• Leslie Dorantes

Ready to Run

This month, Jefferson University Law and Society students were invited to attend Ready to Run, a campaign training program for women looking to run for office in the future. The event was sponsored by Chatham University’s Pennsylvania Center for Women & Politics (PCWP), a nonpartisan organization that is devoted to the progression of women’s public leadership through education, empowerment and action. It integrates disciplinary knowledge, civic education, and capacity building with women and public policy. The purpose of the event is to encourage women to run for government positions by providing mentoring and training by campaign professionals, politicians, and current officeholders.

The event was attended by multiple politicians including Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, Representative Joanna McClinton, Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez, and Representative Wendi Thomas who spoke to encourage women to run for office. Congresswoman Dean spoke about her experience running for office. Her journey began with a passion for public service that inspired her first run for public office, which ended successfully with a position at her local office. Later, she became a lawyer and eventually a professor of writing at LaSalle University. She successfully ran for state representative in 2012 and served on the Commissions for Women. She was elected in 2018 and still currently serves in the House of Representatives. Congresswoman Dean offered the women a special piece of advice: don’t wait for a sign, don’t sit quietly, and don’t wait to speak; stand for something. Congresswoman Dean also struggled when she first got into office, as she was discouraged to share her opinions, although this never held her back. She stands for public education, women’s rights, gun safety and protecting the environment. On the House floor, she continues to stand for her beliefs and speaks out when something wrong is being done. Congresswoman Dean was a powerful influence for the women attending the event because she represents a hardworking woman who has risen up through the challenges.

The Women of Color in Pennsylvania panel was another essential influence of the Ready to Run training. The panel consisted of three women of color: Judge Stella Tsai, State Representative Joanna McClinton, and Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez. The women talked about the struggles of acquiring their respective positions . Today, the female-minority representation in the US Senate is symptomatic of these issues, with only one Latina, two Asian Pacific Islanders, and one multiracial being represented. Together, only 47 out of the 535 members of Congress are women of color. The women on the panel explained that this can be a dangerous statistic as women of color continue to face injustices across the US. For example, women as a whole only make 77 cents for every dollar on average compared to the average white male; black women make 70 cents, and hispanic women make just 61 cents. The gender-based wage gap disproportionately harms women of color who face greater occupational discrimination. Black and Latina women are also disproportionately unemployed at 13.3 percent and 11.4 percent respectively.

Other issues include health-related impacts. Women of color have disproportionately higher rates of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and infant mortality because of the disparities of health care coverage and access. Overall, the best way to deal with these issues is by putting women who have actually been in these positions in office. The three women acknowledge the different viewpoints women of color can offer to Congress and how they can influence the lives of thousands of women across the US. This panel specifically captured our students including Law and Society’s Candance Miller who says, “Just to be in a room full of amazing women was a surreal and uplifting experience. (The Panel) had a tremendous impact on me because it’s important to see women who look like me in extremely successful places”.

The event was overall impactful for students and other members of the community in attendance. It encouraged them to not only run for office, but contribute to campaign efforts in any way they can. The event brought to light essential issues and encouraged women who are not running for office to find other women who support their causes and support them with monetary donations, as many women who run for office unfairly receive less campaign donation amounts as opposed to men in their similar governmental positions. Not only that, but to use their skills and privileges that they have to support them. By utilizing your personal skill set, you can support a candidate looking to run for office. All in all, the experience was ultimately positive for everyone who attended. Today, it is fair to say that many of the students in attendance feel more likely to run for office or participate in politics in the future. The success of this event and similar outings hopefully encourages and furthers the participation of women in politics, and brings more diversity to the political climate of America.

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