Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Women of Influence

noem press header kristi noem headshot May 21 2014Women of Influence
By Rep. Kristi Noem

Among South Dakota’s “Great Faces” are the pictures of countless women who have had a strong influence over the way we live and work. They may be our mothers, sisters or daughters. Perhaps a coworker, employer, or teacher. Maybe they’re one of South Dakota’s notable female pioneers. Perhaps she’s even the “Pioneer Woman” herself, Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose literary works brought life on the prairie to readers (and later viewers) around the globe.

There is also Gladys Pyle from Huron, who in 1938 became the first female senator in U.S. history to serve as a Republican. Even more recently, Rapid City’s Becky Hammon has broken significant barriers in sports, becoming the first full-time female coach in NBA history and the first female head coach in the NBA’s Summer League, which she led her team to win. Without question, some incredible women have called South Dakota home.

March is Women’s History Month, and as important as it is to reflect back on all the women whose shoulders we stand on today, I try to remain focused on building a bigger foundation on which the next generation of female leaders can stand. To do so, we must unlock the potential of hardworking Americans – both women and men – empowering them to build a future that is better and brighter and more prosperous than we could have imagined.

From a policy perspective, it means building paths to upward mobility, giving more families the opportunity to rise from poverty into the Middle Class. As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, this is an area I am actively working on. There is so much we can do to make our welfare system more accountable to both taxpayers and the families it’s intended to help.

We also need to develop a healthy economy that produces more and better-paying jobs. We need to secure our neighborhoods, our borders, and our homeland. We need to create more opportunities – that’s the only way America’s next chapter will be more successful than the last.

On a personal level, I want to foster opportunities that help more South Dakotans thrive. One way I’m doing that is by holding my first Women of Influence Conference in Sioux Falls on March 31. This will be a networking and education opportunity for women who are interested in changing the minds and hearts of those around them. We have an incredible line-up of special guests who will provide tools, advice, and contacts that I’m hopeful will help women across the state take their next step – whether they are just starting off or backed by years of experience.

Attendees will hear from familiar faces, including Angela Kennecke of KELOLAND, Karla Santi of Blend Interactive, and Melissa Johnson of Oh My Cupcakes! Entertainment Tonight’s Mary Hart will be our keynote speaker and what an incredible story she has to tell, building a career that took her from Madison, South Dakota, to the red carpet.

Businesses and organizations from across the state will also be on hand to provide conference-goers with additional resources, tools and information. If you or a woman who has influenced your life is interested in attending the conference, please RSVP at

I hope to see you there as we continue to build an even brighter tomorrow for South Dakota.