Founded in early 2007, Running Start grew out of the non-partisan Women Under Forty Political Action Committee (WUFPAC), which financially supports young women running for federal office. Running Start was formed when it became clear that the pool of young women considering careers in politics and running for elected office was far too small. Young women and girls need to be educated about politics earlier in life if the make-up of the political leaders in our country is to transform. We must instill in the next generation that public service is admirable and achievable. Running Start provides young women and girls with the skills and confidence they need to become the political leaders of tomorrow.
Running Start supports the young women who will shape tomorrow’s world. We aim to plant the seed of interest in politics so that they will run earlier, climb higher through leadership, and share more in the decision making power of their country. These young women will bring in new ideas to help solve old problems, and will raise issues unique to their lives that have otherwise been overlooked in politics.
We founded Running Start to address the absence of equal representation in the halls of government. We continue to educate and inspire around these pillars of our mission:
- We Need More Women in Political Office
The key to strengthening and increasing women’s representation in American government is to get younger women engaged in politics and elected to office earlier in life. Women make up only a small fraction of elected officials in America. And of that number, only a tiny fraction of them are in leadership positions in politics. The statistics are shocking – in 2010, only 17% of Congress and 23% of state legislatures are women. America is far below most countries in the world in terms of women’s political representation. In fact, we are 83rd out of 189 nations around the world with elected governments.
- Leadership Positions Come From Experience & Tenure
We must encourage young women to run for office, so that they can establish the tenure necessary to rise to political leadership positions. Political systems reward seniority with leadership positions as tenure in office confers credibility. Men outnumber women in these roles by significant margins. In the 110th Congress, we had a record number of women chairing committees, but that record is still only six chairs, out of roughly 40 committees. As the pipeline to political power begins early in life – 12 of the last 19 Presidents started their political careers before they were 35 years old, women often handicap themselves by not considering a run for office until much later in life than their male counterparts.
- Planting the Seed Early Encourages Women to Run
A primary reason that there are far fewer women in elected office than men is because fewer women put themselves forward as candidates. Studies show that factors inhibiting women from running include not feeling qualified to serve, not understanding the process of running, and needing to be asked to run repeatedly before they seriously consider launching a campaign. Running Start works to show young women that they are as qualified as men to lead. We provide them with the skills they need to feel prepared and knowledgeable about running for office. We also ask them to think of themselves as candidates at an early age, and we repeatedly encourage them to run, whether for student government in high school or college, local government, or federal office.
- Education Prepares Young Women to Lead
Running Start’s programs give young women the knowledge, support, encouragement and inspiration they need to run for an elected position. Each of our programs work with young women using hands-on exercises, small group activities, and mentoring relationships to develop their leadership skills. Young women leave our programs with confidence in their ability to lead other people, bring change to their community, and advocate for their beliefs.