There are countless reasons to admire former Colorado State Representative Alice Borodkin, not the least of which is her time spent advocating on the issue of ending human trafficking and violence against women. Long an admirer of her commitment to our community as a citizen, I became friends with Borodkin when she volunteered for my employer Project WISE, a women’s empowerment nonprofit organization. Project WISE invited Borodkin to be the keynote speaker at the organization’s annual day-long free women’s leadership training academy held at Planned Parenthood in May 2012. Borodkin spoke to the importance of women using their voices, and smartly connected the era in which she first got married to the popular TV series, Mad Men. The applause was loud and appreciative from the more than 40 diverse women in the room.
The Honorable Alice Borodkin
Alice Borodkin served in the Colorado House of Representatives for eight years, before being term limited in 2009.
In 2005, Rep. Borodkin passed House Bill 1143, creating the “Interagency Task Force on Human Trafficking," which generated a $450,000 federal grant to the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice to support the work of the Task Force. Among the outcomes were Colorado public-safety officials in 2007 training police officers and others along Interstates 25 and 70 to treat foreign workers they meet as possible victims, reported by Bruce Finley in the Denver Post.
In addition, Rep. Borodkin was the House sponsor of SB 201, which makes Trafficking in humans a felony. It was signed into law in June 2006.
Borodkin is a graduate and Flemming Fellow of the Washington, DC-based Center for Policy Alternatives and a graduate of the Center for Women Policy Studies Foreign Policy Institute and their Women, Peace and Security Program. She is the founder and past editor/publisher of Women's Business Chronicle, a newspaper for and about business for professional women.
A licensed private pilot and former member of the International Organization of Women Pilots, Borodkin plays an active role in advocating for General Aviation airports around the country. She was responsible for several pieces of legislation benefiting airports and impacting economic development in Colorado.
Rising from the stereotypical women's role of the 1950s and 60s, Borodkin's career took flight when she founded and published Airport News, a newspaper serving the airports of LaGuardia and JFK Airports. Recognizing the need for a business organization at JFK Airport, she started the JFK International Airport Chamber of Commerce. Flying on in her native New York, she landed as the Director of Marketing for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the Metropolitan Airports Authority.
Today, Borodkin serves on Zonta International Legislative Advocacy board as Colorado Chair. She is an active member of the Zonta Club of Denver. An extraordinary women and role model, she strives to empower and advocate for those who have the passion to make a difference in the world. What follows is my interview with Borodkin this month.
What brought you to Colorado from New York City?
As an ex-New Yorker, I originally believed in the New Yorker magazine cover that the world ended with the East River.
Howard, my husband at the time, who has since passed away, worked for RCA as a trainer on the new Dish Network, was transferred from New Jersey to Denver. We had been commuting between New York and Norfolk, Virginia for about three years, as I did not want to give up my job at MTA in New York as Director of Marketing.
Yet, stepping off the plane in Denver, I knew I would love it here. That was in 1989.
Why did you become a pilot?
It seems that I was always bucking the system as a young mother and wife in the late 1960s and 70s. While my dad kept telling me I could do anything, the culture of the times told me I should be happy with my 2.3 children, dish washer, and split level.
My husband came home one day and said, "Next week we are taking our first flying lesson.” To say this was unusual for a man in those days is an understatement. It should have been…”I’m taking flying lessons next week…you go get your hair done!”
Needless to say, once I got into the plane, I was hooked! And boy, were we competitive! That pilot’s license opened a door for me that I flew right through to begin exploring a career in everything I could think of!
Do you think the term, “Feminist,” still has relevance today?
I really dislike labels. I remember when a woman who stood up for her rights was called a “Woman’s Libber.”
Women need to drop the labels! The term “bitch” unfortunately still comes to mind every once in awhile for many, if a woman stands her ground!
What do you think the chief difference is between a woman in her 20s today and a woman in her 20s in 1970?
Choice and options. I graduated college on a Thursday and got married Sunday! This was in 1951 and I had just turned 20. That was the culture then. Marry well, get pregnant, be a good girl, don’t make waves! I even read the Good Wife Book! And tried to follow all the rules. Sort of caught between Betty Crocker and Betty Freidan!
Today young women can get married, or not. They can have kids, or not. Have a career, or stay home, or try having it all. While I think it’s great to have all those options, I wonder if all those choices make it more difficult for young women in the year 2013.
What made you want to run for Colorado State Representative?
A product of the late 1940s and 1950s, who would have thought I would become politically entrenched in the fight for women, peace and security? Yet for me, the political life always beckoned. Then I had a chance to run for office at the tender age of 66, after the death of my husband of 47 years.
In some ways I started a whole new life! I remarried a year after I was widowed, ran for office and won and found myself at last in my element. Too bad some of us had to wait so long to be politically involved!
What attracted you to joining the Zonta Club of Denver as a volunteer?
I always knew about Zonta International as Amelia Earhart was one of the founding members. Amelia Earhart founded the International Organization of Women Pilots, also known as the “99’s.” The nickname comes from the fact that Earhart sent invitations for the organization to all the women who held pilot licenses around the world. Ninety-nine women showed up at Roosevelt Field on Long Island, now a shopping mall, for the first meeting. As soon as I received my pilot’s license, I joined the 99’s and became familiar with Zonta.
