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    Kennedy Institute imagines a Senate filled with women

    More than 200 people — including some men — attended the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate’s second-ever women’s leadership conference, featuring addresses by local, state, and federal officeholders.
    Globe Staff/File 2015
    More than 200 people — including some men — attended the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate’s second-ever women’s leadership conference, featuring addresses by local, state, and federal officeholders.

    Inside the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, in a room that’s a replica of the real Senate chamber, there was no denying the visual dissonance. Almost all of the senators’ desks were occupied by women — a far cry from the real-world Senate, where just 23 of 100 Senate seats are occupied by women.

    “I can only imagine the progress and the changes that could be made for our country if the floor of the actual Senate looked a little bit more like this room today,” said US Senator Maggie Hassan, the New Hampshire Democrat and the keynote speaker of Monday’s Women in Leadership conference.

    More than 200 people — including some men — attended the institute’s second-ever women’s leadership conference, featuring addresses by local, state, and federal officeholders, including Lieutenant Governor Karyn E. Polito, Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer, and Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller.

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    Some of them offered words of wisdom to this year’s crop of female candidates. US Representative Katherine Clark noted an estimated 575 women have announced plans to run for US House, US Senate, or governor nationwide.

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    “Don’t be afraid to fail,” said Clark, who, along with Hassan, talked about having lost her first campaign before finding electoral success.

    The women running in this year’s busy midterms can’t all win, noted US Representative Rosa DeLauro; in some areas, they’re competing for the same seat. DeLauro considers that a point of pride.

    “Amen!” DeLauro cheered. “We have arrived!”

    Regardless of the outcome in November, female candidates have already demonstrated a markedly different eagerness to engage in politics — seizing the moment, rather than waiting for the perfect one.

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    “Right now we’re seeing women step up with a sense of urgency,” said Amanda Hunter, communications director for The Barbara Lee Family Foundation. “If women are told to wait their turn, I think they’ve figured out that it’s never going to be their turn. It’s always going to be some guy’s turn.”

    Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Stephanie.Ebbert@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert.