Community organizing and engagement, that’s Jessica Bowker’s bread and butter.
Bringing years of experience in community activism and outreach, Bowker joined the SFPUC in late 2019. Within her role as a Communications Manager for Community Outreach on the External Affairs team, Bowker’s team is focused on equitable communications and community outreach. This includes advancing language equity for residents who speak languages other than English, partnering with the Community Benefits team on programs that put community front and center, and offering community tours as early as next year. Examples of big projects her team is working on include the Community First Emergency Bill Relief program, which provides discounts on utility bills during the pandemic, events and outreach campaigns for diverse communities, and translations and compliance with San Francisco’s Language Access Ordinance.
In her current and previous roles, she has seen how her vocation and passion collide, which has made her career and day-to-day so fulfilling. These are the many reasons why Women’s History Month means so much to Bowker. For her, it is an opportunity to reflect on how many women’s shoulders she is standing on and women who have fought hard to challenge gendered systems of oppression.
“I think about how much they’ve done for me and other women, and also about how much is left for us to do for others,” she shared. “I think about my grandmas, who had so little control over their lives and their bodies. And I think about how many times I’ve been told that I will ‘change my mind’ about not having children (hundreds), or how I carry mace with me when heading to my car at night, and I feel how deeply important it is to understand women’s history and how that history connects to our current lived realities.”
She described why equitable representation is so important and needed to demolish patriarchy. “When paired with action to address intersectional inequities like those attached to class and race and ability and LGBTI folks, etc., we can really imagine a future where diverse women are represented across fields and sectors, and where jobs that are seen as being ‘women’s work’ are no longer devalued and de-professionalized,” Bowker shared. “As someone who works in communications, a field that is dominated by women, I see how our profession is impacted by these perceptions!”
When asked why it is essential that women are present and represented within the utilities industry, Bowker stressed that women should be present in every industry and at every level. “Because when groups are excluded in a field or sector, the concerns of those groups are not always prioritized in the way they should be,” she explained. “Additionally, lots of utility jobs have physical elements to them, and jobs with that kind of physicality have been slow to include women. As we continue to see more representation in those areas, we will not only see more women gain access to good jobs with good benefits, but we will see prejudices about women’s capabilities fade away.”
For Bowker, a woman’s place is changing the world, and that’s exactly what she intends to do at the SFPUC.