Now I am a member of Zonta and its Colorado State Advocacy Board Chair. Flying changed my life. It opened a door I flew through to become what I am today.
What made you want to start your new Women Engaging Globally forum? Can you tell me more about its goals? How many women are involved so far? How can readers find out more about the Women Engaging Globally forum?
I have always been active on the issues of women globally. What happens to them also involves women in the United States.
As a member of the State Legislature, I was fortunate to receive a scholarship from the Center for Women Policy Studies in Washington DC. I also received another scholarship from the Center, Women, Peace and Security, for three days at the United Nations. That was an eye opener! Most of the NGO’s, run by women, were not even in the UN Headquarters building. Their offices were in buildings all around the area.
Both experiences contributed to my knowledge of global issues affecting women. Human trafficking, violence against women, and access to health care and reproductive rights here and abroad all ignited my passion. At the United Nations, I learned about Resolution 1325. Effectively this would bring more women to the peace table. It’s been floating around since 2000, but not much action on it at this time. Not surprised as women still have a long way to go!
Women Engaging Globally is a forum and town hall meeting that launched in 2013 in Denver and will discuss the issues affecting women and to promote all forms of human rights. Guest speakers will address key issues and make suggestions as to how we can make necessary changes.
In addition, I’m hoping that Women Engaging Globally will become a coalition of NGO’s already working on these important issues. There is power in strength.
For information and to sign up for Women Engaging Globally, visit http://meetup.com/AliceBorodkin-com/
What makes you enthusiastic as a woman about creating a better community locally and world globally?
It has always been my contention that women, in the United States, and women around the world, share a bond. All of us have had and continue to have issues of concern in our fight for human rights.
As a woman who always bucked the system and fought for my own identity besides that of wife, mother, and homemaker, it pleases me that I can and do share my story to encourage women to be educated and independent.
Betty Freidan, in writing The Feminine Mystique, did encourage us to be who we are, but also locked women into a role. You can be independent, love your plants, love to cook, enjoy your kids and still be who you are!
Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit? Or is it new for you?
I have always had an entrepreneurial sprit. Being the daughter of a man who said I could do anything, and who himself always had his own business, I think it was built into my DNA.
I worked with my Dad in his hosiery stores, listened to business conversations with family and friends and absorbed all like osmosis.
As far as speaking and marketing, I was the Director of Marketing for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York City, responsible for five operating agencies.
What year did you start your own advocacy and public speaking business? What year did you first become an author? What was the tipping point to help you make that the year you became a business owner? How about for becoming an author?
Moving to Denver in 1989, where they weren’t waiting for Miss New York, I started Women’s Business Chronicle, after doing odd positions for a few years. It was a newspaper dedicated to professional women that had a ten-thousand run and thirty –two pages and was pretty successful.
I wrote all of the editorials, and have written about flying for various magazines
Of course once I became a “99,” I went out to speak about the challenge of and overcoming that challenge of women who fly. I have been speaking about these particular issues for very long time.
What was the biggest challenge you addressed as a public official? The biggest accomplishment?
It never occurred to me that as a woman elected official, I was different from the men who were elected officials. After all, I got there the same way they did!
It became apparent as I waited for leadership to lead, that often they didn’t. And if they did, I didn’t always know it.
Being a strong woman, I took charge of myself, learned what I needed to know and made sure the men recognized who I was. It was a constant battle for recognition, but I loved the challenge! I think they thought it was part of being a New Yorker!
When I would leave in the morning, wearing black with pearls, of course, my husband always asked; “And who do we want to intimidate today!”
For me the biggest accomplishment was having the first bill on Human Trafficking. It was the passing of House Bill 1143 that created the Inter-Agency Task Force on Human Trafficking.
We produced a report that showed that tragically Human Trafficking was alive and well in Colorado. And, it still is! Since that Bill passed, there has been more of a focus on the issue, and tighter laws to help combat this affront to human rights.
Do you have any advice for women contemplating running for public office?
I’m not the one to give advice as I travelled a road full of pot holes and land mines!
However, this I will say: You must develop a thick skin and not let anyone tell you how to vote! Stand up for what you believe in and learn to compromise, when necessary, without losing your integrity and ethics. It will always be a balancing act.
If you saw a newspaper headline 5 years from now that meant your community work had been successful, what would it say?
I doubt I will see a headline. But I have seen a few short headlines that speak to me about progress in the work the Legislature has done on Human Trafficking.
Teen dating violence awareness and other current issues related to violence against women
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, as proclaimed by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper this winter. Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, according to the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV). Only about one-third of teens who have been in violent relationships have told someone about the abuse.
To learn more about how readers can get involved in advocacy on this issue and others involving domestic violence and abuse, become a member of CCADV. On February 11 and 12, CCADV holds its annual Legislative Education and Advocacy Day and visit to the State Capitol. For information on this community event, click here.
Now if readers are looking for a great inspirational speaker whose work well represents the women’s empowerment social movement today, they can rest assured that Borodkin can’t be beat. Consider joining the new Women Engaging Globally forum as well.