Group launches to improve workplace for Missouri Capitol interns

11 months 3 weeks 3 days ago January 26, 2016 Jan 26, 2016 Tuesday, January 26 2016 Tuesday, January 26, 2016 3:38:00 PM CST in Top Stories
By: Amber Smith, KOMU 8 Reporter

JEFFERSON CITY - Following sex scandals and inappropriate relationships, a new group held a women's-only meet and greet Tuesday in an effort to make the Missouri Capitol a safer workspace for female interns.

Former House Speaker John Diehl resigned after his relationship with a 19-year-old House intern was exposed publicly. Former Sen. Paul LeVota also resigned following allegations of sexual harassment by two former interns.

“We wanted to respond to what was going on in Jefferson City with the interns being harassesd by legislators and legislators having to resign for harassing interns," Treasurer of St. Louis City Tishauna Jones said.

Jones is part of a group of women with long ties to the Capitol that created a new group, The Women's Policy Network of Missouri. The group launched at a reception Tuesday.

The group had a meet and greet at Revel Catering and Events in Jefferson City Tuesday to connect female interns with female elected officials, staffers, and lobbyists who can act as mentors. There were about 50 women in attendance.

Jones said they held the event at a restaurant because most sexual harassment in government occurs off hours when lawmakers are out eating and drinking.

“When I first started out at the Capitol it was mostly men, and there were some women and we stuck together and worked together, but there was not a group like this so I am excited to hear they are starting a group where women can get together and support one another,” Member Services Coordinator at The Missouri Pharmacy Association Sara Walsh said.

Jones said she was sexually harassed during her time working at the Capitol as the assistant minority floor leader. 

“As the former assistant floor leader for the house I was harassed by lobbyists as I was serving in the Missouri House, and there was really no process. I reported it to the clerk and it kind of went away, but still I felt violated,” Jones said.

Jones said the networking among women in politics can serve as important mentorship for younger women in Missouri government. 

There are no future events planned, though Jones said they hope to have more.

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