Elect Her workshop aimed to empower female students to run for office

1/28/2014
University of Michigan-Dearborn Elect Her Workshop

Seven. That’s the number of times a women has to be asked to run for office before she says yes.

To encourage more women to consider running, local elected officials and 29 students joined together Friday, January 24, at University of Michigan-Dearborn to participate in the Elect Her workshop sponsored by AAUW, Running Start, and the Women’s Resource Center. Elect Her is a daylong conference designed to give college women the concrete skills they need to be confident to run for student government and other offices.

In the United States women hold only 18.5 percent of offices in Congress, and ranks 79th  in the world in terms of women’s political representation. In Michigan, Ruth Johnson is the only woman to currently hold an executive office, and 18.9 percent of state legislative positions are held by women, with only three women of color.

“I was encouraging other women and telling them to do something I didn’t have the courage to do,” said workshop facilitator Rebecca Thompson, who is a 2014 candidate for state representative in Detroit’s 1st District.

Thompson discussed with participants a wide range of topics including why women don’t run, campaign strategies and fundraising tips, and allowed participants to engage in a campaign simulation where they had the opportunity to pitch their 30-second elevator speech.

Participants also were given the chance to hear first-hand experiences of running for office with a panel of local elected officials including University of Michigan-Dearborn staff member and Wayne City Councilwoman Susan Rowe, along with Dearborn City Council President Susan Debaja.

For students interested in running for campus positions, there was a student government panel with students Wedad Ibrahim, Rima Rida and Sarah Elhelou speaking about the nuts and bolts of running for student government.

"I'm feeling so empowered. I have always felt like I wanted to do something, and now I know I can," said student Maria Escalante.

As the workshop closed Thompson began chipping away at that number seven, asking participants numerous times if they are going to run.

“You can only run for the first time for office one,” said Thompson, “I want all of you officially to be asked to run for office. This is not going to be easy, let’s be clear, but your dreams are worth it. If you want to make a difference this is one way you can do it.”

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