Published February 24, 2016
Although Hillary Clinton stands as a frontrunner for president, the overall picture for women in politics is much bleaker, with women accounting for less than a third of the nation’s public officials.
To address the gender disparity in politics, UB for the second year will host “Elect Her,” a daylong program that encourages and trains college women to run for student government and future political office.
UB is among 50 campuses from across the nation chosen by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) to host Elect Her, which is sponsored by the AAUW, Running Start, UB Academies, Student Life, Office of Student Engagement, Intercultural and Diversity Center, and the undergraduate Student Association.
The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 27 in 101 Davis Hall, North Campus. The program is open to both men and women.
It will include workshops and exercises to help participants perfect their elevator speech, craft messages, simulate a campaign and more. Several local public officials are slated to attend, including Assembly member Jane Corwin, who will deliver the keynote speech at 2:30 p.m.
“The only way to change the current representation of women in government is to inspire and empower young women to run and give them the confidence and tools they need to consider a campaign,” says Corrine Cardinale, an Elect Her student committee leader and member of the UB AAUW chapter.
Cardinale, a sophomore majoring in communication and history, will succeed Minahil Khan as Elect Her student committee chair. After the program’s first year, Khan, a senior political science major who was instrumental in bringing Elect Her to UB, launched a successful campaign for Student Association president.
“Through programs like Elect Her, we hope to encourage women to become more comfortable in leadership positions and remind them that their voice matters just as much as those of their male classmates,” Cardinale says.
According to the AAUW, women account for less than 30 percent of elected officials, while women of color account for less than 5 percent. Moreover, 24 states have never elected a female governor and 22 states have never elected a female senator.
Elect Her is built around the premise that students who hold a student government position are more likely to run for public office after they graduate.
Research shows that women need to be asked an average of seven times to run for office before they pursue the position. This contrasts with the frequent encouragement men and boys receive to run for leadership positions, according to the AAUW.
“This is our way of saying we believe in you,” says Hadar Borden, Elect Her campus coordinator who also serves as program director of the Blackstone LaunchPad and Western New York Prosperity Fellowship Program.
“Our students need to be empowered and supported to contribute to their community by providing them with resources, examples of people in their community that have said yes and mentors to support their interests.”
Campuses that hold an Elect Her program experience a 12 percent increase in female students who run for political office on campus, and 78 percent of program participants win their next election, according to the AAUW
For many female students, Elect Her serves as that first request to run for office.