Take a Seat at the Table!

Shirley Chisholm, first female presidential candidate

Shirley ChisholmThe first woman to run as a presidential candidate in 1968.

Take a Seat at the Table. Run for office. Sign up for a campaign training program in your area. There are a whole host of organizations, including: The Center for American Women in Politics, She Should Run, Emily’s List, Emerge America, Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership (IWIL), Ready to Run Illinois and the Excellence in Public Service Series.

Your local officeholders and state party organizations (Chairmen’s Association, Illinois Democratic Women, Illinois Federation of Republican Women) might be holding trainings as well.

Ask a woman to run. And then tell her you will help her, and find others to help her. And then ask another woman. Research that shows that women are far less likely than men to get asked to run for office by formal political actors, including other elected officials and party leaders.

Get appointed to office. Did you know that there are hundreds of thousands of positions available on state, county and local boards and commissions around the country? Did you also know that appointed positions often have significant policymaking authority? Start researching the boards and commissions in your town, county, or state and find out how to get appointed to the ones that interest you. Find a commission you are interested in and show up at every meeting.

Join your local party organization. In Illinois, it only takes 10 signatures to get on the ballot to become a precinct committeewoman. Many counties have dozens of open slots that you can be appointed to. As a precinct committeewoman, you can vote and run for county party leadership. Committeepersons are often the power base of a local party. Once in office, knock on doors, participate at meetings, and attend fundraisers. Prove that you can turn out your precinct on Election Day.

If you are already a party leader, take the time to mentor women who could come along the leadership ladder with you.

Volunteer on a campaign. Take the time to volunteer and learn as much as you can about the campaign and political campaign organizing. Take a campaign training class (see #1.) Party leaders and elected officials will be grateful for your help, and will soon look to you as a leader.

Talk to an elected woman or a woman party leader. Make an appointment or, if you know her personally, invite her for a cup of coffee. Ask her these questions: why did you run? What is the best thing about public service? How can I be of help to you?

Give money to women candidates. Even if they don’t live in your district, it’s worth supporting women candidates whose values match yours.

Give money to advocacy organizations focused on issues you believe in. Pick at least one or two causes that are most important to you, and find the organizations that best meet your goals on those issues. Sign up to be a regular supporter + remember, no amount is too small.

Become a Citizen Lobbyist. Write, email and call your elected officials. The only way they know how you feel about an issue is if they hear from you. Find out WHO your state and local representatives are, and make a point to contact them about state and local issues.

Advocate as a team. Elected officials may not have time to meet with every constituent, but they and their staff do often meet with groups of concerned citizens. Form a group around an issue and request a meeting.

Find your own public voice. Lots of people are nervous about public speaking, but you have to be able to articulate your message and inspire your audience. There are five Toastmasters clubs in Rockford. Join one and start practicing!

Thank you to Congresswoman Cheri Bustos for sharing this wonderful list encouraging women to become involved.

Record amount of women candidates – “The Other Women’s March on Washington” The Cut Magazine