In honor of this year’s International Women’s Day theme (#PressForProgress), we asked the She Should Run staff to reflect on the women, stories, and experiences that inspire their work. From historical figures like Shirley Chisholm and the fictional warrior women of Wakanda to the present-day hard-working women in the U.S. Senate and the thousands of very real women ready to run for office across the country, these reflections showcase the diversity of women ready to stand up, be heard, and #PressForProgress.
Join the conversation and let us know: who or what inspires you to #PressForProgress?
Photo: Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures (2018)
Erin Loos Cutraro, Founder & CEO
The #PressForProgress on women’s representation has always been a collaborative effort, but lately, it’s been truly inspiring to expand our reach with bold partnerships in industries like art, entertainment, beauty, and design. From our collaboration with Barbie to help more girls to envision the possibilities of leadership to our partnership with Soap & Glory on their #MoreThanLips campaign to give women a platform to speak their minds, we’re always looking for new, creative ways to get women and girls across the country thinking about running or office.
There are over 520,000 elected offices in the country. If we want to fill half of those seats with qualified women, that means we’re going to need hundreds of thousands of women to raise their hands and run. I think we all know there’s no shortage of smart, qualified women ready to run the world, but many of them may just not have pictured themselves in politics before. As the Founder & CEO of She Should Run, I’m passionate about meeting these women wherever they are in the decision process, whether you’re just starting to think about running in 5-10 years or already on your way to the county clerk’s office to announce your candidacy.
Clare Bresnahan English, Executive Director
The most inspiring part of my role is experiencing the ripple effect of the 17,000+ women who've raised their hands to run for office just since the 2016 election. All of these women are redefining what it means to lead and inspiring other women to serve. By the very act of running, they're changing our culture's expectations of women. They're inspiring girls to consider new leadership avenues, and they're smoothing the way for the next generation of women leaders.
In particular, I look to the women in the Senate as a clear example of what happens when more women are in government. We need more women of color in office like Sens. Mazie Hirono (HI) , Kamala Harris (CA), and Catherine Cortez Masto (NV). We need more elected officials willing to stand up for the people’s voice like Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins. We need more women like Sen. Tammy Duckworth, the first woman to give birth while in office, to shape the conversation on issues important to working women.
Imagining the ripple effect of a quarter of a million women running for office is why we set our #250Kby2030 goal!
Jenn Addison, Digital & Creative Manager
International Women’s Day is a celebration of the achievements of women throughout history and, for many women, existing, taking up space, is still one of the most radical things that we can do. From #MeToo and #TimesUp to #BlackLivesMatter, to #PressForProgress is to challenge the barriers, biases, stereotypes, the isms, and the phobias that attempt to dehumanize women and render us voiceless and powerless.
In Hollywood, both on and off-screen, we’ve seen what happens when women and communities of color are not in control of their own narratives or are silenced—harmful stereotypes and dangerous power structures prevail. The same is true of our government. Inclusion strengthens our democracy yet only 320 women have served in Congress to date (out of 12,244!) and just 61 of those have been women of color.
Representation matters and is critical to making our culture more inclusive. Thanks to storytellers like Shonda Rhimes, Ava Duvernay, Issa Rae, and Lena Waithe and movies like Hidden Figures and Black Panther (read: the Dora Milaje and Princess Shuri) we’ve seen on-screen moments inspire off-screen activism (#WakandaTheVote). And thanks to history-making women like Stacey Abrams, Kamala Harris, and Andrea Jenkins, and trailblazers like Shirley Chisholm, our society’s collective definition of who can be a leader is changing for the better.
Sofia Pereira, Community Manager
As the community manager, I hear stories every day from women in the She Should Run Incubator who #PressForProgress. Stories of victory, heartbreak, courage, and hope. Stories like the U.S. Veteran who's running for school board in Texas and keeps going even when obstacles come her way. Stories like the Ohio woman who ran for city council against a powerful slate of incumbent men, and while she lost the first time, she wasn't deterred - she ran again and won. Stories of the everyday sexism and underestimation women in our community face and overcome. Stories of self-doubt being squashed. It takes a community to run for office, and every day I am fortunate enough to work with a community of amazing women with talent, wisdom, and strength. The She Should Run Incubator community is full of women of all backgrounds and political stripes who #PressForProgress to make a difference in their communities and beyond.
Sydney Latas, Staff Coordinator
In recent months, the women who have most consistently inspired me to #PressForProgress are those who are my age or younger. As a 22-year-old woman, I find that it is often not just gender, but also age, that can be a significant barrier to the things I am most passionate about pursuing.
I think that as (young) women we always feel as though we need to have all of our ducks precisely in a row before we start out on something big and important–that everything must be perfect at the beginning, or else we’re destined for failure at the end. Women like congressional candidate Lauren Underwood, media magnates Amani al-Khatahtbeh & Elaine Welteroth, comedians Illana Glazer & Abbi Jacobson, and activist Emma Gonzalez all remind me that despite what the conditions are like when you began, there is power in charging confidently ahead and making your voice unabashedly heard.
Kathleen Kiernan, Community Assistant
#MeToo. #BlackLivesMatter. #PowertothePolls. All of these hashtags and, more importantly, the movements they represent have changed society. These movements were all born out of women deciding to take matters into their own hands. The idea behind this year’s International Women’s Day hashtag (#PressForProgress) is that if we are to achieve gender parity, we cannot afford to be complacent. Growing up as a young woman in the South, I was taught that we are all capable of change, no matter who we are, no matter our age, our race, our background. That’s why I am proud to work with the She Should Run team, a small and nimble group of women who decided complacency wasn’t for them. I am proud to say we are a part of this growing movement of women who also decided #EnoughIsEnough and are running for office in unprecedented numbers. On days when I am overwhelmed by the amount of work still needed for progress, I am instantly inspired by the women who surround me and the women in our community to keep pressing for progress.
Sierra Schmitz, Office Fellow
My #PressForProgress inspiration is Sen. Tammy Duckworth (IL) and the dynamic leadership that she brings to Congress. I am incredibly frustrated with the systems in place that prevent her from taking maternity leave and being able to vote and sponsor legislation at the same time. It is these types of setbacks for women that energize me to support and encourage all women to use their unique experiences and perspectives to bring meaningful change. To me, #PressforProgress means celebrating all women and their accomplishments but never taking a second to slow down the fight!