By Jenn Addison, Digital & Creative Manager
How often do you find yourself in a discussion where 100% of the people you are talking to agree with you?
For me, that used to happen quite often, if not all the time. I grew up in a town where you could comfortably assume that your neighbors, friends, and members of your community shared your opinions; where candidates from one party would overwhelmingly, unsurprisingly, win elections; and folks who disagreed with “the majority” were as common as unicorns. I guess you could say, I grew up in a bubble.
Eventually my bubble burst, and I’m glad it did.
Without it, I was forced to take a critical look at how my assumptions about people shaped my opinions about who should or shouldn’t be “allowed” to serve in elected office. How many times had I thought, that person is a Democrat, they must not believe in x, y, and z? How often had I assumed, that person is a Republican, they must believe in this or that? How many times had I looked at a person and made an assumption about how they vote purely based on their appearance? Women face unique barriers to running for office, and by letting my assumptions about people guide my opinions about who should or shouldn’t be allowed to lead, I was simply reinforcing another barrier.
Fast forward several years later and I’m working for She Should Run, an organization that believes that women of all political leanings, ethnicities, and backgrounds should have an equal opportunity to lead in elected office—a belief that I share and must have if I truly want to see a representative democracy in this country. Maintaining a non-partisan community isn’t easy but it’s necessary if we want to flip the script on the idea that there is only one type of leader or one path to elected office.
Are we trying to get more women involved in politics? Yes. But sometimes removing politics from the equation is the best way to make the idea of serving in government more accessible. At She Should Run, we help women get clear on why they want to run. How often is that answer, “I want to run because I’m a Democrat?” Never. How often is that answer more along the lines of, I want to run because my community has x, y, or z problem and I want to fix it? All the time.
The question I get the most about my work at a non-partisan organization is how I handle situations when I do disagree with someone’s policy idea or point of view. An important distinction to make is that She Should Run isn’t telling you who to vote for. But we are saying, why not give people a chance to vote for you? We need the best and the brightest minds at the table, and we will not get there if half the population is excluded from government.
At such a divisive time in politics, the She Should Run Incubator community is a safe space to exchange ideas and expose yourself to opinions that differ from your own. When you serve in elected office, you have to work with people who disagree with you. Research has shown that women do, in fact, govern differently than men. Specifically, “they tend to be more collaborative and bipartisan.” When leaders with varied perspectives and diversity in thought and opinion are able to work together, they create strong solutions to solve the complex challenges that we face as a nation.
Women are running in record numbers and we’ll need this momentum to continue well beyond 2018 if we expect to reach women’s equal representation in government in this lifetime. She Should Run is on a mission to get 250,000 women running for office by 2030. Win or lose, each woman who runs for office inspires even more young women and girls to envision themselves as leaders. Women have been excluded from the table for too long, if you want to make a change in your community then She Should Run is here to help you get in your path to elected leadership—get started with the Incubator today.