THE BLOG
10/31/2014 02:48 pm ET Updated Dec 31, 2014

To Get More Women's Names on Future Ballots, Start with College Women

Everyone's gearing up for the midterm elections, but AAUW and Running Start are also thinking about future ballots. And we want to see women on them.

Women are 51 percent of the population in the United States, yet they hold only 29 percent of all elected offices from county council to Congress. That breaks down to 10 percent of governors, 18.5 percent of members of Congress, and 24.2 percent of state legislators. In 24 states, a woman has never been elected governor, and four states have never sent a woman to either chamber of Congress.

The number of women in elected office generally increases each year, but at this rate, women won't reach electoral parity with men until 2121. Who wants to wait that long?

In 2009, AAUW and Running Start began training college women to run for office, starting right where college women are: on campus. Elect Her-Campus Women Win became the only national program to encourage and train college women to run for student government and future political office.

Serving in student government is an important gateway into public service. Students have the chance to develop leadership skills by working with their peers, staff, and administrators to make meaningful change on their campuses. Many impressive women leaders, including Hillary Clinton, Tammy Baldwin, and Susan Collins, started there.

Elect Her has since spread to 50 universities across 32 states. In 2014, we trained more than 1,500 women on campaign basics such as speaking publicly, identifying their network, building issue expertise, and more. We connected students to local elected leaders, political operatives, and student leaders on their own campuses. By the end of the training, 95 percent of participants reported feeling prepared to run for office on their campus. And 74 percent of our alumni who ran for student government won.

But they aren't just stopping at student government. Eighty-four percent of attendees said they were planning or considering a run for office in the next 10 years, but some have already gotten started. Molly Rockett, who attended an Elect Her training at the University of Connecticut was elected to her local school board. Allyson Carpenter, another alum, just became the youngest elected official in Washington, D.C.'s history.

After a training in 2014, 33 percent of attendees said they were planning to run for public office in the next 10 years. An additional 51 percent were considering it.

Research out of the Women and Politics Institute last year found that only 37 percent of college women surveyed had thought about running for office, compared with 57 percent of their male peers. But Elect Her participants leave our trainings with the skills, encouragement, and motivation they need to make any thought of running a reality. At Elect Her, we're filling the pipeline as quickly as we can, so that we'll get to parity well before 2121. We can't wait to see what our alumnae do next.