Washington — Men and women are different, and that's especially true when it comes to running for an elected public office, says an educator with Rutgers University in New Jersey.
“We know from research that women feel the need to be trained, to get all the information that they can before they launch a campaign or run for office, and we don’t see that same thing with men,” says Jean Sinzdak, director for the Program for Women at the Center for American Women and Politics, which is part of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers.
To help give women the training as well as the confidence they need to consider a career in politics, the center has offered each year since 1998 a nonpartisan, intensive two-day program called “Ready to Run.” During that time, participants receive campaign training that includes pointers on positioning oneself for elected office, navigating the political party structure, fundraising, crafting a message,developing media skills and mobilizing voters.
Although there have been plenty of highly placed, high-profile women in politics — Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sarah Palin are just a few — there is still a scarcity of role models for ordinary women, according to Sinzdak.
“You’re still hearing so many times the case of a woman being ‘the first one’ in town, or the ‘first one’ from their district to get elected — it’s always the first, the first, the first,” Sinzdak said. Moreover, women feel they need to be asked to run for public office, but the sad reality is that they are less likely to be recruited by party leaders and other elected officials, she said.
And that can be especially true for African-American, Asian-American and Latina women. For each of these groups, the center has established an additional day of issue-specific training as part of the Ready to Run program to encourage more women of color to enter politics.
Since its inception, Ready to Run sessions have been attended by more than 1,500 women, according to the program's website. Of those, one-quarter have run for office, and of those who ran, 70 percent won their races.
The program has been an especially big success for the women of New Jersey, said Sinzdak. When Ready to Run started, New Jersey ranked among the bottom 10 states in the nation for number of women serving in the state legislature; today it ranks in the top 10, she said.
The Ready to Run program is now offered in 16 states, Sinzdak said, and the goal is to make each program a permanent fixture as part of an institution that can help with finding financial sponsorship and grants. The center’s ultimate goal is to help build thriving Ready to Run programs in each of the 50 states.
“We need more women leaders, no matter where they are from,” Sinzdak said. Research shows, she said, that women leaders help make government more transparent, inclusive and accessible.
To see how many women are serving in national parliaments, see the Inter-Parliamentary Union website.