She Should Run: Women's Involvement in Politics Skyrockets After Election
By Rachel Stafler
Courtney Peters Manning has always been interested in politics. She figured that one day, at some point in the future, she would even get involved. With a full-time job as an in-house lawyer at a special needs school and two young children at home, she put any thoughts of entering politics on the back burner.
But “one day” came around sooner than she expected. On November 9, 2016, the day after the election, she started researching how she could become a public servant.
“I was shocked and upset both by result and by the tone of the campaign,” said Manning, 39. “I couldn’t sit on the sidelines anymore. Women are half the population and seriously underrepresented in government. In a time of political divisiveness, women can be adept at bringing people together and finding common ground. For women’s interests to be represented, women need to be in politics.”
She had read about the non-partisan, non-profit organization She Should Run, which aims to increase the number of women in public office. Manning joined its incubator program and now follows its online tutorials, participates in conference calls with female elected officials, and receives guidance and practical advice.
Manning wasn’t the only woman who felt the need to get involved. In the first few months after the election, She Should Run had more than 8,500 women join their programs. It was an explosive increase – in a typical month around 100 women participate in its programs. If these numbers, along with the widespread participation in the women’s marches around the country, are any indication, the election has pushed many women who were previously content to watch from afar to get involved.
In the first few months after the election, She Should Run had more than 8,500 women join their programs.
The number of women holding elected positions lags far behind men. In Congress for example, only 19.4 percent of seats are held by women, with 83 in the House of Representatives and 21 in the Senate. Instead of making gains in the past election, the number of women in Congress stayed static, a fact that has encouraged many women to think about putting themselves forward.
In statewide elective executive offices, women didn’t fare much better, holding 24 percent of the 312 available positions, according to the Center for American Women and Politics.
“When women run, they win at the same rate as men. The issue we have is that women aren’t running,” says Erin Loos Cutaro, founder and CEO of She Should Run. “They aren’t being recruited, and when they are they question their qualifications. I am pleasantly surprised and heartened by the number of women who have come over to me and shared that they are thinking of running for office or who want to support those that do. With over 500,000 elected offices in the U.S., women from all types of backgrounds, from all parts of the country, and types of experience need to step up to run.”
Running for public office isn’t the only way that women are stepping up. For the past 10 years, MomsRising has worked to encourage mothers to organize and speak out for public policies that benefit both mothers and the country as a whole. Director Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner is optimistic about the potential for new advances over the next few years around MomsRising’s key issues, including pay parity, family leave, gun safety, and healthcare.
“The policies that we advocate for boost business and the economy. Our economy is hurting because we don’t have these policies in place,” she said, noting that MomsRising already has more than one million members. “We are stepping forward and doubling down and we are focusing on cities and states where we know we can make advances. We have our eye on national change and are gaining massive momentum on these policy areas. The writing is on the wall and it’s not a question of if but when.”
For her part, Manning is now considering running for a position in local government in her home state of New Jersey. She has already started networking and connecting with local politicians and former state legislators.
It’s a strategy that Alyson Higgins knows well as the director of fundraising for Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-NY, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
“The women that won have been inspiring to me and it’s been exciting watching their journeys,” said Higgins, who thinks that one day she may too run for public office. “The last election taught me that anyone can run for office and that you have to be able to tell your own story. There’s not one way to do things. There’s no right way. [Success can be] based on your passions and how you tell your story.”