See Joan run for office. Run, Joan (or Annie, Janet or Naila), run!
By Heidi Stevens
Which is how we end up with so many Dicks in office.
"Meet Dick," reads a cheeky new book called "See Joan Run." "Dick is a Congressman."
"This is also Dick," the book continues. "This Dick is an Alderman. ... Look! Another Dick! This Dick is on city council. There are a lot of Dicks in office."
"See Joan Run" is the handiwork of She Should Run, a relatively young nonprofit (founded in 2011) aimed at increasing women's representation in public office.
"When you look at the makeup of our government, you see that while women are the majority of voters and make up half the population, they're not equally represented in government," said Erin Loos Cutraro, co-founder and CEO of She Should Run. "We're in drastic need of greater levels of inclusion."
Women make up 24 percent of state legislatures, 17 percent of Congress, 8 percent of the 100 largest city's mayors and 12 percent of state governors, according to the American University School of Public Affair's Women and Politics Institute.
She Should Run hopes to boost those numbers by encouraging more women to throw their hats in the ring.
"Too often when positions come open and people look around to encourage others to run, those words of encouragement are coming from inside, from the people who are already in elected positions," Cutraro said. "And the people already in there are predominantly men."
She Should Run hosts events to raise awareness about the political gender gap and helps prepare women for public leadership. The group's website also has a form to nominate a woman you think should consider running for office. She Should Run will send her an email and encourage her to run, with tools and inspiration she might need to make the leap.
"The most important thing is letting women you respect and admire know that their voices are needed in office," Cutraro said. "You plant the seed with a woman and say, 'I think you should really consider running for office.' Then put yourself in her shoes and know that the first time she hears it, she may not take it seriously. Be there when she says, 'You really think so? I don't think I'm qualified.' Or whatever version of that she might say."
Shonda Rhimes is a fan of the movement (and the book), tweeting her support last week: "#LetGirlsLearn to envision themselves in public office w/@SheShouldRun's book #SeeJoanRun."
And why shouldn't we all be?
"We owe it to ourselves and our children to have people in office who truly represent us," said Tara Rossi, who co-authored "See Joan Run," along with Tracy Mathison and Heidi Schoeneck. "This is a totally nonpartisan movement."
The fictional Joan decides to run for office by the end of the 14-page book, thanks to encouragement from her pals Bob and Sue. "See Joan Run," goes the story. "See Joan win. See Joan make a difference."
"We need all voices and perspectives at the table in order to make the smartest decisions possible," Cutraro said. "We need a government that represents the voices of all Americans, and that's why we do the work we do. When our leadership is reflective, we're better equipped to solve the most pressing issues."