Balance on the Ballot: Getting Women to Run
with Erin Loos Cutraro of She Should Run
Since 2016, women of all ages and backgrounds have become more politically involved, but advocates say structural barriers persist.
Erin Loos Cutraro, Founder and CEO of She Should Run, sheds light on how her organization is promoting leadership and encouraging women to run and serve in office.
February 26, 2021
Anderson: Women represent more than half the U.S. population, yet are underrepresented in U.S. politics. They make up less than a third of the nation's elected leaders. Hello and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. Since 2016, women of all ages and backgrounds, and, particularly, millennials and women of color, have become more politically engaged, and that's a good thing. But experts say structural barriers really persist for those who choose to run for public office. And joining me to talk about the scope of all this is Erin Loos Cutraro. She is the founder and the CEO of She Should Run. Erin, thanks for being here.
Cutraro: Thanks, Tetiana. I'm glad to be here.
Anderson: So, She Should Run is all about getting women to get on the ballot, but I'm wondering what some of the challenges are to making that happen. What have you seen?
Cutraro: Sure. So, as you said, you know, women represent 51% of the population, but only serve in a third of elected offices nationwide and we have over 500,000 elected offices in this country. You know, what we see is that, you know, you really look to what the status quo looks like. It's hard for women to be it, if they can't see it, so, often, women aren't even imagining themselves as elected leaders and then, the institutional players and sort of the institutions that exist haven't prioritized the funding, the support, the recruitment, at the level that we need to see to fuel the pipeline. And that is the work of She Should Run. So we see this need to not only focus on how do we support the women who are already on the ballot, but how do we find the women who are incredible changemakers in their communities, but aren't yet connecting the dots to the difference that they can make in elected office?
Anderson: And where are you seeing your work actually work? I mean, you're out there, inspiring women. Give us an anecdote or so of how this has been effectual.
Cutraro: Yeah. So, there are so many incredible women from all walks of life in our community and, you know, one story that pops to mind is an incredible elected leader now who serves on the Austin City Council. Her name's Vanessa Fuentes. And, you know, Vanessa is a great example of someone who brought her personal experience into elected office. She, you know, is the daughter of a Mexican immigrant. She was the first generation in her family to go to college. She ultimately went into the public health advocacy world and she looked around and saw that there were just incredible inequities for individuals in her community and she saw a chance. It was her "Aha!" of how she could make a difference in elected office. And she ultimately came to She Should Run, kind of fine-tuned how she wanted to do that, and, ultimately, went on to run and is now serving.
Anderson: So you said that she came to She Should Run. She Should Run helped her fine-tune what she needed to do, but what does that look like? What is the groundwork that you're helping these women lay? Programing -- talk to us a little bit about that. COVID Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, our target audience are women who are often not there, yet, or who are coming to the idea of a potential run for the very first time. So we help them and sort of cradle that moment where women are thinking about what it is that fires them up, what's the fire in their belly that they want to take to elected office, kind of demystifying what those steps to running for office look like, helping them understand what organizations can be there for them later-stage, once they decide to run. So it really is that very first step, so that they can recognize that they are not alone in the effort because it can feel so lonely when you're putting yourself out there to run.
Anderson: And the end goal really is about civic engagement across the board. I mean, how has the political participation of women really impacted policy outcomes? What have you seen?
Cutraro: Sure. So, we look at, if you look right now at the 117th Congress, we have a record number of women serving. We have a record number of women serving at the state and local level. We had a record number of women in the 2020 election show up to vote and to use their activism. Ultimately, what we see is that, you know, it is of such incredible value and urgent need in this country, to find women and pull them into the process and for women to come to the table ready to share their life experiences. You know, we're living in a time, right now, that is so challenging for so many and you look at sort of the disproportionate impact of something as difficult as, you know, the fallout around the COVID-19 pandemic, you know, especially around Black and brown communities, and then, you look at how do we dig out from here? And we cannot possibly expect to have the smartest solutions at the table, if we're not including those individuals in the process of moving forward. So it is, if you look at the sort of the historically underrepresented voices, those voices that we most need to see in elected office, that is something that, as a society, we all need to value and see that it helps lift everyone up, if we focus on the communities that are, you know, facing disproportionate impact. And that is the core of our work.
Anderson: So if people want to find out more about that work, where should they go? What's your website?
Cutraro: They should visit sheshouldrun.org. Know that our work is here, not just for that woman who is coming to this for the very first time, but for anyone who cares to build a diverse pipeline.
Anderson: Erin Loos Cutraro, She Should Run, thank you so much for being here.
Cutraro: Thank you, Tetiana.
Anderson: And thank you to our viewers as well for watching. For more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the country, be sure to log on to... I'm Tetiana Anderson.