Moving Forward: Empowering and Training Women Leaders to Run
It is the Monday after one of the most divisive elections in our Nation's history. Many of us have experienced disappointment on one level or another. After a tough loss for the campaign I managed (and several others I volunteered on) I did the most cathartic thing I could imagine: I headed to Washington, D.C. to do what I love most - speaking to other young women with political ambitions.
In terms of wins for gender parity, we took several steps forward. The first Latina, Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), was elected to the Senate. Kamala Harris (D-CA) will be the second black woman to serve in the Senate. Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, (D-IL) a female combat veteran who lost both her legs in Iraq, was also elected to the Senate. And in a bitterly close race, Governor Maggie Hassan (D) defeated Incumbent Senator Kelly Ayotte (R) for the New Hampshire Senate seat - a win for parity as two extraordinarily well-qualified women challenged each other in a key battleground state.
Albeit, we also took a several steps back - or simply remained stagnant. Republican women still trail far behind their Democratic colleagues in terms of representation. There are now only 5 states with a female governor, and the ultimate glass ceiling remains as our nation's highest office narrowly missed its first female president.
If the 2016 election has you riled up or inspired, perhaps this is the very moment you needed to channel your energy into a run for office.
I have compiled a list of organizations that either train female candidates, or donate money to women's campaigns. If you are looking to plan a run yourself, or want to make a financial investment in the future of women in politics, here is a great place to start:
Running Start - Running Start is a non-partisan nonprofit that trains women women in high school, college, and recent graduates to run for office. Notable alumna include Allyson Carpenter, the youngest ever elected official in Washington, D.C. and Avery Bourne, the youngest state legislator in Illinois.
As an enthusiastic alumna and and a proud testament to the efficacy of their programs, it is no wonder that my immediate plan post election was to come visit Running Start. Running Start has several programs for training women including Elect Her, the Star Fellowship, and the Young Women's Political Leadership Program.
Elect Her is a day-long training program on college campuses across the country to train women to run for student government, but also elected office within their communities beyond college. If you want to make a real impact on women's leadership on your campus you can apply to have Elect Her come to your school this coming year!
The Star Fellowship is a program for college juniors, seniors, and graduates in their first year out of college. The program places each fellow in the office of a female member of Congress Monday through Thursday, and then reserves Fridays for speakers or mentoring/training sessions. I was able to work in the office of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the first Latina elected to the House of Representatives, who also happens to be a personal inspiration. The Congresswoman has continued to be a great supporter of Running Start and even helped me campaign when I participated in Run with Running Start.
Beyond being an alumna of Elect Her, the Star Fellowship, and Run with Running Start I also was a YWPL panelist and group facilitator. I am thrilled to personally talk to anyone who is interested in getting involved with Running Start about what program is right for you!
She Should Run - She Should Run is a non-partisan nonprofit focused on expanding and strengthening the pool of female candidates across the country. She Should Run has an online nomination form to aid in the process of asking and encouraging women to run. They also have an online incubator to help provide support to women in their pursuit of public office.
If She Should Run sounds familiar, perhaps its because you have seen the first female ticket Barbie set. While I was Miss Rhode Island I also purchased a copy of See Joan Run to share with the girls I spoke to. These are some of the great tools you can use to inspire our youngest generation to see themselves in politics.
IGNITE - IGNITE trains women from high school to better their communities through political leadership and public policy. IGNITE currently has state chapters in California, Texas, and Colorado so if you are thinking of a run in one of these states I would look into their programs. On a side note, state legislative races in California and Texas are notably costly endeavors. Recivinging training and mentorship as a young woman candidate in historically expensive elections is a vital component to success. It never hurts to think about these things early!
While I have personally never been involved with IGNITE, I learned more about the organization while hosting a screening of Raising Ms. President in college. Hosting a screening of a film is also a great way to help inspire young women in your community to envision themselves in political leadership and help others understand the value of parity.
VoteRunLead - VoteRunLead is a national nonpartisan organization that aims to increase women's involvement in their communities and politics through virtual and in-person training seminars. VRL works to increase women's civic leadership ambition, provides accessible and culturally relevant female-specific resources, and addresses longstanding systemic barriers to women's participation.
I am also an alumna of VoteRunLead training having attended their National Go Run Conference in 2014 and a #FillTheRoom training session in 2016. I offer two points of note from my experience with VoteRunLead that particularly stood out to me. First, VRL offers an array of training webinars from campaign finance/budgeting, to canvassing, to addressing sexism in politics. Secondly, when I attended National Go Run I noticed there was a focus on training women in rural communities to run that I had not encountered before. Needless to say, outreach to women and prospective candidates in rural communities is super important. Well done, VRL!
Yale Women's Campaign School - Yale WCS is certainly one of the most the most prominent and highly regarded women's political training programs. WCS is a nonpartisan, issue neutral leadership program that takes place over a weeklong period in June. The mission of WCS is to increase the number of women in elected and appointed office.
I have attended two WCS sponsored workshops, het have not formally attended their summer training program (although I will be applying this coming year.) I would love to see all my fellow rising candidates apply and attend as well. I have always imagined I would attend before shortly before making my first run - I couldn't imagine a better time! Mark your calendars, applications open on February 1st.
WUFPAC -Women Under Forty Political Action Committee the is a nonpartisan political action committee that supports young women running for state and federal office. WUFPAC aims to support and elect more young women to office, but also build seniority of women in Congress by electing them at a young age. WUFPAC has supported notable women in elected office from Elise Stefanik (R-NY) to Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI). Donating to WUFPAC helps support the candidacy of future young women candidates - 2018 will be here before we know it!
While many recognize the value of women in elected office on both the left and the right, at the end of the day its only natural that we want to see people elected who share our ideology. There are a multitude of training programs that exist within the respective parties to ensure women are represented.
Republican specific training - While the gender gap in politics is extensive, it is even worse in the GOP. Many of the programs targeted toward specifically training Republican women to run operate at the state level. For example, The Jennifer Byler Institute trains Republican candidates in Virginia, while the Anne Anstine Series trains Republican candidates in Pennsylvania. Given the gap in GOP women's representation, there is definitely a window of opportunity to start your own training program, if that suits your interests.
Democrat specific training - Again, many of these programs are state specific. Emerge is a well established training program designed for Democratic women. Emerge operates in Arizona, California, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Close The Gap CA also specifically aims to recruit and train progressive female candidates to reach political parity in the California State Legislature.
If you know of other party specific training programs, I am all ears! I am always looking to connect women to the organizations that best fit their goals and needs.
So now what?
Here are some concrete steps you can pledge to take next:
1. Apply to train with one or more of these programs.
2. Nominate a woman to run though She Should Run's online form.
3. Make a donation to one or more of these organizations.
4. Volunteer to help a female candidate on her next campaign.
5. Pick up a book on political parity or women's leadership. When you are done, write a review on social media and share it with a friend who will benefit from it. (If you need suggestions, I have a pretty extensive collection and I am happy to share!)
6. Bring a friend to a training or meeting.
7. Share this post on your social media and tag at least five women who would benefit from these organizations.
8. If you are in school, run for a student government position.
9. Actively call out gender bias in politics. (Yes, this means on both the left and the right!)
10. Check out your state's election regulations and plan a run yourself!
Verbalizing your goals and sharing them with others is a great way to hold yourself accountable! I would love you you to share in my comments section about what your next steps are, or share this on your own timeline and tell your friends!