For Atlanta Councilmember Joyce Sheperd, Women’s History Month isn’t just an opportunity to reflect.
As councilmember for southeastern Atlanta’s District 12, Sheperd sees amazing leadership in action every day. That’s why she treats every March as both a celebration of past pioneers, and an opportunity to look forward and pass that legacy on.
In this interview, Councilmember Sheperd, who also serves as president of Women in Municipal Government (WIMG), NLC’s female caucus, shares how she celebrates Women’s History Month — and female leadership.
NLC: What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
Joyce Shepherd: Women’s History Month is everything to me. Harriet Tubman is my Shero! When you consider the horrific act of slavery and her creation of the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman exuded incredible strength and fortitude.
I think about her often, especially as I travel along this journey of public service. I have a great deal of respect for her and the throngs of other great women like Fannie Lou Hamer, Maxine Waters, Michelle Obama and more. They have forged a path for us to walk. We owe these women a debt of gratitude because they have made a difference.
I’m happy that we set aside this time to spotlight their accomplishments. Here we are in 2018, in this “Me Too Moment” but it’s also an opportunity for us to rise up, be recognized and empower ourselves. We can do this because we stand on the shoulders of remarkable women. I believe the best way we can honor them is to succeed in our God-given abilities and pass that legacy on to our children.
NLC: How do you feel about your role as WIMG (Women in Municipal Government, NLC’s female caucus) President?
JS: I am honored. This group is very dear to my heart. WIMG is really like a sisterhood. Women from all walks of life and across the country come together in a spirit of collaboration. There’s an incredible exchange of ideas and you walk away knowing the you have a contingent of elected women officials sharing the same issues and concerns as you. It’s refreshing. I’m grateful to represent WIMG as its president and I’m excited about what we will learn and accomplish this year.
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NLC: Why is it so important to see female leadership in local office?
JS: As we look at the government now, we simply don’t have enough women in office. Perhaps I’m a bit biased, but I believe women are great leaders. We run houses, we set up budgets, we establish schedules for our kids. We are multi-taskers. In a way, we’re being prepped for the role. Women bring another important voice to the discussion. We bring a different perspective and a unique type of wisdom to the table. I hope more women consider getting involved in local office and beyond. It has brought me great satisfaction and I’m honored to serve.
NLC: How do you empower young women?
JS: I spend time in the schools and in my neighborhood talking to young women. I want to embrace and encourage them, especially those in the working class. I remember being a poor young girl. It was my mother who gave me strength. She was always there for me and served as one of the most powerful figures in my life. My mother only finished her junior year in high school, yet she rose to the status of matriarch and empowered us to do great things. So many young women are missing that dynamic. They don’t have the support base in our homes. So many young girls are insecure.
I remind them that they can be anything they desire to be. I remind them of my own upbringing and my experience working a non-traditional job, becoming one of the first female line workers in the telecommunications industry. Young women need to be inspired. I remind them that they need to have a plan “A” and a plan “B.” I remind them that mistakes are a part of the human experience, but mistakes don’t have the power to keep you from succeeding.
I tell them I’m proud of them for who they are and what they do.
Women in Municipal Government was formed in 1974 to serve as a forum for communication and networking among women local elected officials and their colleagues within the National League of Cities (NLC). It strives to raise awareness about issues of concern to women, and it encourages women to seek public office in their communities.
Interested in joining the Women in Municipal Government (WIMG) group? Learn more about their work and priorities.
About the author: Joyce Sheperd is a councilmember from Atlanta and president of WIMG.