She Should Run launches initiative to expand number of women in political process

She Should Run launches initiative to expand number of women in political process
© Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Tory Burch Foundation

She Should Run, the nonpartisan organization that encourages women to run for office, is expanding its mission to bring women into the process in ways other than being a candidate.

She Should Run has found that for every woman who “makes her way to the ballot, it takes eight thinking about it,” CEO Erin Loos Cutraro told The Hill.  

“When those numbers crystalized for us we knew that we had to create something, a program that tackled the greater ecosystem of individuals who care to solve this issue of gender inequality in elected office,” she said.  

ADVERTISEMENT

That idea manifested itself into She Should Run’s new initiative: Role Call.

“With the launch of this program we’re really making a point that it … has to be [about] more than who do we support and vote for,” Cutraro said. 

“It’s about building that ecosystem that supports all women, and realizing ... the roles that we can play so that we all rise together,” she added. 

She Should Run kicked off the program with an event Wednesday night featuring a roundtable discussion with women in positions of influence in different sectors, who illustrated the different roles women can play in helping expand the pipeline of women running for office. 

Different types of “roles” She Should Run has identified are connectors, champions, investors, insiders and influencers, Cutraro said. She Should Run has an online quiz users can take to help identify which roles they may best serve in. 

Maine state Rep. Genevieve McDonald (D), a first-term lawmaker who used She Should Run’s resources in her 2018 campaign said being a candidate is not the only — or necessarily the best — role for everyone to play. 

“I have friends that love grant writing, or are passionate about communications,” McDonald said, adding that there are a number of other important roles for women. 

McDonald, a commercial lobsterman, said she had little experience with party politics before launching her campaign. But she had served on an advocacy board that led her to testify on state-level legislation and work with members of the state House committee she now serves on. 

“I would recommend people familiarize themselves with how the process works and the system they’re going to be a part of before they run,” she said. 

She also had the chance to shadow the legislator who had approached her about running, she said. 

“It helps you decide if you want to run,” she said. “I was looking for guidance on whether or not I wanted to run and what the responsibilities it would entail if that was something I was committing to, because it’s a big commitment.” 

Angela Esquivel Hawkins, a Democrat from California, said she heard about She Should Run from a former professor who asked her if she had considered running for office. She said she’s still in the process of deciding when or what she’d like to run for. 

“Women supporting women in their goals to speak out can only serve to improve society,” she said. 

“People who have overcome a lot of those kind of tapes inside of their hand saying, ‘you can’t do this’ or ‘you shouldn't do this,’ to hear some of the ways people persist in the face of that kind of discouragement is helpful, even if they share different visions for what the country,” she said. 

She Should Run’s new initiative expands on the organization's larger goal of getting 250,000 women elected by 2030. Welcoming women who may choose not to run for office, or not to run at this time, into the process expands the pipeline in a way Cutraro said is key to achieving long-term change.

“I’m encouraged by the positive conversation around the number of women running across the country, and even for the presidential nomination, but the floodgates for women across the country are not wide open, and you know we still have a lot of work to do,” Cutraro said. 

McDonald registered on Tuesday to run for reelection. She said she plans to remain involved with the incubator but in a somewhat different role: Now she herself can encourage other women to run, especially women with young children — an experience she’s all too familiar with, she said. 

McDonald’s now 18-month-old twins were born just after her primary. 

“I am definitely a voice to say you can do it, it can be done. Here are the tools and support network you need in place to make that happen,” she said. 

Across the country, women have been breaking records in recent years, reaching new levels of representation in government. In 2018, a record 102 women were elected to serve in the 116th Congress. Still, women make up less than one-quarter of the House’s voting membership. 

Just last week, a record 65 Democratic women won their races for state legislative seats in Virginia in an election that gave Democrats control of the entirety of the state government for the first time since 1994. Women won mayoral races for the first time in Scranton, Pa., and Tucson, Ariz., and women now make up the majority of the Boston City Council for the first time in history. 

And an unprecedented number of women are running in the Democratic presidential primary. Five women are still in the race for the highest office; Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Defense: Bombshell report reveals officials misled public over progress in Afghanistan | Amazon accuses Trump of 'improper pressure' in Pentagon contract decision | House Judiciary holds final impeachment hearing Gillibrand demands hearing following release of 'Afghanistan Papers' White House, Congress near deal to give 12 weeks paid parental leave to all federal workers MORE (D-N.Y.) dropped out in August. However, men still dominate the race, with nearly 2.5 times more men running compared to women.

Ultimately, She Should Run wants voters to see ballots that reflect the country. Less than one-third of offices across the country are held by women, despite women winning at the same rate as men, according to She Should Run