Women make up 51 percent of the population, but only 20 percent of the U.S. government, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
According to Vox, the U.S. ranks 104th in the world when it comes to women involvement in national politics.
She Should Run is a national organization that aims to expand the number of women in office in order to achieve an equally representative democracy.
“Do you want to see equal representation in your lifetime?” said Sofia Pereira, mayor of Aracata, California, during her keynote speech.
As community manager of She Should Run, Pereira encouraged University of Idaho students to ask themselves these kinds of questions. She said women already contribute to U.S. communities in numerous ways, as scientists, mothers or entrepreneurs. But, she said out of the half-million elected officers that exist in America, women make up less than one-third of positions.
Pereira said She Should Run is about changing the face of government and helping women see they can take their talent and skill set into the political arena.
She Should Run began in 2011, focusing on nominating women for office. Simply encouraging women to run for office, Pereira said, is not enough. Action must come from all sides, including men, she said. Only then can the uneven male-to-female ratio present in current politics begin to balance.
Because the organization is so committed to making this happen, She Should Run created the Incubator, Pereira said. The Incubator is an online resource that offers leadership development, a supportive community, mentors and guidance to women who want to become political leaders, Pereira said.
“Our goal was to have about 400 women in it,” Pereira said. “Then the 2016 election happened and the first week after that we had 2,200 women join our community. By the end of 2016, we had 5,500 women in our community. Now, we serve about 13 thousand women across the country.”
Pereira added many women need to look within themselves to find the inspiration to enact public policy.
“We want women to ask themselves, what are the things that drive you to get up out of bed in the morning,” Pereira said. “It’s really about finding out where you can make the most impact with your expertise and experience in order to make a difference.”
Pereira said she expects women’s interest in running for public office to dramatically rise by November.
“So, in 2017, we launched our ‘250K by 2030’ campaign, and that is to get 250 thousand women running for office by 2030,” Pereira said. “It’s up to every community to decide who they believe is the most qualified, but we should not let being a woman be something that prevents us from putting our hat in the ring.”
To help with the campaign, She Should Run launched Pinpoint, an interactive crowdsourcing tool to help women find campaign and development resources in their own backyard, Pereira said.
Pereira said any skills women have to offer, such as digital marketing, web design, public speaking or communications, can help launch a woman’s political careers and create a more representative democracy.
She Should Run wants to help women combat the obstacles they face throughout their campaigns and positions in office, Pereira said.
Pereira recalled a challenge in her career when she prepared organized notes for a debate and a man made a comment about her overzealous preparation.
“I felt so embarrassed, but in the 2016 debate, when Hillary Clinton was called out for being over prepared, she had a great response. She said ‘Yes, I’m prepared to take the office that I’m running for,’” Pereira said. “I wish I had that in my mind when I was being shamed for being prepared to take on the job I wanted.”
Pereira said women have to change the way they have done business because politics has historically been seen as a cut-throat industry.
“But, we can work together to change that dynamic,” Pereira said.
Sierra Rothermich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org