It's a weird (and wonderful) time in American politics: We’re smack in the middle of the same, endless-and-much-too-early speculation about who will be our next president — and it's centered around a woman. For months, the 2016 conversation has been almost entirely about Hillary Clinton. Even when it does mention a man, like Rick Perry or Joe Biden, half the time it's to discuss how well he'd fair against HRC.
That election is 819 days away. Meanwhile, there's another crucial election around the corner: the 2014 midterms, and who wins will have a major influence on how our government functions. (If you think Congress and Obama have been having a hard time thus far, imagine if Republicans win the Senate, too!) But, the importance of 2014 goes beyond just Democrats versus Republicans. The midterms will have a huge impact on gender representation, too.
The issue is not just that we need more women in office (and we do!), but that the path to the presidency for a woman candidate starts long before she's a Hillary-level celebrity, with smaller races for statewide offices from comptroller to governor. And luckily, there's some great news: When it comes to helping women win those races, yes, there’s an app for that.
The Barbara Lee Family Foundation has been committed to helping engage women in politics since the late '90s. (The founder, Barbara Lee, was inspired by her grandmother’s stories about suffragists marching on Fifth Avenue in the early 1900s.) This month, the foundation released a new app edition of its Governor’s Guide Series focused on the essentials of getting elected into public office, aptly titled Keys To Elected Office: The Essential Guide For Women.
If you need reminding on why exactly this app is essential, some quick numbers: Women hold less than a fifth of all the seats in Congress and just under a quarter of state legislature roles; and out of the 50 states, only 5 have women governors. As She Should Run, another organization dedicated to getting women into public leadership positions notes, the U.S. is ranked 93 in the world when it comes to the number of women in our national legislature. And, when it comes to gender equality overall, we’re 23, behind countries like Cuba and Nicaragua.
That's why we need apps like this one. Keys to Elected Office isn't just meant for the Hillary Clintons and Elizabeth Warrens of the political world. It was created as a how-to manual for any woman interested in seeking political office (and also men and women who are hoping to become better informed about the challenges women face when it comes to getting elected). Information is organized into three key areas: preparation (communications, leadership skills, fundraising 101), substance (that whole “am I qualified?” issue, women-specific perception challenges, managing likeability), and presentation (yep, even getting into the what-to-wear debate, plus how to come back from making a mistake on the campaign trail). You get a deep dive into the process, considerations around running, and what it would really take to launch a campaign — and all the content operates on the assumption that anyone can make this happen.
One refreshing item of note? Neither the app nor the organization behind it, has a partisan bent. This isn’t about getting Democratic women or Republican women elected. It’s aimed at combatting the overwhelming lack of female representation in government generally. As She Should Run says in its mission, “It is essential to the health and future of our country that 50% of our population have equal power and leadership.” We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.