This International Women’s Day, I want to have a talk about how we can support women in political leadership - and then I implore you to take action. If you’ve known me for a moment, you know women’s leadership has been at the core of my life’s mission for the past decade. Here, amidst Election 2020, this conversation remains every bit as critical as it has been. We are still having conversations about the “electability” of women seeking the highest office in our nation (really?!) Women seeking office across the ballot still face undue scrutiny under archaic double standards.
In 2016 I ran a state legislative campaign for the extraordinary Caroline Bright. After we got the results - a loss (albeit, we put up one hell of a fight) - I looked at her and said "Time to rally. We need to go celebrate the election of the first female president of the United States." I ate my words that night, but was confident that it would happen next time around. I ate my words again.
This week was difficult for many of us. Whether you were #TeamWarren or #TeamAmy, or you are simply sick of the vitriol and ever prevalent double standards women face when running for office, we can agree: this is exhausting. While we don’t have a woman en route to the White House the year, there is work do be done down the ballot. Here are a few ways you can support women currently on the ballot, or help build the pipeline of future candidates.
Photo from case study presentation day at The Campaign School at Yale, June 2019.
1. Put your money where your mouth is!
The gender wage gap is ever-present in our national policy debate as women have , not to mention the pay disparity is even broader for women of color. Unfortunately the gender wage gap has pervaded political fundraising too. Based on Federal Election Commision filings from the 2018 midterm elections, women congressional candidates raised an average of $500,000 less than men - and in the most 67 competitive districts.
You don’t have to be wealthy or break the bank to make a difference. Sometimes it's less about the dollar amount and more about the number of donors. Take for example the initial Democratic debates for the 2020 Presidential election. The DNC required candidates to attain 65,000 individual donors in order to qualify for the debate stage during the summer of 2019.
Having managed a political campaign and its finances, I know how much even the smallest donations matter. Every month I would see those recurring or occasional $5 donations come in. Without fail, they always made a difference. For the price of what I would spend on my morning latte, I was able to make a small contribution to a woman running for office. This past week I was feeling particularly defeated knowing that we've passed up on the extraordinary leadership of women for the presidency (again!) Recognizing that there are so many other campaigns that need the support, I took the $25 I otherwise budget for coffee and instead donated to 5 women on down ballot elections in 5 different states. Turn your pocket change into political change!
2. Roll up your sleeves and get to work!
Sometimes the best thing you can do is show up and say “put me to work!” There are many different ways you can help a campaign from making calls, canvassing, or even hosting a party. There is power in your own network too. Connecting others to the candidate in person or by showing your support on social media and calling on others to do the same, you can play an important role in bolstering her name recognition. The folks who show up with nothing but enthusiasm for the candidate and willingness to support the needs of the campaign make an immense difference. The work of volunteers is critical to the success of a campaign - never underestimate the power of simply showing up!
3. Share your talent
Maybe canvassing isn’t your thing, or you don’t have the space in your budget to monetarily support a candidate. But perhaps you have a gift you can lend to bridge the resources gap many down ballot elections face. I work in public relations. My professional capabilities excel in public speaking, digital media, and graphic design. In the past I have spoken at campaign events or written OpEds for candidates. This year I offer something else - design support. In 2020 I am making myself available to provide support to women in my professional & political circles who are seeking office. I have come to know so many extraordinary women running through my involvement with organizations like Emerge, The Campaign School at Yale, Running Start, IGNITE, Vote Run Lead, and the like. Campaigns are a space in which there's a need for branding and design experts. Gone are the days where generic red, white, and blue lawn signs and clip art will suffice (women candidates understand this well!) Successful campaign communications include telling the candidate's story and shaping favorable public perception. Branding and design are a critical piece of this puzzle.
Think about your niche! One company that is leading the way in this is M.M. LaFleur. The professional women's clothing company is loaning clothing to any woman running for office. How can you use your talents and resources to ease the burden for women running?
4. Share opportunities
One morning last spring, I looked at my email inbox and realized every single recent email had come from an organization that trains women for political leadership. I thought to myself - every single woman needs to be introduced to this list and to these opportunities. So I made a Facebook group and invited a bipartisan group of women who could be potential candidates and campaign staff, and aggregated all of these opportunities there.
The page has grown! It is so exciting to see women in my network being connected to other women who share their goals and getting involved with organizations that can help them get there. There are so many different training opportunities available that exist. I have seen training specifically for college women, current candidates, veterans, women of color, LGBTQ+, specific party affiliations, and so on. Sharing opportunities with others can be such a simple and effective way to ignite a fire. When you come across an opportunity that is well suited for a woman in your network, put that on her radar! (You can join the Leading Ladies facebook group here)
5. Ask a woman to run!
On average it takes seven asks to get a woman to consider a run. This is where some of these extraordinary non-profits come in! Let's look at She Should Run, you can nominate a woman to run through their website and they will send her information and resources to support her prospective candidacy. She Should Run is a great place to start for a woman exploring the prospects of running. There are numerous organizations that can help candidates through the nuts and bolts of running a campaign from there. Start today by giving an encouraging nudge to a woman you want to see on the ballot.
Do you have other ways you support and encourage women candidates? Let me know! Share this link and tell your network how you pledge to support and uplift female candidates in 2020.