feel free to contact me. I’ll be waiting for your email,” Mitchell told one of the students who attended the session.