Elect Her: Daylong conference empowers women to run for political office
Before she was first lady, secretary of state and a potential candidate for president of the United States, Hillary Clinton was president of the student government association at Wellesley College. That experience set her on a path to the world of politics, and launched one of the most influential careers in recent history.
To encourage women to run for office and diminish the nationwide gender gap in political leadership, Connecticut College recently hosted Elect Her: Campus Women Win. The daylong workshop, attended by current and future campus leaders, future politicians and maybe even a future commander-in-chief, is a collaboration with the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and Running Start, an organization that prepares college women for careers in politics. It’s part of a national Elect Her initiative sponsored by the AAUW and hosted by colleges and universities across the country. In 2014, 78 percent of Elect Her program participants who reported running for office won their elections.
The day’s agenda included group exercises focused on developing campaign strategies, practicing brief conversations called “elevator speeches” and taking advantage of networking opportunities. There was also a panel discussion with women currently serving in the College’s Student Government Association (SGA).
“Women’s voices are needed, in office and in other leadership positions, to create and enable change,” AAUW facilitator and workshop leader Jessica Kelly told the 40 Connecticut College students in attendance.
Deb Hinchey, the mayor of nearby Norwich, Conn., spoke with the women about how to make an impact and how to overcome obstacles. She encouraged the students to “pick yourself up and move on” when faced with sexism on the campaign trail.
“You have to carve out your own path as a woman. Do not be afraid,” she added.
SGA members Claire von Loesecke ’15, Sarah Bradford ’15 and Lamiya Khandaker ’17 talked to their peers about how to run for student government. Bradford said the women in attendance were open-minded and showed great interest in female leadership issues at the College.
“Having a leadership position on campus has definitely enhanced my confidence and, through participating in this program, I feel further validated in my decision to run for office,” Bradford said.
Elizabeth Garcia, dean of multicultural affairs at the College, helped coordinate the event through the College’s Women’s Center.
“This program gives young women the opportunity to understand the existing gender gap in the political sphere and to develop the skills they need to become involved in politics,” Garcia said.
She also explained that although politicians regularly make decisions that directly impact women, women’s voices aren’t always heard. “It is imperative that we have more women at the political table.”