Training All Young Women to Run for Office

At Running Start, our nonpartisan political leadership trainings are for all women. To make that clear, we encourage women to create #ILookLikeAPolitician posts on social media to flip the script on our idea of who looks like a serious candidate. But we also know that our trainers need to be part of our message that all young women can run for office. We’re looking for new trainers from all kinds of backgrounds and party affiliations to be role models for politically ambitious young women. Learn more about our September 16th facilitator training here.

The hashtag and our facilitators work in a surprisingly similar way. We love #ILookLikeAPolitician because it shows that there isn’t one kind of person who can lead in politics. In fact, part of why we train young women to run for office is that we know it matters to have diverse voices participating in our government. Women bring their particular experiences and leadership styles to the table. The hashtag is a fun way to get that message out there and show that women are the new face of leadership.

Women, however, are not a monolithic group! We come from all backgrounds and have varying perspectives, and at Running Start, we want to train all of them. Our programs have always included diverse groups of young women: women with different ethnic backgrounds, disabilities, religions, family incomes, educations, sexual orientations, political beliefs, and more. In keeping with #ILookLikeAPolitician, our more serious approach to creating that same role model effect is that we aim to have speakers and trainers who mirror the young women they train and inspire.

One of our best facilitators for our Elect Her program recently shared her own experience with this. She said that one of her favorite parts of teaching college women to run for student government and future political office is how the women of color in the audience gravitate towards her when the workshop is over. That’s not to say that they are the only ones who enjoy her training and want to talk to her! But there is something powerful and important about a woman of color telling the younger women of color in the audience that they can lead on campus and in public office. Women of color make up just 7.1% of Congress (compared to roughly 19% of the population). It’s hard to be what you can’t see, but this successful, confident, facilitator is telling them that they can do it.

We want that magic to continue as we grow our programs, so we are holding a special facilitator training on Saturday, September 16th. Running Start is looking for new facilitators from all the different backgrounds and ideological perspectives our participants have. Sign up for the training here. If you can’t make it to DC, look out for highlight videos we’ll post soon after.

Young women might have trouble finding someone like them to look up to in politics. But Running Start is about to turn a brand-new network of leaders into the very role models young women need.

Sara Blanco is a women’s empowerment advocate. She graduated from Swarthmore in 2012, where she studied English literature and gender and sexuality studies, and joined Running Start soon after. Currently pursuing a master of public policy at the George Washington University, Sara served as a co-chair for their Women’s Leadership Fellows Program. Sara lives in her hometown, Arlington, Virginia. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of Running Start.