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Ready to bridge the gap: Attendees listen to a campaign training session during Ready to Run 2017, at Mount Saint Mary's University.
Preparing a new wave of women for public service
Women make up 50 percent of the U.S. population. Yet, nationally, women comprise just 19 percent of the U.S. Congress. In California, women similarly account for only 22 percent of the state legislature.
Those are just two areas of public service where women’s voices, experience and leadership are lacking — and needed. That’s why, on April 8, Mount Saint Mary’s University hosted Ready to Run®, a nonpartisan campaign-training program designed to prepare women to run for office, get appointed to leadership positions, work on political campaigns or otherwise get involved in public service.
“No amount of leaning in or marching will bring about the direct, substantive changes that put women on a path to equality like running for office and being elected to serve,” said Mount Saint Mary’s associate professor Jackie Filla, PhD, a moderator and organizer of Ready to Run. “We know that when women run, they win at equal rates to men. But, too often, women’s percentages in the legislature match their percentages on ballots. So, changing these statistics are doable. We just need more women running.”
To help prepare more women to run, Ready to Run featured local and national politicians, strategists, advocates and campaign professionals who provided practical advice from their careers in the political arena. Speakers included well-known public servants such as retired U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, retired U.S. Rep. Yvonne B. Burke, L.A. County Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Kathryn Barger, L.A. City Councilmember Nury Martinez and California Appointments Sec. Mona Pasquil.
Ready to Run’s opening keynote was delivered by Burke, the first African-American woman to represent California in the U.S. Congress. Burke reminded emerging political leaders to remember the big picture during what can be a grueling political process: “Be ready to run, but you must also be ready to serve,” she said. “The issues that you care about and work on are going to affect lives that you might never know.”
Boxer, the recently retired U.S. senator from California who served 33 years in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, echoed that sentiment in her closing keynote talk. “The only honest way to get into politics is to have a reason,” Boxer said. “Not to be something, but to do something.”
Mount Saint Mary’s University — the only women’s university in Los Angeles and a member of the Women in Public Service Project, offers this campaign training annually — thanks to its partnership with the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Programming is created by Mount Saint Mary’s Department of History and Political Science.
Ready to Run info on speakers, programming and resources are available at www.msmu.edu/R2R.