Post-election, Travis Co. professional women tell little girls to dream

APD Lt. Gena Curtis met several little girls Thursday at the 'Foremothers For Our Daughters' event.
APD Lt. Gena Curtis met several little girls Thursday at the 'Foremothers For Our Daughters' event. (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Travis County professional women are sending a message to little girls: Be what you want to beThat was the focus Thursday in Austin at the first-ever “Foremothers For Our Daughters event,” aimed at celebrating important women and little girls.

Dozens of women and their young daughters attended the event, including local prominent female judges, prosecutors, doctors, first responders and law enforcement officers.

The organizer told KXAN she knew she had to do something the morning after the general election, when her 6-year-old daughter found out Hillary Clinton would not be the next president of the United States.

“My daughter just had so much disappointment that a woman, a girl, wasn’t going to be president,” explained Kelsey McKay, a Travis Co. assistant district attorney. “When she realized that someone was running for president was also a mom, I realized I hadn’t taught her everything I thought I had, which is — women can be moms, they can be prosecutors, they can be judges, they can stay at home, they can be teachers. They can really do everything.”

Her end goal? McKay said she wants little girls to know they can do absolutely anything they want to when they grow up. McKay’s daughter, Lyla, said she wants to be a doctor, a police officer and a mom. She said her mother is her role model because she “trusts her.”

Kelsey McKay organized the 'Foremothers For Our Daughters' event.
Kelsey McKay organized the ‘Foremothers For Our Daughters’ event. (KXAN Photo)

Judge Karen Sage, who has served as the presiding judge of the 299th Criminal District Court in Travis County since January 2011, also attended the event to support what she believes is an incredibly important message to give to daughters.

“To tell young women and girls that they can be police officers, they can be judges, they can be whatever they want to be — to empower them and know that all of the options are open for them — is an incredibly important thing,” said Judge Sage, who said girls should never settle in their careers or their family lives. “I’ve been so blessed in my career to be able to do what I want to do and serve the citizens of Travis County, and still have the time to be with my family.”

Austin Police Lieutenant Gena Curtis has been an officer for more than 26 years. She is currently assigned to violent crimes, over sex crimes and domestic violence with APD. She says from a very early age she wanted to be in law enforcement.

“I just had this desire to be out in the public, taking control of situations and helping people to the best of my ability,” said Lt. Curtis.

When she was young however, Curtis says she did not have the opportunity to attend events like ‘Foremothers For Our Daughters.’

Foremothers For Our Daughters Event
Foremothers For Our Daughters Event

“It’s a great opportunity to share an experience with young people, for them to have interaction with women officers, to be up close and personal with police officers, to see us in this environment,” said Lt. Curtis. “If they so desire to become a police officer, hopefully this encounter today will resonate with them, and kind of set that in motion for the future.”

Curtis said as a female police officer, she experienced a certain degree of push-back in pursuing the profession, but that didn’t stop her from achieving her dream.

“When I began my career, there were obstacles, and there were trials and tribulations of what I will refer to as the dinosaur mentality, but, you just have to continue to persevere and push through that. Are there still challenges? Yes, because there are challenges in life. But, we have come such a long way.”

Her message for the little girls in attendance? “Do not let someone else dictate to us what we can or can’t do. As long as it’s something positive, go for it.”

The evening was filled with food, fun, games and a self-defense demonstration meant to teach and empower the little girls to respect themselves and know that other people need to respect them.

McKay says organizing the event has helped her heal after the divisive election season. “When we can come together as a community and have compassion for each other, and treat each other with kindness and humanity, it goes a long way.” McKay says she foresees holding the event again in 2017.

Donations were collected at Thursday’s event. The leftover proceeds will go to SAFE Alliance, aimed at providing Christmas gifts to women and children at the Austin shelter.