DETROIT – For years, Michigan Sen. Stephanie Chang counseled women with the Detroit Asian Youth Project and now as an elected official runs a fellowship program called Girls Making Change.
“It took me a long time to be convinced to run for office, I realized that, you know, young women, very much have a need for mentors,” said Chang, who represents the 1st district of the Michigan Senate.
Like so many working mothers Chang juggles having a toddler and her job, in this case as a state senator.
“I just got home from Lansing, and the husband’s been watching her pretty much all day. This is that we’re gonna have to figure something out here. Let me see. Maybe I can,” said Chang.
Success requires partnership at home and in the Legislature. Chang is the first Asian American woman elected in Michigan. First to the State House in 2014. And four years later to the State Senate.
“Growing up in Michigan, you know, there weren’t Asian American elected officials and so it wasn’t honestly something that I ever really thought about until much later as an adult,” said Chang.
While the landscape is changing, Chang says young women and women of color in particular face an uphill battle.
Eventually, Chang realized she could be the representation women in her community and other communities of color needed.
“It really took a lot of conversations and a lot of encouragement, mostly from other women of color to realize that yes, I, you know, can bring my skills and experiences to the Legislature,” said Chang.
Following the mass shooting in Atlanta that killed eight including six Asian American women, Chang helped lead a Detroit rally in support of the victims.
“I think that recent events have really gotten people to relive a lot of memories of racism and sexism and the intersection of those things. But I also think that, that has turned into a sense of power and into organizing into saying what can I do, how can I be involved,” said Chang.
Read more: Women’s History Month stories