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Posts Tagged ‘Elect Her’

Like many people across the country, AAUW and Running Start are celebrating the record number of women who are now getting settled in the 113th Congress. Every year, we collaborate to encourage and train college women to run for student government with Elect Her–Campus Women Win, and these congresswomen exemplify many of the lessons we teach during those trainings.

Women in 113 Congress

Some of the women of the 113th Congress

We always start out our Elect Her trainings with a discussion of why having women in office is a win-win for everyone. Women’s political representation comes with many benefits:

  • More women in government results in a more balanced and productive work environment. Just ask Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who believes more women at the table would have eased discussions of the fiscal cliff. “With all deference to our male colleagues, women’s styles tend to be more collaborative,” she said. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) agrees: She says women “know how to compromise and how to set our egos aside. It’s more part of our DNA.”
  • Also, when women are at the table, government tends to be more ethical and less corrupt. This year we will watch as longtime consumer advocate and fighter of Wall Street corruption Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) takes her seat on the Senate Banking Committee.

If women bring so much to the table, why don’t more women run for office?

  • It’s no secret that women face much more media scrutiny than their male peers. Just this week, a profile of freshman Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) noted her love of designer clothing and accused her of — get this — talking too much.
  • The adage “you can’t be what you can’t see” holds true as well. Many women think government is not for them because they don’t see women in office. That is about to change, thanks to the most diverse Congress in history. We’re continuing to see that government is no longer just for white men — anyone can run for office and win. The demographics and stereotypes are dissolving. Among many other firsts, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) is the first practicing Hindu to be elected to Congress. She was even sworn in using the Bhagavad-Gita!

At every Elect Her training, we end with a few more words of encouragement and reasons why college women should run for office:

As the spring 2013 Elect Her trainings get underway next month, I am excited to continue talking about and learning from the women of the 113th!

 

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Photo by Nily Rozic Nily Rozic was asked multiple times to run for office before she seriously considered it. The 26-year-old New York state assemblywoman-elect admits she was asked “over and over” to run, which is not an unusual thing to hear from female candidates.

AAUW, Running Start, and She Should Run recently held a conference call for alumnae of Elect Her–Campus Women Win — a program that trains college women to run for student government — with the goal of encouraging these remarkable young women to run for public office. The call, which targeted students who have been through Elect Her and held student leadership positions, aimed to get these women to think about running for office after college and to share the steps they can be taking now to prepare for a career in politics. As one of the speakers on the call, Rozic shared her own story, which touched on all of the tips that AAUW, Running Start, and She Should Run typically share with attendees.

1. Go Local

Rozic knew she wanted to do something to give back to the neighborhood where she grew up, so she made sure to take leadership roles in her community. Rozic first advises becoming a leader in your own community, whatever role it may be. Ramping up your involvement in things you already care about is a great way to build leadership skills that will help you eventually run for office.

2. Start Now

Rozic was not afraid of jumping into the ring at a young age, and she encouraged the Elect Her alums to do the same. “You’ve just got to start,” she said, and you’ll discover that there are people who are ready to jump in and support you. Rozic said several political trainings were invaluable to her, especially in finding and developing mentors. For a list of trainings across the country, visit the Center for American Women in Politics.

3. Try Volunteering

A third way for young women to take their political experience to the next level is by taking a paid, intern, or volunteer position for a political campaign or in a current political leader’s office. Rozic landed her first government job working for a member of the New York State Assembly, where she got a feel for what government was like and eventually worked her way up to chief of staff. There are great opportunities at the local, state, and federal levels. For instance, try volunteering on a campaign — you can reach out to the local Republican or Democratic parties to find out more about the candidates. Or you can contact a local or state elected official to find out about opportunities. Each U.S. congressional office manages its own internship program, so look on your representatives’ websites to find out more. Nonprofits also organize internships with members of Congress through programs like Running Start’s Star Fellowship Program.

Ultimately, Rozic urges young women to embrace their youth when running for office. Our elected officials need to be representative of all types of people, and being young is not a disadvantage: “You’re ahead of the curve!”

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Elect Her was a major factor in me deciding to run [for office],” says Western Washington University student Carly Roberts, who is the newly elected vice president for activities for the Associated Students (AS) at WWU. Thanks to the encouragement and training she received during WWU’s Elect Her–Campus Women Win workshop, the junior human services major is ready to make a difference on her campus this fall. She took a moment to share her campaigning experience with AAUW Dialog.

