In 2002, a group of passionate San Francisco Bay Area women founded Emerge California with the goal of placing more Democratic women into political office. Emerge California is part of a national movement aiming to address the underrepresentation of women in elected offices in the U.S. Ten years after its inception, this program is still the only organization in the state (and one of only two in the country) providing Democratic female politicians with the comprehensive training they need to seek public office and win.
I am proud to live in a state where both of our Senators and 19 of the 53 Congressional Representatives (that's 35 percent) are women. Compared to the rest of the country, California is far ahead in electing female politicians to federal office. But on the state and local levels, the California electorate can stand to do better. The United States ranks 84th in the world when it comes to the ratio of women in elected office -- that means we lag behind Mexico, China and Pakistan! Think about it: there isn't a single piece of legislation that would not benefit from the viewpoint, perspective and experience of a woman -- and yes, my girlfriend Molly loves that I wrote that. It's true though, more women need to come to the political table, and Emerge California is working to bridge the gap.
How it works
This year, Emerge California selected 24 bright, self-motivated aspiring female Democratic politicians who are committed to being effective leaders and who want to run for elective office. Over a seven-month period, these women will each train for 70 hours, learning the ins and outs of political campaigns, from campaign finance to public appearances. The topics covered will include communication, budgets, debates, fundraising and preparing to declare candidacy. Over the course of the program, the participants will also volunteer on a political campaign. Once through the program, the Emerge alumnae are prepared and empowered for political office.
The cost of the Emerge California program is $1,000 plus a $75 materials fee. (Tuition assistance is available.) This is a bargain, when you consider the future career ramifications: according to Emerge America's latest statistics, 43 percent of the program's graduates either run for elected office or are appointed to local boards or commissions, and 60 percent of those who run for office are elected.
10th Anniversary Celebration
Last week, Emerge California celebrated its 10th anniversary at the W Hotel in San Francisco in a packed room with nearly 500 attendees. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi gave the keynote address, saying: "If we reduce the role of big money in politics and increase the level of civility in the debate, we will elect more women to public office. Enough with the incrementalism! It's time to elect more Democratic Women to office." See the video of her speech here :
Emerge California is doing good things to promote female leadership in our state offices and I am proud to support them here. For more information on Emerge California go to emergeca.org. For more on programs in other states, visit Emerge America: emergeamerica.org.