Women have the power to shape politics from the inside, but some have no idea where to begin. VoteRunLead hopes to point them in the right direction.
Even with female politicians like Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Sheila Jackson Lee, and Kamala Harris, politics has long been thought of as an Old Boys Clbub. The numbers back that up, highlighting an astonishing contrast.
“I saw the conversation really starting to happen around women’s leadership that was missing the political side. We’ve had a lot of social and economic gains as women,” said Erin Villardi, founder of VoteRunLead. “There was this rise in all of the other sectors, but in politics and in government we have been stuck at 20 percent women for so long.”
She continued, “For me it was like, ‘Hey, why is there this gap between women’s political ambitions and their ambitions for everything else?'”
At those numbers, women are taking about a fifth of all political office in the United States. More staggeringly, Erin shared that there is currently only one woman on the Los Angeles City council. One. Singular.
But Erin’s organization aims to get more women into office through civic technology. Simply put, it’s a way of using technological capital (like social media) to do some good for your community. That goes beyond simply hitting like on a few posts and throwing in a hashtag here or there. VoteRunLead uses online courses, free online resources and email campaigns that connect potential candidates back to their communities.
While Erin may not have always thought of taking on the issue using from a technological angle, this has always been a cause that meant a lot to Erin. She credits her older sister for lighting her young feminist fire.
“Even as a very young woman, I believed that if more women were in power–that if more women were in control of the decisions that happen–all these ailments for women would start to dissolve,” Erin told HelloBeautiful. “It was critically important that someone needed to tackle the political leadership issue in this conversation about women’s leadership.”
VoteRunLead, has been around much longer than you might think. It had some not-so-humble beginnings in The White House, when it was a program that aimed to teach women about running for political office. In about 8 years, Erin had trained more than 15,000 women on ways that they can get involved in politics at different levels. After leaving The White House, Erin decided to bring VoteRunLead to the masses.
The gap between oneself and the podium can seem like an infinite expanse, but the political arena is much more accessible than many have been led to believe. Often times, it begins with a conversation. Specifically, declaring public office, which is just telling your friends and family that you do intend to run for a political position.
“Sharing that you have political ambition is one of the biggest barriers for women,” Erin told HelloBeautiful.
Still others may need to be shown that they aren’t limited to grassroots efforts to affect their community.
“For a handful of folks they don’t even see or consider city government or city council as a place to make change,” Erin shared.
“There’s a reason that want to act like politics is for the few because those few people want to keep it to just them,” She continued. “In a sense it’s gotten this brand that has kept a lot of very talented people out–especially women. ‘You don’t get anything done there.’ Of course you get stuff done there. It’s the only government we’ve got.”
Erin added, “The first move is convincing them that government is the place to make change. Especially women–we’ll start a non-profit or a volunteer group–but it just won’t even occur to us that politics is the place to make that change.”
Last year, VoteRunLead ran a series on The Big Four: School Board, State Legislature, The County Commission, and City Council. It gave attendees a rundown of what it is that each of these office do and the kinds of decisions that they could be part of making.
But before you do any of that, Erin advises that you have an idea of what it is you want to do. That’s why VoteRunLead has women consider a list of questions before running. Some things to think about might be figuring out your top issues, which become the cornerstones of your campaign, and what your community looks. What are the top needs you see around you?
You can read more about in publication VoteRunLead will be putting out soon called Deciding To Run.
Prospective candidates don’t need to be a experts going in. One of the principles of VoteRunLead is that you don’t need to know everything about politics to become a politician because it can teach you all of the applicable skills.
“We can teach you how to public speak. We can teach you how to craft a message. We can teach you how to raise money. That’s all teachable stuff,” Erin told HelloBeautiful. “We can teach you how to win a campaign, but why are you running?”
Of course one woman can’t do it in on her own. There is plenty of work to be done behind the scenes. A woman’s got to have a great campaign manager and a press secretary just to name a few political support positions. VoteRunLead holds workshops and events all over the country, and the forums have become a great way for women to team up and use their skills cooperatively.
VoteRunLead’s next such event is the Dare to Lead conference that will be held on June 18. It’s an online and offline experience being held in a number of cities, including New York City, Atlanta, and St. Louis. Registration begins today, and you can click here to learn more.