By Raquel Reichard
Women are running for office at record-breaking numbers. According to Politico, at least 575 women have announced their bid for the House, Senate or governor, many alluding to President Donald Trump and the #MeToo movement as inspiration for their campaigns. Whether fed up with how the old boys’ club is directing the nation or hoping to fulfill a lifelong dream to serve their community, their place in government is essential.
The United States ranks 101 in the world when it comes to women’s representation in national office, with ladies making up just 20 percent of Congress, 25 percent of state legislatures and only six of 50 governors. For women of color, the numbers are even more shameful. Currently, there are nine Latinas serving in the House and just one, the first and recently elected Catherine Cortez Masto, in the Senate.
Simply put, there are not enough Latinas in government — and that is true at all levels, from city to state to federal. Without women of color, our governments not only fail to represent us but they will also never govern at its highest potential. That’s because women have proven time and again to be more productive and progressive in political office than men. Several studies show that we introduce more legislation, are more likely to work across political lines to pass necessary laws, bring more funding into our districts, are less corrupt and are bolder leaders.
We need more women, especially women of color, serving in all ranks of our government. In fact, we need you — young, multicultural, Black and brown Latina women — in office, leading our communities and our country. We, who constitute the future of this nation, will make our governments more inclusive, attentive and effective.
FIERCE chatted with Jenn Addison, the digital and creative manager at She Should Run, a nonpartisan organization that encourages women to consider a future run for office and provides them with resources and community to kick off their path to elected leadership, about why you — everyday Latina who may or may not have ever considered a career in politics — should run for office.
In order to have a government that’s by the people and for the people, Addison says “we need a government that represents the people.” This means that Latinxs, who account for 17 percent of the population and continue to be one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the nation, and women, who are a majority in the country, must be present in our government.
As a member of a multiracial, multicultural and multilingual population, you are more likely to understand the experiences and needs of the diverse people you represent. You, who lives on the border of so many identities, are a bridge for people of various racial, immigration, class and gender backgrounds. “We can’t have the best policies if we don’t have the best and brightest minds of all backgrounds at the table,” Addison told us.
From immigration, criminal justice and poverty to reproductive rights, environmental racism and education, you — or your family — are likely directly impacted by some of the most pressing political issues, allowing you to take into account the shared lived experiences of you and your constituents when introducing and passing legislation. “Your perspective as women of color, Latina and Black woman, is essential in politics if we want solutions to big challenges we face as a nation,” Addison said.
While there might be a dearth of women in political leadership, we are not in short supply of ladies who lead. The problem, according to Addison, is that we don’t view our experiences as leaders in our homes, schools, churches and communities as sufficient, though it is. “Imposter syndrome, not realizing that you are qualified or feeling like you don’t belong, is a barrier that stops women of color from running, but shouldn’t,” she said. The qualities we gain from our life-long service to our communities — commitment to people and causes, clear and respectful communication, honesty and integrity, decision-making, accountability, empathy and empowerment — all make us eligible for elected office.
Running for public office, whether you are elected or not, provides candidates with valuable experiences and lessons. Through campaigning, you build networks, confidence and leadership skills. “They are already leaders, and running for office will help them to effect more change, locally and civically,” Addison said.
Not seeing yourself represented in politics makes it difficult to envision yourself there. “It sends the message that there is not a space for me there,” Addison said. Running for office allows others to visualize a different political reality and inspires the next generation to consider that path for themselves. “Young people need to see themselves leading if we want them to grow up believing that they can be anything. Women stepping up and being the first will send that message to girls,” she continued.
Inspired to run for office? Find resources and community over at She Should Run.