By Guest Contributor Sara Pennebecker
Minnesota has never elected a woman as governor, no woman of color has ever held a statewide elected office, and currently women lead none of the 21 Fortune 500 companies in the state. These numbers are similar to national statistics. Women make up only 17% of positions in Congress, there are currently only 6 female governors, and the U.S. ranks 79th in the world behind 95 other countries, for percentage of women in office. Check out the Center for American Women and Politics for additional information and statistics.
This, to me, is a serious issue when you consider the fact that women make up roughly 50% of the population. Women represent a unique perspective that should not be left unheard. It is time for women of all identities and backgrounds to begin to consider running for public office and other elected positions.
That being said, I am pleased to announce Elect Her, sponsored by AAUW and Running Start. Elect Her is a 4.5-hour training designed to encourage both undergraduate and graduate women to run for student government by providing them with the tools and information to do so. The training will be held in late February or early March, in time for elections on campus (typically held in April). Women who run for student government are much more likely to run for public office or other elected positions later in life.
This year, we will focus on the diversity of women. Women hold many identities in addition to their gender. My hope is not only that women will run and win this year, but that they will also take with them the knowledge, skills and confidence to pursue office later in life. Who knows? We may have a future elected official such as a governor, vice president, or president of the United States in our presence!
Remember, all voices are important, and all voices should be present at the table. Don’t think you have what it takes to be a student leader? I bet you do, and you do not even realize it. We all possess characteristics of a good leader, whether we realize it or not. If you have the slightest interest about student government, I would encourage you to consider applying.
You never know unless you try. What’s the worst that can happen? You lose? I don’t think that’s so bad because you gained experience, experience campaigning you would not have had if you had not run in the first place. Research shows that women need to be asked seven times to run for office before they will consider it. Consider this post as the first (or second, third, etc.) request for YOU to run for office.
If you’re interested in learning more about women in leadership and politics, here are just a few of many resources out there:
By starting now, we can shape tomorrow’s leaders who will pave the way for women for generations to come. Stay tuned for more information in the weeks to come. In the meantime, spread the word!
Contact Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions about Elect Her at the University of Minnesota.
Sara Pennebecker is the 2012-2013 Master of Social Work Intern at the Women’s Center.