Have you considered running for office? Have you thought about the difference you could make as an elected official? Will you run?

The research consistently shows that women do not run for office for two reasons. First, they aren’t asked and second, they do not believe they are qualified to do the job.[1] It is an interesting paradigm when you consider how men typically respond to “the question” … Can I win?

It is no secret that women are not equally represented in elected office. In fact, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University:

“In 2015, 104 (76D, 28R) women [held] seats in the United States Congress, comprising 19.4% of the 535 members; 20 women (20%) [served] in the United States Senate, and 84 women (19.3%) [served] in the United States House of Representatives. Four women delegates (3D, 1R) also [represented] American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Virgin Islands in the United States House of Representatives.”[2]

 

 

It is with this information in mind that the Women’s Campaign School at Yale seeks to inform and inspire more women to participate in political life and political leadership. Over five days, the Campaign School focused on teaching its students the skills and confidence needed to run for office and get elected – in the United States and around the globe.

The Campaign School is a non-partisan, issue-neutral training program. For these reasons, the school hosts nationally and internationally renowned speakers from both the Republican and Democratic parties including strategists, fundraisers, organizers, digital media experts, and speech/public speaking coaches. Each speaker provided insight on the campaign and election process but also offered specific advice to those students currently running or managing campaigns. Personally, I found the one-on-one speech coaching with Carol Vernon – a nationally renowned executive leadership coach – to be the most helpful part of the program. Students were asked to prepare a short speech to present and be videotaped for review. Carol provided amazing feedback. She was critical but always with a positive note. It’s the kind of feedback that makes you want to do better and push yourself harder, not back-off because you are too intimidated to try again. Self-doubt was not a part of the Campaign School model!

For me, the boot-camp-style training was about intentionality. It is so important that women are intentional in their actions and their career paths; and politics is no exception. Beginning around 8:00 AM each morning, our days at the Campaign School would be filled with speakers, special presenters, and expert panels. Each day we would finish class around 7:00 PM and then return to the host hotel to work on our “homework” – a detailed campaign plan.[3] Interestingly, the homework was done in large groups that presented their findings/plans prior to graduating on the final day of school.

The Women’s Campaign School at Yale University is a transformative experience. However, it is not for the faint of heart. As a student, you have to dedicate yourself to an intense week of learning and self-reflection. You have to be willing to put in the hours and push yourself out of your comfort zone. The depth and breadth of the knowledge delivered at the Campaign School is beyond what I could have imagined going in. But it is the relationships that formed during that week between students and between the students and faculty that I will forever be grateful. I highly recommend the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University to any woman thinking about running for office or wanting to further her career in politics. I am proud to be a graduate of the school and a member of the class of 2016.

 

 


[1] Fox, Richard L. and Jennifer L. Lawless. 2004. Entering the Arena? Gender and the Decision to Run for Office. American Journal of Political Science: 48 (2), 264-280. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.0092-5853.2004.00069.x/abstract;jsessionid=2A48AEE75FC681A780F547CCB9C2F11F.f02t01?userIsAuthenticated=false&deniedAccessCustomisedMessage. (Accessed 6/22/2016).; Lawless, Jennifer L. and Richard Fox. 2005. “It Takes a Candidate: Why Women Don’t Run for Office.” New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

[2] Center for American Women and Politics, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University. “Women in U.S. Congress 2015,” http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/women-us-congress-2015. (Accessed 6/22/2016).

[3] The homework assignment was based on the New Hampshire Senate race between incumbent Kelly Ayotte and Governor Maggie Hassan. Groups were randomly assigned to the race and to each other. Groups were made up of 12-13 WCS students.