Women make up half of California’s population. They do not, however, have an equitable share of political representation in the state. According to data reported in Mount Saint Mary’s University’s 2018 Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California™, women account for 22 percent of the state legislature, 26 percent of county supervisors and 31 percent of city council members. Nationally, women fill only 19 percent of seats in the U.S. Congress.
On Saturday, April 28, about 150 emerging women leaders gathered with a shared mindset to change those statistics. The women were participating in Ready to Run®, a nonpartisan campaign training for women, presented by the Center for the Advancement of Women at Mount Saint Mary’s, the only women’s university in Los Angeles.
U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, who served as the event’s opening keynote, said that she is proud of the women’s marches and protests that have taken place across the country this past year. What’s more important to her, however, is that women have stayed involved.
“What I’m hoping this movement brings is that it eliminates a tendency that women have — and that I certainly did as well — women don’t step up to run,” Bass said. “Too often, women have had to be pushed and encouraged to run. I don’t think that’s going to be true anymore. I think we’re going to change that part of our American culture, and I think that from now on…women are going to step forward in equal numbers to men.”
The numbers indeed show an upswing developing. According to an April 25 “Election Watch” update by the Center for American Women and Politics, more than double the number of women are running for the U.S. Congress this year compared with the 2016 election cycle. Nationally, 492 women have either filed to run or are likely running for the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives this year. Another 117 women are running, or likely to run, in races for governor or lieutenant governor.
"The good news is that when women run for office, they win at the same rates as men,” Jackie Filla, PhD, told Saturday’s Ready to Run participants. Filla is an assistant professor of political science at Mount Saint Mary’s and president of the L.A. Commission on the Status of Women. “So, we can do this. That’s why it’s so important that you’re here for today’s training.”
The daylong program featured politicians, appointed officials, campaign strategists and communications experts who shared their expertise and experience in workshops designed to prepare women to run for office, position themselves for appointed positions, work on a campaign or otherwise get involved in public service. Sessions included everything from the nuts and bolts of getting a campaign off the ground to how-to talks on the art of political fundraising, how to secure endorsements and how to communicate effectively.
“We are thrilled to have so many women here today who are ready to step forward and serve,” said Emerald Archer, PhD, director of the Center for the Advancement of Women. “Leadership development, advocacy and gender equity research are primary to our Center’s work. And I am glad you are here because our bold vision is to find solutions to persistent gender inequities and work with partners to eradicate them in our lifetime.”
Toward that end, Rep. Bass ended her opening keynote with a challenge: “When people want to run for office, the first thing they need to do is look in the mirror and ask themselves why. Why do you want to run? What is it that you want to accomplish?”
Bass said that she has seen too many people run for office for the wrong reasons – often, for personal gain or to advance their careers. “The problem with that is, when you win like that, you go into a legislative body and you are easy pickings for whatever interest group is going to come your way. You have no foundation and you can be led down some strange paths.”
The training ended with a pair of inspiring messages from state senators Connie Leyva and Holly J. Mitchell. The duo emphasized the need for a diversity of experience and perspective in legislative bodies, noting their own prior experiences as a labor leader and a nonprofit director, respectively.
“Think about where you are today and think about the transferable skills you have to bring to running for office and serving as an elected official,” Mitchell said. “We need more people who have broad, expansive personal and professional backgrounds. And we need more women. What makes it beneficial to have more women in office is our approach to leadership. It’s the how we do it, not what we do. Our inclusiveness, our ability to check ego compared to our male counterparts, our selflessness.”
Leyva urged attendees to focus on what they can specifically bring to public service, and then exhorted women to remain persistent. “Don’t deviate from your passion. Don’t let anyone beat your passion out of you,” she said. “They will try because they might be jealous or they might disagree with you. Don’t let them succeed.”
Mount Saint Mary’s Ready to Run training has already been proven effective. Many Southern California women who have attended the training have gone on to successfully enter public service. Saturday’s program marked the sixth annual Ready to Run event organized by Mount Saint Mary’s in Los Angeles. The University is the exclusive Southern California provider of Ready to Run, in partnership with the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
The 2018 training featured the following speakers and sessions:
-U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, member, House Judiciary Committee, House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Steering and Policy Committee for the House Democratic Caucus.
-Emerald Archer, PhD, director, Center for the Advancement of Women at MSMU.
-Jackie A. Filla, PhD, associate professor of political science, MSMU; president, City of Los Angeles Commission on the Status of Women.
“The Campaign Trail: A Roadmap to Winning”
-Danielle Cendejas, senior vice president, The Strategy Group.
“Building your Political Resume: Serving as an Appointed Official”
-Sonya Logman, deputy secretary of business and consumer relations, California Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency.
-Veronica Padilla, planning commissioner, City of Los Angeles.
-Alice Petrossian, PhD, president, L.A. County Commission for Women.
-Cheryl Turner, member, California Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians.
-Felicia Williams, planning commissioner, City of Pasadena.
“Conquering the Media: Advice from On-Air Pros”
-Myrka Dellanos, Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist; former anchor, Univision’s “Primer Impacto.”
-Elizabeth Espinosa, Emmy Award-winning television personality; reporter, KTLA-5; program anchor, KFI-640 AM.
-Kyung Lah, senior national correspondent, CNN.
-Emily Williams, senior deputy of human services, child welfare and education, Office of L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.
“Crisis Communication: How to Manage and Thrive in Today’s Media Environment”
-Naomi Seligman, co-founder, Tower26 strategic communications and public affairs agency; former communications director for L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.
“The Art of Political Fundraising”
-Mona Sanchez, W&S Consulting Group.
“Power of the PAC: Endorsements that Matter”
-Tori Chica, VP, Cerrell Associates’ Campaigns & Issues Management; director of operations, National Women’s Political Caucus board, L.A. Westside Chapter.
-Erica Jacquez, government affairs executive, Directors Guild of America; member, Latinas Lead CA.
-Celestine Palmer, president emeritus, Los Angeles African American Women Political Action Committee.
“The Role of Women in Political Parties”
-Cecilia Cabello, Avance LA Democratic Club.
-Zaira Cedano, executive director, LAGOP.
-Ilissa Gold, president and founder, Miracle Mile Democrats.
-Connie Leyva, 20th State Senate District; vice chair, California Legislative Women’s Caucus.
-Holly J. Mitchell, 30th State Senate District; founder, Senate Select Committee on Women and Inequality.
About Mount Saint Mary’s University
Mount Saint Mary’s is the only women’s university in Los Angeles and one of the most diverse in the nation. The University is known nationally for its research on gender equity, its innovative health and science programs, and its commitment to community service. As a leading liberal arts institution, Mount Saint Mary’s provides year-round, flexible and online programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. Weekend, evening and graduate programs are offered to both women and men. Mount alums are engaged, active, global citizens who use their knowledge and skills to better themselves, their communities and the world. msmu.edu
About the Center for the Advancement of Women
The Center for the Advancement of Women at Mount Saint Mary’s University is a hub for gender equity research, advocacy and leadership development. Its vision is to find solutions to persistent gender inequities and work with partners to eradicate those inequities in our lifetime. That goal includes eliminating obstacles that women face in the workplace, in their communities, in the media and beyond to make a positive difference in the lives of women and girls in California and our nation. The Center also creates public programming, research guides and training opportunities to engage more partners in its work. msmu.edu/CAW