Think women don’t win elections? They do. And more of them should run.
“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”
In February 2017, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used these words to defend silencing Sen. Elizabeth Warren after invoking an obscure rule during her speech on the Senate floor.
The dynamic was striking: A strong, opinionated woman was directly and vehemently shut down by a powerful man in politics.
It wasn’t particularly surprising, though — men in power have silenced their female counterparts for much of U.S. history, and we’re still barely emerging from that norm.
Remember the above image of the Freedom Caucus discussing whether the Republican health care bill should repeal maternity, prenatal, and newborn coverage? This is what happens when women’s voices are missing politics — we get rooms full of men making decisions that directly affect women.
There are more than 500,000 elected offices in the U.S. Currently, women hold 25% of them.
Women make up about 51% of the population, yet Congress is 80% male. Just six states have women governors. Out of the 100 largest cities in the U.S., only 22 have women mayors.
Representation matters, and we don’t have it yet.
The good news is that women win elections just as often as men — when they run.
This lack of female representation in politics irked activist and entrepreneur Erin Loos Cutraro. So she founded She Should Run, a nonpartisan organization that encourages women to run for office and helps them along that journey. Lush’s Charity Pot program has helped fund the organization, which recently launched the #250KBY2030 campaign, with the goal of getting 250,000 women running for office by 2030.
That means encouraging women we know to run and inspiring young people to dream big. It’s one thing to say women should run for office, but it’s another to figure out how to make that happen.
She Should Run founder and CEO Erin Loos Cutraro spoke with me to share how the #250KBY2030 campaign can help get women on the ballot.
The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What prompted you to found She Should Run?
After being involved in politics for a number of years, I decided that it was time to change the playbook, because we needed different outcomes with who we saw on the ballot across the country.
Now, as a mother to two daughters, I can’t sit by without doing everything possible to ensure that girls in the next generation grow up in a world where they are equal to everyone else and have the same opportunities as anyone.
Why is it so important for 250,000 to run by 2030? Why that number and that date?
There are over 500,000 elected offices in this country and it is our mission to see at least half the ballots filled with women in this lifetime rather than the next. This is a big goal, but we believe that is possible by 2030.
To achieve this goal and close the gender gap, people from all backgrounds and walks of life must come together and support women leaders in their communities.
What specific challenges do women tend to face when running for office?
We know that when women run, they win at the same rate as men. They’re just not running.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t challenges — like fears about raising money, balancing home, work, and campaigning, and other barriers unique to women — but the bigger challenge is convincing women of all walks of life that they have something to give to their communities and their country and to put their names on the ballot.
Does it matter if women run under a particular party?
When I started She Should Run, it was tremendously important that our organization be nonpartisan, because we know that we are not going to get the best policies if the brightest people representing all perspectives do not have a seat at the table.
That why it’s our mission to have women from all backgrounds, walks of life, and all across the political spectrum raising their hands to run for office.
What kind of women should run for office?
This a very short answer: Any woman who wants to make a difference in her community, state, or country.
What’s the first step a woman should take if she thinks she wants to run for office?
Join She Should Run. Our programs are designed to give women the tools they need to be ready to run.
Our one-of-a kind Incubator helps women in our community get specific on why they want to run and the impact they’ll make in elected office. Once they’ve made the decision to run, we demystify resources available for additional support on their journeys to elected leadership.
Joining the Incubator also gives women access to a community made up of thousands of other women who are in various stages on their paths to public office.
What can women who can’t/don’t want to run for office do to support women who are considering it?
If there is a woman in your community who you believe would be great in office, encourage her to consider running! Our Ask a Woman to Run tool is a quick, easy way for you to tell us about great women leaders you know who should consider a run for office.
Explain why you believe she would be a strong leader and what she could bring to the table with her personal experience and narrative. Then point her to She Should Run and our flagship program, the Incubator, that can help her take that next step on her path to public office.
Many of us know a woman who would be a great leader would be a tremendous problem solver for her community; oftentimes, she just needs that extra push.
Additionally, women can work or volunteer to support women candidates who they believe in. There are a record-breaking number of women running for office across the country at every level of government — state, local, and federal.
Giving time and/or resources to a campaign is also a great way to see if you want to run for office and to gain invaluable experience for a future run.
What specific role do you think men should play to empower/encourage women to run for office?
Everyone is necessary for us to achieve our goals of political parity and most certainly to get to #250KBY2030. Men can be mentors, supporters, and staffers to female candidates. They can also raise their daughters to be strong, ambitious women and support the women in their lives when they decide to throw their hats in the rings.
Where can women find more information about what elected offices are open and how to go about running?
Our first-of-its-kind She Should Run Incubator offers resources and a community that meets women where they are in their paths to elected leadership.
The community aspect provides a wealth of knowledge from women all over the country running for office at various levels of government who share their stories and experiences that prove to be useful for other women running for office.
The Incubator’s unique approach focuses our members on why they want to run and the impact they’ll make in elected office. And we demystify resources available once women in our community have made the decision to run.
We also recently launched a new tool called Pinpoint, an interactive tool that allows you to find and share valuable educational resources that focus on running and serving in elected office. There are so many local organizations that can assist a woman in running for office, so we made it easier for women to search for them!
All of these programs and tools are designed to simplify a woman’s path to elected office.
Bottom line: We need more women to run for office, and She Should Run is offering the tools to help make it happen. Let’s use them to give more girls and women a seat at the table.
She Should Run is supported, in part, by Lush Cosmetics’ Charity Pot program, which funds grassroots organizations fighting for human rights, animal welfare and environmental protection. Learn more at She Should Run and Lush USA.