In the United States, less than one in four women are political leaders. According to the Center for Women and Politics, there are only seven women in our current President’s cabinet and three women on the Supreme Court. Women make up only about 19.5 percent of Congress, with 20 women in the Senate and 85 women in the House. Even though we see women like Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, and Theresa May, Prime Minister of the UK, rising to the top, the United States is still sorely lacking in women leadership. Running Start is a non-profit program dedicated to educating and encouraging young women and girls to pursue a career in politics.
Running Start believes that “with an earlier start in politics, women will climb higher on the leadership ladder, allowing more women to share in the decision making power of this country.”
The organization started a program called Young Women’s Political Leadership, which teaches high school girls about the importance of political leadership. Running Start takes 60 girls on a retreat in July, for one week, where they attend workshops. Experts in various fields like public speaking, messaging, networking, on-camera media training, and platform development run the workshops. According to their website, “The goal of the program is to encourage the girls to channel their leadership into politics.”
Running Start has also created a program called Running Start/Walmart Star Fellowship. The program picks 14 college women and sends them to Washington, D.C. so they have an opportunity to learn more about the world of politics. Running start states that “our fellows are placed in the offices of female members of congress on Capitol Hill where they hone their policy and political skills. Each Friday, the fellows take part in a seminar conducted by Running Start, which rounds out their internship experience by giving them the skills and contacts they need to become political leaders.” The hope is that these women will come out of the experience with an understanding of what it takes to run for office. Running Start also offers an internship to both young men and women who wish to pursue careers in politics.
In 2010, Running Start launched Elect Her: Campus Women Win. The idea is to highlight programs that are “growing the pipeline of women running for office.” The program also trains and encourages women to run for student government. “Research shows that women who run for student body elections in college are more likely to run for office as adults. The training addresses the disparity between the high percentage of women in colleges and universities and their low percentage in student governments.”
To become involved with Running Start you can contribute to the cause, become a member, or become involved with the Young Women’s Political Summit, which brings young women together to foster their skills and strengthen their political connections. You can apply for a fellowship or internship, or become involved with Elect Her. Visit their website to learn more about the programs Running Start offers.
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