AAUW: Why did you decide to run for campus office?

Cade Schmidt, AS WWURoberts: I have always been passionate about being involved in my community and taking full advantage of the opportunities available to me. After two years of working as an AS employee, I felt this was the best way for me to continue serving students, and running for office was an excellent opportunity that I could not pass up.

AAUW: What were some of your successful campaign strategies?

Roberts: My main focus during my campaign was delivering a cohesive message. I chose two main focus issues for my campaign: addressing the accessibility of the AS to students at large and reforming leadership and resource training for club leaders. By picking two main issues, I was able to deliver a concise, repetitive message that students could easily identify. Another thing that I found important while campaigning was being realistic. I acknowledged real issues and offered realistic responses. It is easy to get sucked into trying to find solutions to every issue while you’re campaigning — to be the “I have all of the answers!” candidate. But in reality, people appreciate hearing the truth. Sometimes the truth is that you don’t have the answers, and that is OK. The important thing is that you have a plan to find these answers and are committed to it.

AAUW: What do you hope to accomplish during your term?

Roberts: I want make the Associated Students more approachable. Students are paying for the services and programs the AS offers, so we owe it to students to ensure that they know what these services are and how to access them. I also plan to increase and improve the training available to club leaders. I want to move beyond facilitating club activities and really empower students to take hold of their passions and build transferrable skills that they can take beyond their college experience.

AAUW: What are your goals after college?

Roberts: I do not have any specific plans, but I know that I will be an empowered individual and pursue excellence in whatever I do. Eventually, I would like to be involved in local politics.

AAUW: What advice would you give to other women students who are questioning whether they should run or not?

Roberts: Run. Put yourself out there. It’s scary, but it’s worth it! Even if you don’t win, the process of running for office is a great learning experience. You learn about yourself, people in general, and the democratic process. If you don’t run, who will? Don’t depend on others to speak for you — speak for yourself, and while you’re at it, give others a voice too!

AAUW: Why do you think Elect Her–Campus Women Win is a valuable program for your campus?

Roberts: Elect Her was a major factor in me deciding to run. I was one of only three female candidates out of 13. The other two were running against each other, so if I had not run, there would only be one woman on a board of seven people representing a school where women make up more than half of the students. Elect Her is important because it shows women that they have a powerful voice that is important — a voice that needs to be heard. I am extremely grateful that I was able to experience Elect Her.

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Last year, Stefani Jones helped transform the student government at Duke University by winning a seat in the campus senate. Along with several Elect Her alumnae, Jones increased the number of women in student office at Duke to record levels. This spring, after serving for a year in the Duke Student Government (DSG) Senate and going through a second Elect Her–Campus Women Win training, Jones ran for vice president of equity and outreach, and she won! Here’s what she had to say about her campaign.

AAUW: Why did you decide to run for campus office?

Jones: I first decided to run for DSG Senate after completing the Elect Her program. I was nervous about putting myself out there and competing with those who might have more experience than I did. The program encouraged me to jump right in, be confident, and take a shot at being a campus leader.

AAUW: What were some of your successful campaign strategies?

Jones: You can’t be afraid to get out there and make yourself known. Survey the issues that students are talking about, and make sure you’re approachable and friendly. People want campus leaders whom they respect, but they don’t want people who aren’t relatable.

AAUW: What do you hope to accomplish during your term?

Jones: I’m so excited to work next year on a multitude of student issues at Duke. I’ve already started lobbying with other student groups to change our campus sexual misconduct policy to provide a larger window in which students, faculty, and staff can report sexual harassment. I’m also going to work to connect student groups together to enable better advocacy efforts on campus and tackle gender and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues for Duke students.

AAUW: What are your goals after college?

Jones: I want to work in government for a couple of years before possibly pursuing law or public policy school. Whether it’s through public service or policy work, I want a career that will let me give back to my community. Through student government, I have become a better advocate who feels confident fighting on behalf of those who need support. I’d love to use the skills I’ve gained to actually make a difference.

AAUW: What advice would you give to other women students who are questioning whether they should run or not?

