As a part of our ongoing coverage of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, Oola is highlighting inspiring women across a variety of sectors.
Politics is a rough and tumble business full of big money, deal-making, and double-talking. Whether you are a casual observer of the political theater or a hardcore news junkie, we all have skin in the game when it comes to the direction of the country.
Sadly, unless you are a middle-aged white man, the lawmakers in this country lack gender and racial equality compared to the people they represent. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, the current Congress is the most diverse in history, yet of the 535 available seats, only 26.7% of them are held by women while we of course make up half of the population. A mere 23% identify as Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, or Native American, while People of Color make up closer to 40% of the US.
Run for Something is actively working to level the playing field for women and minority candidates. The organization provides a playbook and a safety net for Progressives who are interested in running for office. According to Co-founder and Executive Director, Amanda Litman, “the goal is to help them run efficient, grassroots and voter-contact driven campaigns and not feel alone in the process.” Oola sat down with Litman to learn more about her empowering organization.
Oola: What was the inspiration behind starting Run for Something (RFS)?
Litman: RFS was born in direct response to the 2016 election. Obviously, it was devastating, and the day after a friend and public school teacher reached out asking for advice on how to run for office and I didn’t have a good answer. (That friend ended up being Ross Rocketto, her eventual co-founder in RFS). But, it's something I have been passionate about most of my life. In college, my thesis was on women running for office, and I’ve worked on a variety of campaigns from Barack Obama’s re-election campaign to most recently Hillary Clinton’s email director.
Editor's note: She cheekily puts on her bio (The other emails.)
Oola: As many people were devastated and despondent, you went into action?
Litman: Yes, we launched RFS on inauguration day in January of 2017. Since that time, we’ve helped elect nearly 500 people across 46 states. Of those winners, 55% are women!
Oola: Speaking of female representation, which states currently have the most women in charge?
Litman: Sadly, there is not a single state where women hold the majority, when you take into account every elected office. Nevada and Colorado are doing a nice job of electing women, but there is still so much work to be done.
Oola: The majority of women running for office seem to be left-leaning or Progressives, why do you think the Women’s Movement isn’t more equal in terms of ideology?
Litman: The Republican Party is objectively anti-women. I think that’s true on issues of reproductive health, criminal justice reform, or raising the minimum wage, all of these issues are women’s issues. Many of the GOP’s policies are hurting women and women of color.
Oola: What are some of the biggest issues currently being debated in Congress or in front of the Supreme Court that could have the biggest effect on women?
Litman: I encourage everyone to take a look at the various abortion bills going through various state capitals. Abortion is both an economic and female issue but is wrongly considered just a female issue. The intention is to get these in front of the Supreme Court, which now leans Conservative.
Also, the care economy is an enormous area of concern. Take a look at what’s being done to help caregivers of both children and the aging communities. Many times, this falls on women’s shoulders. So pay attention to how governments (local and state) handle them.
Oola: What has been the biggest hurdle in recruiting or engaging women to run for office?
Litman: Women do not think they are qualified. They don’t believe they have the expertise or the resumés to do the work. Also, fundraising is harder for women and the thinking that “I am not qualified or will be able to raise the money.”
Oola: So, imposter syndrome?
Litman: Yes, and we (Run for Something) are here telling the stories of women actually doing it. But, there is so much to be done to achieve real equality, (and especially for women of color) that on a basic level having more women paying attention and voting will go a long way in our goals.
Oola: Who are some current women in politics to keep an eye on?
Litman: Jennifer Carroll Foy, who is running for governor of Virginia. Keep an eye on State Representative Anna Eskamani in Florida. Lina Hidalgo in Texas became the first woman and Latina elected as Harris County Judge in 2018. (Harris County is the most populated county in Texas and the third most populous in the country). And, Megan Hunt, a State Senator in Nebraska.