Meet the Organization that's Helping 5,000 Women Run for Office Right Now
By Rachel Lapidos
So, we’re not going to inaugurate our first female president next year. But that isn’t stopping women from doing what they do best—running the world. Yes, she-ros all over the country are standing up. Case in point? Roughly 5,000 women have registered for She Should Run, a nonprofit organization that helps women run for political office—just since Election Day.
“We are an organization that works to inspire women and girls to see what’s possible through elected service,” says Erin Loos Cutraro, co-founder and CEO of the organization. “We’re different than a lot of political organizations in that we don’t focus on a specific party or a specific type of woman, but instead are making the case that women add to the power of our governing bodies and that as a country we’re not tapping those talent pools for full effect.”
To hear more about the badass women who are ready to be (political) forces to be reckoned with, we chatted with Cutraro about the organization’s goals, why women are becoming candidates, and her hopes for a political awakening.
Cutraro: After the election, as you can imagine, we were like most Americans—very surprised by the outcome. We knew we had to help the percentage of women serving everything from town council all the way to the presidency. On November 9, we weren’t certain what those few days after the election and ultimately the future was going to hold, but had been incredibly inspired by the outpouring of support the organization has received and for each and every individual woman who has stepped up and said she wants to run for office someday.
The majority of the 5,000 women who have joined our program have signed up for the She Should Run Incubator, our program that offers guidance for women looking to start the path toward getting elected for a political office.
Cutraro: I worked in electoral politics with candidates in my home state of Missouri, and with candidates across the country helping candidates when they first started to run. I had an interesting vantage point in those roles, and became well-versed in the research about the barriers women faced running for office. I developed a good sense of what resources were out there and what were lacking.
The reality is that we need women in offices and to be represented at all levels of government.
What became increasingly clear to me is that more and more, especially young women are less likely to identify with traditional party structures. I think there was a trend of women who didn’t feel like they could identify with the messages that were out there or any resources encouraging them to run for office.
The reality is that we need women in offices and to be represented at all levels of government. And in order to get there, we really needed to think about the overall messaging and the culture encouraging women to run.
Cutraro: All different levels. Keep in mind, a number of women who come to She Should Run are thinking about this for the very first time. They’re trying to figure out things like what the roles are in their communities, where their time would be best spent. I think these are questions that the traditional political recruitment machine kind of skips over. I think on the surface we’re hearing more and more interest in women getting engaged in their local communities…and that’s really encouraging.
Cutraro: It’s interesting, because I sort of had an expectation after the election we we would see the majority of people coming out of the coastal areas since we saw a pretty divided America. But I have been highly encouraged to see that in fact there’s a pretty heavy distribution across the country.
I have been highly encouraged to see that in fact there’s a pretty heavy distribution across the country.
We see concentrations of women around urban centers, and we’re working to build resources and build recruitment strategies for women in rural America as well. But we have had a pretty even distribution around the country, and women have really stepped up from all over.
Cutraro: I think starting in a place where you’re getting to know your local community is always the best place to start. So getting involved, understanding what your local government structure looks like, volunteering…It’s about finding your place where you can start to build your network.
Cutraro: We are actually very much focused on this front end of the pipeline of politics. So helping women find the pathways into public service. Our She Should Run Incubator is a great starting place. We’re going to build the resources out based on the feedback we’re getting, provide more access to the role models we want these women to see, and make sure the passover to other organizations is happening smoothly.
When a woman completes our incubator program, she’s often in a place where she’s like, “Okay, now what? What do I do now?” That next step is very personal and it’s local. We’re really hoping to make sure we have the resources necessary for helping those women take that next step.