In the 2017 Associated Students of the University of Nevada election, seven women ran for positions in the Senate—opposed to the 25 men that ran. Out of those seven, six were elected, leaving the other seats to 16 men. According to the speaker of the ASUN Senate, Hannah Jackson, this is not representative of the university’s population.
“Specifically, on our campus, the newest statistic has shown that our campus is actually 53 percent women, and if our student government isn’t representative of our student population, then that’s problematic,” Jackson said.
That’s why she partnered up with ASUN Chief of Staff, Carissa Bradley and the Center for Student Engagement to bring ElectHer to the university on Saturday, Nov. 18.
ElectHer is a program put on by an organization called Running Start based in Washington, D.C. that aims to train women how to run for office on college campuses across the country.
“Research has shown that women who run for student body elections in college are more likely to run for office as adults,” says the ElectHer website. “The training addresses the disparity between the high percentage of women in colleges and universities and their low percentage in student governments.”
Jackson and Bradley said they were inspired to bring the program to campus after data from the 2017 election showed so few women running for positions.
“This has been a national issue, but also an issue on our campus of not having very many women run for office and also be elected into office, so we wanted to find a way to kind of address that and we think this is program is a really great fit,” Jackson said.
The afternoon-long program will feature different training workshops, such as how to campaign and writing elevator speeches. The event will also host a panel of local, female leaders—including Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, Assemblywomen Jill Tolles and Teresa Benitez-Thompson, state Sen. Julia Ratti and more.
Amy Koeckes, Associate Director of Student Engagement Outreach at the Center for Student Engagement, believes that the current political climate could be the reason women are not running for leadership positions.
“Perhaps the lack of women running is a reflection of the national political landscape. The United States experienced a woman running for the presidency in 2016 but has not yet experienced a woman in the White House,” Koeckes wrote in a blog post. “We can make a difference in helping women feel more confident in seeking help and encouragement from others about running for office.”
They want to show that women are capable of being leaders in clubs, organizations, government and even ASUN president. They hope this program will give women the tools, resources and support network they need to run for leadership positions.
“I think that a lot of the time, we see women are the most willing to argue at the table and I definitely like to see that,” Bradley said. “That’s one of my favorite parts of Senate, is the discourse and disagreeing, and I think that once you’re at that table, you’re 10 times more likely to speak up. That doesn’t go within this ASUN bubble, that goes past this campus, past this community, even past Reno.”
However, the program is gender inclusive and anyone can apply. They are looking to target freshmen through juniors who might have an interest in being leaders.
“If you’ve ever had any kind of inkling or interest in taking a leadership position, we really want you to come apply and register for the program,” Jackson said.
Jackson and Bradley hope this is the start of a broader support network for women leaders. They want to continue to have networking events, training and possibly a speaker series to expand the support of women as part of a ripple effect.
“We ran, it’s doable, and we want to show women it’s a doable thing,” Bradley said. “We really want women to feel like they have a place and they have a voice on this campus.”
The 2017 election was not an anomaly when it comes to the number of women running for office. Since ASUN was founded in 1898, only six women have been president—the last one being Sarah Ragsdale in 2007.
According to ASUN election data, in the last seven years, just over 35 percent of ASUN elected positions were held by women. In 2013, 13 of the 26 candidates running for Senate were women, and 11 were elected. That number has declined since, with 2017 being the lowest turnout for women who ran.
In offices beyond the university campus, women are also a minority. In Congress, women take up less than 20 percent of the seats, with 21 percent of the seats in the U.S. Senate being held by women and 19 percent in the House of Representatives.
In Nevada, the numbers trend a bit higher than nationwide. Overall, just under 40 percent of Nevada state legislators and half of the state’s congressional delegation are women. Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto holds one of Nevada’s two senate seats, and women hold two of four House seats—Dina Titus and Jacky Rosen, both Democrats from Las Vegas.
“With this encouragement, I believe that more women will run for office, increasing their odds of being elected into student government,” Koeckes wrote in her blog. “I think if we increase the odds of women seen in elected positions in college we will see the national political landscape change as these women will take their experience on-campus out onto the local, state, and national political scene.”
Anyone interested can apply for the ElectHer program at https://asun.wufoo.com/forms/elect-her/. For more information, visit http://www.nevadaasun.com/elect-her/.
Madeline Purdue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @madelinepurdue.