Yesterday, VoteRunLead announced the launch of their ambitious plan to get 50,000 women to run for political office by election day and 500,000 (yes half a million!) by 2016. The national nonpartisan organization will use its website as a platform and resource for women as they share the plan with friends, family, and anyone else they wish to nominate to run for office. This first step is called "Invitation Nation" and its success depends on people using the site to invite the talented and diverse women in their community. Their goal is to harness social media and peer-to-peer interactions to form a massive network the likes of which are nonexistent for women in office/running for office right now.
The organizations founder and executive director Erin Vilardi explains the importance of this first aspect of the campaign,
“Invitation Nation is tapping into the brilliance of American women to create a tidal wave of diverse new state and local leaders,” Vilardi said. “We need to unleash the full potential of this democracy by inviting a nation of women to run. VoteRunLead uses the power of our social networks and the ease of technology to reach them. Our mobile phones and laptops are our best recruitment tools.”
According to a Pew Research study that just came out, the U.S. is dismal when it comes to political representation of a large part of our population (including hispanic people, black people and people without post-graduate education). You don't need to work for Pew to realize that women are underrepresented in all parts and levels of our government, just look around you. But Pew can prove it, "Our data show that those who say they have sought office tend to be white, male and well-educated," noting that of their survey of 3,341 adults asked if they had run for office, women only account for 25% of candidates. That leads to these results: "20% of U.S. senators are women, as are 18% of House members; at the state level, only 10% of governors and 24% of state legislators are women."
At the current rate of progress for female representation, men will be the majority of political officeholders for the next 500 years. Currently, in the nation’s 100 largest cities, only 13 percent of mayors are women and three percent are women of color. Nearly half of all U.S. states have never had a woman governor. And women of color comprise only five percent of the nearly 7,500 state legislators across the country. VoteRunLead believes that critical voices are missing from policy discussions and solutions across the nation, but this exciting initiative can change this around.
If this plan sounds too ambitious or too good to be true- don't worry. It's ambitious for a reason and the women in charge of the organization have years of experience training women for civic and political leadership as part of The White House Project. Although the White House Project had to close its doors due to fundraising problems, VoteRunLead is already entirely different.
Some people will see the gender gap in politics and say women just don't have the ambition, don't believe they're worthy of office. In a Salon article that explored this same problem, Katie McDonough writes, "It’s not an ambition gap, it’s a series of institutional blind spots maintaining the status quo. Hartmann (president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research) said that the women she interviewed for a recent study on the issue were plenty confident about their abilities. Instead, what these women lacked was access."
VRL is also hosting a conference for any women who want to get involved, whether running for office this year or not. The conference will be in Minneapolis, MN on November 21-23, and registration is still open!
Who will you invite to run?
Images via VoteRunLead.org and PewResearch.org.