By She Should Run CEO & Founder Erin Loos Cutraro
Picture this: a women’s restroom is designed without input from actual women engineers or women architects. A new movie targeting female audiences is in the making and there are little to no women in the writer’s room. A population made up of 51 percent women is led by a government made up of roughly 80 percent men.
I’m sure you get the picture by now. In each of these real-life scenarios, women’s voices and perspectives are literally missing from the table and excluded from conversations that impact their lives. When we, as a society, do not make equal representation a priority, what kind of message are we sending about which voices deserve to be heard and whose perspectives are valued? Spoiler alert: not a good one.
There are over 500,000 elected offices across the country and women are underrepresented at all levels of government. Out of the 100 largest cities in the United States, only 19 have women mayors, 8 of them women of color. A total of six states have women governors and just one of them, Governor Susana Martinez (R-NM), is a woman of color. There are 100 seats in the U.S. Senate, 23 of them are held by women, and just six of them are Republican.
It’s not enough to ask ourselves, what’s wrong with this picture? It’s urgent that we change it.
Until we bring more women to the table, we will not have leadership reflective of our country, a national conversation that includes everyone and a culture where all feel welcome and heard. The key to changing the face of our government to look more like the population is getting more women from all walks of life and across the political spectrum to run for office. If we expect girls to grow up believing that they can be anything, then it’s on us to show them what is not just possible, but inevitable.
As young women and girls across the country are forming opinions about who can be a leader, we have to remember that you can’t be what you can’t see. Visibility matters. There is undeniable power in seeing yourself reflected in leading roles. Just look at the impact of women leaders like Ava Duvernay or Lena Waithe; the popularity of television shows like Blackish and Jane The Virgin; and the wild success of movies like Black Panther or Wonder Woman. Audiences have made it clear that they want to see themselves represented in characters and stories on-screen, and off-screen in candidates for elected leadership.
In fact, findings from the Barbara Lee Family Foundation’s 2017 report Opportunity Knocks: Now Is The Time For Women Candidates, show that women running for office are optimistic “about their ability to compete at a moment when voters are thirsting for new ideas and fresh perspectives.”
Women are stepping up to run for office in record numbers now, and in the near future, making it clear that they cannot and will not wait for equal representation. Women veterans and farmers, PTA presidents and Girl Scout troop leaders, transgender women, black women, women with disabilities, Latina women, women from all walks of life are stepping up to take their seats at the table. And when more women run, more women lead.
She Should Run is committed to amplifying the stories of women from all walks of life to show that there is no one type of leader and there is no one path to elected leadership. Our Incubator Spotlight series, Why She Leads, highlights the women in our community who are running for office. Elevating their stories has inspired even more women to realize that they are already leaders—in their communities, at their kid’s school, at church. Not only are they qualified and ready to run, they have unique qualities to bring to a leadership position.
We need more women running at all levels. The House of Representatives makes up just .08 percent of all elected offices in the United States. The US is currently ranked 102nd in the world for women’s representation in government. At current rates, it will take over 100 years to achieve equal representation, and that’s unacceptable. With over 500,000 elected offices in the US, we need more than 250,000 women in the pipeline preparing to be on the ballot.
Big change requires bold action and that’s exactly why She Should Run launched 250KBY2030, a campaign to get 250,000 women running for office by 2030. We believe that women of all political leanings, ethnicities and backgrounds should have an equal opportunity to lead in elected office. And we know that when women run, they win at the same rates as men.
Getting more women to run for office is just one piece of this huge puzzle. If we want women’s equal representation in government in this lifetime, we need to tackle this problem from all angles. Our partners RepresentWomen, for example, focus on reforming existing systems that make it harder for women to run, and lead effectively once they are in office. In addition to changing practices around how women are recruited to run, they do essential work advocating for fair voting systems and modernizing legislative workplace norms.
It's on all of us to support the momentum behind the next generation of women leaders and sprint toward a future where anything is possible for women and girls in this country.
Run for office! Join the over 21,000 women preparing to run for office through She Should Run’s programs. Our online training, the She Should Run Incubator, will help you take that first step of figuring how a run for office can fit into your life now.
Encourage other women to run. Do you know a woman leader who would be great in office? Ask her to run using our nominate a woman to run form.
Join the movement to get 250,000 women running by 2030, #250KBY2030. Discover more ways to take action and bring us closer to a more equal and effective government at sheshouldrun.org