Jones: Don’t second-guess yourself — you’ve got a lot to say. If you don’t put your voice out there, no one else will. No one will ever fault you for trying, and you’ll make a lot of great friends and gain incredible experience along the way.

AAUW: Why do you think Elect Her–Campus Women Win is a valuable program for your campus?

Jones: Until we break the cycle of women questioning their place in higher office, we’ll never see real change. Getting women to feel confident in their leadership abilities in college is the first step toward shaping the leaders of tomorrow.

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Shaila Schmidt is a rising junior at Boise State University, where she is majoring in theater arts and dramatic writing. She is also a recent alumna of Elect Her–Campus Women Win. This spring, she was inspired to run for secretary of academic affairs of the Associated Students of Boise State University, and thanks to her training at Elect Her, she won! Schmidt took a few minutes to talk to us about her campaign experience.

AAUW: Why did you decide to run for campus office?

Schmidt: Last year, I began working for my university as an academic adviser to incoming students. I had the chance to work with students from all sorts of educational backgrounds, each with her or his own unique academic interests, goals, and hardships. I had been involved in student government since freshman year, and I felt that my experiences as an adviser made me the perfect candidate for secretary of academic affairs.

AAUW: What were some of your successful campaign strategies?

Schmidt: I utilized my resources. I had the benefit of working on a team of candidates for a variety of positions within the organization, which broadened my networking circles and provided me with stronger support. I talked with students, faculty, and administrators to fully understand what everyone needed from this position.

AAUW: What do you hope to accomplish during your term?

Schmidt: I want to help foster a stronger relationship among students, administrators, and faculty. Students interact with professors on a regular basis, of course, but many don’t take advantage of the wonderful opportunities to hone a relationship with the dean of their college or the chair of their department. Also, our campus currently offers no 24-hour study facilities for students. This has been a growing concern, and I hope to get the ball rolling to fix it.

AAUW: What are your goals after college?

Schmidt: After graduation, I plan to go to graduate school for theater history and criticism. My ultimate goal would be to work on Broadway or with a local theater company.

AAUW: What advice would you give to other women students who are questioning whether they should run or not?

Schmidt: There is a reason you think you should run. Don’t wait for someone to tell you you’re good enough. I’ve found that more often than not, when I’m hesitant about something I’ve chosen to do, I share it with my peers or mentors. And to them, it instantly makes sense that I would want to pursue it because I’m passionate about it. Passion is all the proof you need!

AAUW: Why do you think Elect Her–Campus Women Win is a valuable program for your campus?

Schmidt: Participating in Elect Her helped me gain a broader perspective on how my passions and achievements can fall in line and bring me to new experiences. I was able to meet some incredible women who had been in my position before and create connections with them to help me succeed in my future endeavors.

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As a new Elect Her–Campus Women Win site this year, Stony Brook University hoped to see attendees from their March 9 campaign training elected to student government positions. It is wonderful to see the campus has achieved that goal. Next year, Elect Her student liaison Anna Lubitz will step into the role of Undergraduate Student Government president, while fellow Elect Her attendees Aimee Pomeroy and Mallory Rothstein will join her as executive vice president and senator, respectively. All three women were excited to share their experiences with AAUW Dialog.

Undergraduate Student Government President Anna Lubitz

AAUW: Why did you decide to run for office?

Lubitz: I am determined to represent the concerns, thoughts, and opinions of the student body to the administration. I want to actively represent student concerns with the highest respect and priority.

Pomeroy: I have been involved with USG in various capacities for the past two years, and I decided that since this will be my senior year at Stony Brook, I should use the knowledge I’ve gained to execute the duties of executive vice president. Now or never.

Rothstein: I decided to run because I saw that USG has always been very disconnected from the student body, and I wanted to reconnect them again through new means of communication.

AAUW: What were some of your most successful campaign strategies?

Lubitz: I ran as part of the party Seawolves for Change, and we created campaign videos, party T-shirts, and buttons and even held a parade! I also distributed pamphlets on how to vote. Most of all, we went to major events and organization meetings to talk about our platform and individual goals.

Pomeroy: I think the most successful campaign strategy is talking to constituents. If you can make a great impression on one person, they will be inspired and help spread your message too.

Rothstein: I used the strategy of connecting to each audience or person I spoke to. I made sure my vision was clear and gave specific examples as to how I wanted to make Stony Brook a better campus.

