Can Republicans win women back? We can and we must.

Can Republicans win women back? We can and we must.
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It seems you can’t open a newspaper these days without seeing another damning statistic that spells trouble for the future of the GOP. The latest comes from a new study by Pew, which showed less than a quarter of millennial women now identify as Republican, down from 36 percent in 2002. Those trend lines are no doubt alarming for conservatives but do they mean the future is blue? No. In fact, they actually serve to embolden those of us committed to reclaiming the Republican Party and make our activism all the more timely.

Armchair analysts will look at the current occupant of the White House and place the blame for this downward trajectory squarely on the president’s shoulders. But that analysis ignores the fact that, for far too long, Republicans have paid little more than lip service to the importance of diversity and gender parity within our party. Look to the House of Representatives, where there are just 22 GOP women currently. Moreover, six of those 22 are retiring or running for other offices.

Young women need role models upon which to fashion their careers. Those role models can be men. But, they can’t all be men.

Can Republicans win women back? We can and we must.

And yes, a president who respects women would certainly help. I have been a vocal critic of this president and I will continue to call out that which I believe is damaging to our country, our party, and to the cause of conservatism. But, that does not mean I and other women are done with today’s Republican Party. In fact, it is precisely because I believe in the core tenets of conservatism that I continue to speak out.

As the daughter of immigrants who escaped the brutal regime of Uganda’s Idi Amin and came to this country in the 1970s, I found the Republican Party to be a natural home for the values my parents and grandparents passed on to me and my siblings. I was raised to believe that, for the majority of us, a hand-up is more acceptable than a handout and that our nation will have a stronger economy when government has a limited role.

There are many of us who believe the principles of the Republican Party will endure beyond this challenging political moment. To ensure it does, however, will take a great deal of work. And that’s why I am engaged in recruiting women – young women in particular – to take more active roles in our nation’s political process in a variety of ways that go beyond voting in local, state, and federal elections.

Groups like VoteRunLead, She Should Run, and Women Influencers Network (WIN) – a new nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that I am proud to have helped found  – aim to increasing independent women’s political engagement across the country; we are helping recruit, train, and empower women of all ideologies and backgrounds to seize this political moment as volunteers, donors, and yes, especially as candidates.

There has been a tremendous wave of women running for office across the country, but that wave isn’t all blue – it’s also red. According to a recent poll conducted by VoteRunLead and Bustle Trends Group, 19 percent of Democrats, 18 percent of Republicans, and 12 percent of Independents are now considering running for political office. Some will win. Many will lose. Regardless, we will keep after it because we have to.

Resilience is our mantra. We know that this moment does not belong to one “side” or the other – it belongs to those who recognize that they offer solutions not barriers and a common-sense approach to getting things done.

Millennial women are of this ilk. We are makers. We are entrepreneurs. We are global citizens. We are diverse and we want to make the world a better place. Personal freedom is at the heart of who we are and we resent being put into any one mold that has been crafted for us. Though we bristle at categories and classifications, we appreciate and gravitate towards value-driven institutions and entities.

Despite the challenges before us, I am hopeful that millennial women will see beyond the current rhetoric to realize what I once did: that the Republican Party can be a welcoming home where they won’t just survive but will thrive.

Conservative women believe in limited government. We know that when people are freer and without the bureaucratic burdens that can entangle our businesses and our families, we can achieve more. We know that when we can keep more of our hard-owned dollars, we apply them to solving societal problems. Currently, this message is muddled and confusing young voters as to the purpose of our party. More of our political leaders need to speak out — praising constructive policies while criticizing those doing damage to our country.

As we work to increase the role, stature, and prominence of young conservative women, we do it with acknowledgement of this harsh, political reality. Our approach is to change the narrative, broaden the perspective, and keep the focus on the core values of conservatism. It is not an easy task, but it will result in a stronger, more vibrant Republican Party that looks more like and serves the America of today.

Rina Shah is a strategic consultant, media commentator, & millennial entrepreneur based in the Washington, DC area. She is the principal and founder of Rilax Strategies and is co-founder of Women Influencers Network (WIN). Follow her on Twitter @RinainDC.