The Texas A&M Women’s Resource Center hosted the Elect Her workshop on Sunday in the Bethancourt Ballroom, welcoming ambitious and driven women looking to run for office.
More than 300 Elect Her trainings have been held at 118 universities in 40 states. Elect Her facilitator Misaki Collins said the event is one of the many programs hosted by Running Start, a nonprofit organization working to support women who plan to run for office by teaching them important leadership skills and campaign techniques.
Collins has been working with Running Start since high school and was trained to be a facilitator for Sunday’s event after she graduated from the University of North Texas. She said Elect Her ultimately lessens the gender gap in political leadership and works toward facilitating important skills in campaigning.
“It’s a super comprehensive campaign training because it’s not just talking about public speaking and training you on that,” Collins said. “It’s telling you that these are the things that might happen, with things such as ... what it costs [to run], media training and what you can do after this event.”
Running Start offers a variety of resources for women looking to run for office, Collins said, and those resources are available long after the end of the conference. To Collins, Running Start is a family that you are a part of forever, and Elect Her is just one aspect of that.
“Obviously, when the people in power look like the people they are representing, real changes will happen,” Collins said. “Even if people aren’t interested in running for political office, going through this training just teaches you a lot about leadership, in general.”
The power of Elect Her also resides in the fact that it encourages college women to run for student government now and make a change on their college campuses first, Collins said. A&M has hosted the Elect Her event before, but the university still holds a relatively small number of female representatives and has room for improvement, she said.
“A&M just has so much potential,” Collins said. “I’m from Texas and I hear about A&M a lot… And A&M is such a great school and me thinking about Aggie Women in power, I know that would be great. You can never have too many women.”
Lucky Sasiphong, the operations assistant at Running Start, said the nonprofit provided her with real world experience, as well as the confidence to pursue a career in politics. Sasiphong said events like Elect Her help with one of a woman’s most undernourished traits: confidence.
“Research shows that young girls confidence peaks at the age of eight, but over time, especially by the time they reach high school or college, their political confidence decreases,” Sasiphong said. “So what Running Start does as an organization is we intervene right at that point where their confidence starts to decrease.”
Running Start focuses on four ways to boost confidence: socialize young women by presenting of politics as a career path, expose young women to political information, encourage young women to run for office and tell young women they are qualified to run.
“So for us, it’s important that we intervene ... so young women understand that they can pursue these careers in politics and they can run for office,” Sasiphong said. “The role model effect is a super important factor for us, as well.”
This idea of the role model effect is that women see people that look like them in leadership positions they can attain, Sasiphong said. At this conference, there were current and former mayors and judges present to provide information and encouragement to attendees. These women include the Honorable Michelle Slaughter, a judge for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and the Honorable Yolanda Ford, mayor of Missouri City.
The impact of these role models is at the base of the Elect Her conference and serves as an inspiration to many of the young guests. Shelby Lepley, an agricultural economics junior, said she wants to run for elected office one day as she is passionate about agriculture and its impact in people’s lives. Lepley said the conference helped provide her with some of the tools she’ll need.
“I think this is an awesome program just because it’s helping students to see more of the world and understand what it is they’re going into,” Lepley said. “It also builds a supportive network for people to reach out to and to really help you go out into that professional field.”