Believing I Can Run for Office

January 4, 2013

When I started my Master of Business Administration (MBA) this fall, I was surprised to learn there were 37 fellow women in my class of 116 – in other words, women represented just over 30% of the class. This representation of women is typical of MBA programs, although some schools have recently made great strides. This makes the business world similar to the political world in terms of representation of women.

Day-to-day I did not stop to reflect on the gender dynamics of the program. But when it came time to elect presidents and vice presidents for the student clubs, I realized there were few women in leadership roles. As a graduate of Running Start’s Next Step program, which builds women’s confidence, skills, and abilities to run for office, I realized that I could run for one of these roles. This may seem obvious. But for me it was the first time I truly believed I could run for office and had the confidence to do so.

A few of my classmates encouraged me to run for president of Women in Business. While that is a great organization, I was most interested in being president of Net Impact, an organization that encourages social responsibility in business. I also realized that women typically made up the leadership of Women in Business. As I looked across the MBA clubs, I wanted women to be represented in more leadership roles.

So I ran for office. At one point there were three potential candidates for president. I had a moment of self-doubt where I thought to myself “Maybe I should run for Vice President.” But then, as I learned at Next Step, I remembered I am every bit as qualified as the other candidates. And so I proceeded with my plan to run – and ended up winning in an unopposed race.

I am now president of my MBA program’s Net Impact chapter. This is a small step, but it has built my confidence. Now I know I can run for office – and I plan to again.

–Jessica Weaver, Next Step Summer 2010, Forte Fellow at the University of Illinois MBA program

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