Why Social Workers Should Run For Elected Office

By Jennifer Charles, She Should Run Ambassador
June 25, 2019
Topics: Leadership
Types: General
Training Levels: Federal Local State
To say things took a turn in politics in 2016 is an understatement. I was starting my first job post-graduation in Child Welfare and decided to just “let it be” since work was my life. Fast-forward a year later, I entered graduate school, deciding to focus on a Master’s of Social Work (MSW). During my studies, I started to make the connection between policy and how it truly impacts everyone. I thought to myself, “Wow, these policies are not really making sense.” The more I made these connections, the more I came to believe that social workers needed to be civically engaged. It’s in our Code of Ethics!

Value: Service

Ethical Principle: Social workers' primary goal is to help people in need and to address social problems.

Value: Social Justice

Ethical Principle: Social workers challenge social injustice.

According to www.socialworkers.org, an overwhelming majority of social workers are women. Women who work with clients being affected by many policies that aren’t working. Social workers working in child welfare often have a lack of resources for the families ande are often overworked and underpaid. They are frustrated with the reality that their clients are not receiving the proper services. The social work profession calls for social workers to be advocates and what better way to advocate than to become civically engaged and run for office.

Once I realized this, I began to research ways to apply my social work skills in the political arena. This is where I discovered the Nancy A. Humphries Institute for Political Social Workers  and their yearly campaign school for social workers. I attended the campaign school, made great connections, and learned just how valuable my input was a social worker. Political social workers have made it their mission to get social workers into office and have been extremely helpful in sharing beneficial resources. As a social worker who loves macro practice and advocacy, I felt it was important to share this with fellow social workers who feel they aren't qualified to run for office. 

Here are a few social work skills that can translate into candidacy skills:

  • Social workers are active listeners.
    • This skill is important for candidates as they need to listen and understand the issues their constituents face.
  • Social workers used evidenced-based tools to help their clients.
    • This skill is important for candidates as they need to ensure policies being passed are actually effective and thoroughly researched.
  • Social workers are resourceful.
    • This skill is important for candidates as they need to be able to provide their constituents with appropriate resources as needed.
  • Social workers are empathetic.
    • This skill is important for candidates as they need to be able to truly understand their constituents’ issues to effect positive and effective change.
  • Social workers are critical thinkers.
    • This skill is important for candidates as they need to be able to think creatively to be effective.

Something I often hear is, “I don’t have a history in politics”, and my answer to that is, “But you do as you’ve advocated for your clients and you see how policy affects clients.” Other women have done before and so can YOU!

Here is a list of civically engaged women with social work degrees:

  • Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA 13th District)
  • Kate Coyne-McCoy, Campaign Fixer
  • Former Senator Barbara Mikulski (D - MD)

For those of you who are still on the fence, take your time and become familiar with resources like She Should Run. She Should Run is a nonpartisan nonprofit promoting leadership and encouraging all women to run for office. She Should Run provides women with the tools and resources to make their future run a reality. She Should Run’s vision is to see 250,000 women run for office by 2030. #250kby2030. This organization offers these tools from the comfort of your home!

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Jennifer Charles is a She Should Run Ambassador and currently works as a Medical Social Worker with a Master's degree in Social Work. She loves advocacy and taking naps after work. Her favorite quote is, "You don't make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas" by the late Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm. You can find Jennifer on Twitter and Instagram.

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