Women make up nearly 51% of the U.S. population1 but hold only 18% of seats in the U.S. Congress.2 There are currently 20 female senators (20%) and only 78 female representatives of the 435 (17.9%).3 Things are slightly better at the state level in Illinois with women holding 32.3% of the seats in the state legislature and three of the six state executive offices.4 The statistics at the local level of government, however, are still abysmal. As of January 2012, of the 1,248 mayors of U.S. cities with populations over 30,000, only 217 (17.4%) were women.5
There are lots of reasons for these statistics but the important takeaway is that women have a long way to go in achieving equality as public office holders. Fortunately, in Illinois, there are two excellent, intensive programs that are training women how to successfully run for public office. The Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership (IWIL) program trains women to run for office on the Democratic ticket while the Illinois Lincoln Excellence in Public Service Series trains women to run for public office on the Republican ticket. These two programs, while they reach out to opposite sides of the aisle, share the goal of increasing the number of women in public office.
If you have ever considered a run for any public office, I urge you to look into participating in one of these programs. They train women to run for all levels of government. Whether it’s a state office you’ve considered running for or local mayor, village trustee, school board member or park board member; as a female candidate, you could benefit from the knowledge and skills taught through these programs.
The curriculum of each of these programs includes campaign planning and fundraising, public speaking and communication techniques, media relations, understanding institutions of government and public policy, and building effective support networks. The curriculum is presented by leaders in the field and delegates have the opportunity to network with current female leaders of the party.
The application process for IWIL begins in July with a mid-September deadline. The application process for Lincoln Series has a late October deadline. To learn more about IWIL or the Lincoln Series, visit their respective Web sites at < and <. ■