Undergraduate Student Government Senator Mallory Rothstein

AAUW: What do you hope to accomplish during your term?

Lubitz: I want to improve communication — both internal and external to USG. Communication is key! The task of unifying this large campus is easier when we all work together, communicate effectively, and share a common purpose.

Pomeroy: As executive vice president, I really want to work with the senators and help them to become stronger leaders. I hope to get more students involved with USG.

Rothstein: I hope to have the student body trust their elected officials more, open new means of communication, and get the senators more involved beyond just going to meetings.

AAUW: What are your goals after college?

Lubitz: I hope to continue my education in veterinary school. I also have interest in politics and law and hopefully will one day run for congressional office.

Undergraduate Student Government Executive Vice President Aimee Pomeroy

Pomeroy: I will be applying to become a physician’s assistant.

Rothstein: I hope to one day become a social entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and writer.

AAUW: What advice would you give to other women students who are considering running for office?

Lubitz:It is very important for female students to have a voice in organizations on campus. Women represent 50 percent of the population, and it is important for their voices to be heard!

Pomeroy: Definitely run! If you have a passion for whatever the position entails, then there is no reason not to run. If you don’t win, then you have more time to do something else. But if you do win, then you can really make a difference.

Rothstein: I would advise them to not let the press or others’ opinions get to you. Also, when you are speaking to people, make sure you are really connecting with them.

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Here at AAUW’s national office, a frequent topic of water-cooler conversation is how much we love NBC’s Parks and Recreation, particularly its female protagonist, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler). We have watched Leslie grapple with local government bureaucracy in the Parks and Recreation Department of fictional Pawnee, Indiana, for years. But this past season, Leslie stepped it up by running for City Council and winning!

This story line was of particular interest to my co-workers and me because it relates to the work we do on Elect Her–Campus Women Win, a program that we offer in collaboration with Running Start. Elect Her encourages and trains college women to run for student government. By getting more women interested in politics early on, Elect Her helps to build the pipeline of women running for office with the goal of diminishing the long-standing political leadership gender gap. I look forward to next season to see how Leslie continues to break barriers as a member of City Council!

Women can learn from Leslie’s campaigning strategies in Parks and Recreation. Here are the top 10 ways Leslie is a great role model for all women running for office (click the links to see clips):

  1. She got started early. Even at age 10, Leslie saw herself as a capable political candidate. One of the best ways to get more women in political office is to help them start on the path to politics at a young age.
  2. She knows her issues. Leslie stays on top of all of the issues facing Pawnee, and she can articulate her stance on any of them — and all of them!
  3. She tailors her message to her audience. Leslie knows that each community in Pawnee has different priorities, and she knows to approach each one individually.
  4. She knows how to use her network. Leslie has constructed a campaign team that utilizes all the best strengths her friends and colleagues have to offer. Smooth-talking Tom and optimistic Chris make up her media “spin team,” pragmatic and experienced Ben is her campaign manager, and even contented worker-bee Jerry is her official envelope-stuffer.
  5. She is composed in the face of media scrutiny. Having gone head-to-head with Pawnee Today host Joan Callamezzo many times, Leslie is able to defend her actions and ideas on television without hesitation.
  6. She is prepared for the double-edged sword. Like many women in power, Leslie is all too familiar with the pressure to appear determined enough to be taken seriously — but not so much that she comes off as too aggressive or mean. She powers through these expectations and keeps her message clear.
  7. She embraces servant leadership. Sure, Leslie is ambitious (her goal is to become the first woman president), but it’s not because she is hungry for power. Leslie is Pawnee’s biggest fan, and she is running for City Council because she desperately wants to serve its citizens.
  8. She sticks to her principles. Although it is tempting, Leslie does not let her campaign stoop to negative attack ads.
  9. She gets out the vote. Right before the election, Leslie and her team are not shy about getting her name (and face!) out there in a big way.
  10. She is closing the gender gap in political representation. By running for Pawnee City Council, Leslie is taking one more step toward political parity for women. Currently, women make up only 23.7 percent of state legislatures and 16.8 percent of the U.S. Congress. When women run for office, they win at the same rates as men. So what we need are more women like Leslie to run!

Learn more about these issues and strategies by attending or hosting an Elect Her training on your local campus.

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