When Judge Carolyn Smoot was sworn in as the first female Circuit Court judge in Williamson County in 2010 she made area history.
Smoot spoke on her perspectives on women in politics and how more women can pursue political careers because of society’s progressing ideals Tuesday at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at SIUC.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Olivet Nazarene University and her Juris Doctorate degree from SIUC’s School of Law, Smoot went on to be an attorney for 27 years, run her own private practice, serve as an assistant state’s attorney and
be the director of the paralegal studies program at SIUC for about 20 years.
Smoot said over time she came to view the students as her own children.
“When I would get frustrated with students, I quickly realized that it was because I wanted them to do better and succeed in life,” Smoot said.
She said she was glad her background came from social work and psychology.
“As an attorney and a judge, I’ve been able to help people,” she said. “It’s a different way to help the people in the community as an attorney and as a judge in representing them.”
Adrian Miller, a freshman from Carbondale studying pre-law, said after hearing Smoot speak, he thinks women should be more involved in political processes.
“We’ve had such a deficit of women involvement,” Miller said. “I think we as a society and as a country would definitely benefit from having more perspectives involved.”
Smoot said bringing different perspectives to attention is important.
“As a mother and a grandmother, I do look at things a little differently, but I think it’s good to have both perspectives at the courthouse,” she said.
Carol Greenlee, events coordinator at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, said it’s important to have women on various panels because men don’t always face the same obstacles.
“I think having more women in politics and in positions of power would benefit our society, our country, and our world,” Miller said.
He said if people looked at other nations around the world, they would see there are women presidents and leaders.
“The U.S. has yet to elect a woman president,” he said. “I believe that we could fix many current issues if we did put some female perspective into the equation.”
Smoot said when she helped students as an educator, she believed it was important for them to live their lives and determine what they were passionate about.
If they find that passion, then they could look to politics, she said.
Smoot said she believes there will be more women in politics in the near future because more women are figuring out how to have families while also maintaining careers.
“Before, I think there were women who felt that if they had a profession and wanted to be good at it, they had to put their kids aside and have someone else raise them,” she said. “I don’t think that’s right … I think women can do them both.”
She said women could successfully have children and a profession; it may just look a little different.
Overall, living a physically, mentally and spiritually balanced life is important, Smoot said.
Having good professional and personal relationships is also important, she said.
“The reason all these things matter is because a good reputation takes a lot of work,” Smoot said. “I encourage everyone to live their lives well, have goals and make one of them living a life they will always be proud of.”