Shelli Yoder, a former congressional candidate, was waiting for a woman to run. But, one never did. So, she did.
Amanda Barge, a Monroe County commissioner, was asked to run 10 times before she finally did.
Nicole Browne, Monroe County clerk, just said she was minding her own business when someone asked her to help her run for office, and then she ended up in an office herself.
These women did not plan on running for a political office, but through encouragement from their communities and others, they found themselves getting involved.
Rise to Run, a self-titled, progressive organization that works with local and education-based organizations around the country, wants to get more women involved.
This event kicked off the Rise to Run “hub,” as the pilot locations are called, with a panel of women speaking on their experiences in local and state politics, challenges they have faced and how they became involved. Women of all ages, and some men, met in City Hall to talk about it.
They stressed the importance of mentorship and walking hand-in-hand with young aspiring leaders, not simply just giving them advice and wishing them luck.
“I ran because someone asked me,” Yoder, a former congressional candidate, said. “And we know that women run, and they need to be asked a lot of times, unfortunately. So, I want to make sure I do my part by asking women and also to help them recognize that at an early age they should be thinking about themselves, seeing themselves in an elected office.”
Spurred from the 2016 election and the Women’s March on Washington in January 2017, Rise to Run is looking to mobilize, engage, train and support young progressive women. Though the current average age of American women who run for office is 47, their goal is to create a pipeline of ready women to enter the political realm at a younger age, national organizer for the group Eileen Soffer said.
The group specifically focuses on getting high school and college women to become “Risers,” or women who can have the opportunity to be mentored by other experienced women in politics.
“We want more women to not just join the system but change the system” Soffer said.
The pilot program was brought to Bloomington after Rachel Guglielmo, a local activist for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and Regina Moore, a founder of the Democratic Women’s Caucus, pitched Bloomington as a location for one of their pilots.
Attica Woodson Scott, a member of the Kentucky State Legislature, said she is where she is today because of the women in her life. She said the best thing women can do for is to support each another, hire each other and bring each other into social and formal circles.
“Whatever you do, bring women along with you,” Scott said. “If we don’t do it, who will?”
Yoder said it is also important to be intentional when choosing to mentor women, to give them real support and keep these relationships alive.
“It’s not just about initiating that conversation,” Yoder said. “You have to walk them through this.”
They also discussed running against men and self-doubt as woman running a campaign.
Dana Black, a former candidate for Indiana State District 88, said all her life people have been telling her to shut up. But she said it was preparation for her putting herself out there to be an advocate for people.
“We are powerful, amazing, and we just have to support each other by lifting each other up,” Black said.
Diana O’Brien, assistant professor in political science at IU-Bloomington, said women doubt their qualifications when considering running for office, but on the other hand, men rarely do.
But Julie Thomas said she doesn’t believe that is what people are really looking for.
“You have to demonstrate you care, and you have to demonstrate what will guide you and how you make decisions," Thomas said. "That’s what people really want to vote for, and they’re looking for that."
Scott said another issue is making sure women are speaking up for each other, not just past the campaign, but in office as well. She spoke of an instance when she called out a man during a legislative session for making comments about her, and no one spoke up to defend her.
“But afterwards, a few people did come up to me and say, 'I was thinking the same thing,'” Scott said, as the audience groaned in empathy. “Well, what good does that do?”
The program, though new, has set goals for the next few years. They want to set up formal training programs by 2018, with hubs in all 50 states by 2020.
Browne said supporting women, whether that is by giving money, going door-to-door for them or making phone calls, can help them lift each other up.
“Once you make that decision to run, you are not alone,” Browne said.
As the talk wrapped up, a woman asked Black how she knew she was ready to run. Another question submitted to the panel asked how the women dealt with confidence issues when running for office, especially if they had never done anything like it before.
“If you know a woman who doesn’t believe in herself, tell her what you see in her.” Barge said.
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