By Kaitlyn Resline
On Oct. 23, KU partnered with Running Start, a nonprofit organization that focuses on empowering women, to host Elect Her. The purpose of the event was to train and guide young women on how to run for student government and political office.
The event featured four panelists from local and state governments including Wilson School Board Director Guadalupe Kasper, Wilson School Board Vice President Steph Kocker, Pennsylvania State Representative Melissa Shusterman and Parkland School District Board of Directors member Marisa Ziegler.
During the discussion panel, the four women discussed why it is important for women to get involved in political office, as women are disproportionately involved in government compared to men. Only about 25% of Pennsylvania’s state government is made up of women. There has never been a woman governor of Pennsylvania, and none of Pennsylvania’s congressional senators have been women.
“Issues that directly affect females will not be on the radar of politicians if there are no women,” Kocher said.
It is also important that women have a say in all decisions beyond ones that are considered exclusively “women” issues. Women should also be allowed to have a part in making economic decisions for instance.
“Women need to understand that we need them at every level of power,” Shusterman said. “Women look at this differently and work differently than men.”
Zeigler said, “Representation needs to be as diverse as the people they represent.” With half of the population being women, half of government needs to be women
Diversity also includes increasing the number of women of color in office, as they are even more underrepresented in the government.
Kasper talked about how diversity and inclusivity are important for all women in political office by using her personal experience as the first woman of color on the Wilson School District School Board as an example. Rather than being boxed into a role of representing only women or Latinos, she considered how her role can impact different decisions.
“It’s empowering to be a trailblazer, to represent my population, knowing how power works and how I can shift that in my role,” Kasper said.
Women may feel discouraged to run for office given the hardships of the campaign trail, such as difficulty raising funds or balancing work, home-life and campaigning. Still, the panelists discussed the necessity of running for office in order to sustain the American experiment of democracy.
As long as prospective candidates surround themselves with support and have a platform they care about, the campaigning hurdle becomes manageable.
“Your passion can shine through. Your hard work and determination can get you across the finish line,” Shusterman said.