News

Feminism at the GOP Convention

August 2, 2016

This post originally appeared in US News & World Report, here.

The fact that I am bringing my women’s empowerment organization to the GOP convention has raised some eyebrows and sprinkled hate mail in my usually cheerful inbox.

Sixteen years ago, I helped create the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee (WUFPAC) to support young women from all parties running for Congress. My work with the PAC illuminated a much larger issue: There were not enough young women of either major party running for political office. This realization led to the 2007 creation of Running Start, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to educating high school and college-age women on how and why they should run for office. At Running Start, my goal is to make elected office accessible and acceptable for young women, regardless of political party. My job is not to shape the political ideologies of these young women but to give them the confidence and tools they need to fight for the issues they believe in at the highest levels.

downloadThe Republican National Convention is a perfect place to spread the word about Running Start. The convention will be attended by politically minded women from all over the country who are interested in politics and curious about what it takes to run. There aren’t a lot of role models for women in Republican politics. Democrats outnumber Republican women 76 to 28 in Congress, and many conservative women tell me that it is refreshing to find a nonpartisan group interested in getting them elected.

The nonpartisan nature of my organizations has raised eyebrows before. Years ago, the head of a major women’s organization pulled me aside at an event to tell me, “Honey, we all say we are nonpartisan, but that doesn’t mean you have to allow Republicans on your board!” There seems to be an unwritten rule that if you are working to empower women, you must be a liberal group. And even when women’s groups do support Republicans, many of them only open their doors to the pro-choice crowd. At a meeting of women’s organizations that I attended, a prominent Democrat declared that women who aren’t pro-choice aren’t real women.

I disagree. I made Running Start nonpartisan because I believe that electing women from both sides of the aisle is the key to a better functioning, more effective government. And the research bears me out: Women are more likely to cosponsor legislation across the aisle and to work harder to find common ground. The idea that only certain women should be encouraged to run is extremely counterproductive. There should not and cannot be a standard for how women in politics should think and act. Right now Congress is arguably the most divided it has ever been. The collective effect of having women in office is strengthened by having women on both sides of the aisle working together to sponsor legislation and push important issues otherwise left untouched. Bipartisan legislationsuch as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, The Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention Act, The Women’s Business Ownership Act and The Violence Against Women Act, to name a few, shows that regardless of a woman’s political ideology, she understands what is it to be a woman, and will legislate accordingly.

All of the Republican women I know believe in gender parity. As one of our alums, Antonia Okafor, told me: “Being a feminist and being conservative are not mutually exclusive. A conservative feminist believes that women should be able to reach any height because of ‘equal opportunity.’ True feminism does not diminish the role of men but rather focuses on the right of women to become everything they want to be.”

My goal at the RNC is to offer conservative young women a home where they can learn how to rise up in a party that doesn’t always do the best job to encourage women’s participation. There is no EMILY’s List for Republican women; they need all the help they can get to increase their numbers in politics.

Running Start’s presence at the convention is in no universe an endorsement of Trump. (In fact, as a nonprofit Running Start can’t endorse.) Trump’s misogynistic, racist rants are an affront to everything that Running Start stands for. My dislike of Trump isn’t a partisan thing’ it’s a moral thing. There have been plenty of strong Republican women who have spoken out against him, including Rina Shah who was removed from her position as a Washington, D.C. delegate as a result, and Kendal Unruh, a high school teacher and RNC delegate who raised $3.5 million to spread the message that convention delegates can and should vote their conscience.

We need to embrace strong female leaders who will force party officials to think about women’s issues and sponsor legislation that affects women. I am a Democrat, but my organization is not a reflection of my party views. Running Start embodies the idea that if Congress is a more representative body it will serve all people better. Staying home next week sends the message that Running Start doesn’t care about all women. So stop sending hate mail and come watch us inspire young women to run in Cleveland!


susannah-5
Susannah Wellford
founded two organizations to raise the political voice of young women: Running Start (which she now leads) and the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee. Susannah previously worked in the Clinton White House and for Senator Wyche Fowler. Ms. Wellford is a graduate of UVA School of Law and Davidson College. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her twins, Ben and James.

Summit 2015 Podcast: Episode 4

July 2, 2015

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Summer 2015 Interns with Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev

Join Running Start’s amazing crew of summer interns and find out what they’re excited about for this year’s Summit. *BONUS* blooper material at the end, after our ending tagline. Get behind the scenes with the people who are making this amazing day happen! (Learn more about this year’s Summit and past Summits here.)

Get tickets now!

Summit Invitation

Our wildly popular Summit is back for a third year on Saturday, July 11, 2015! The Summit will bring together young women from across the country for the opportunity to hone their leadership skills, strengthen their political connections, and take their leadership to the next level.  This exciting forum will feature nationally acclaimed speakers and highlight the work of some of our incredible partners working to empower women in politics.

In this podcast, interns discuss the speakers and panels they’re looking forward to and give a sneak peek into what Running Start’s office is really like on the eve of one of our biggest programs!

Get tickets now!

Summit 2015 Podcast: Episode 3

June 29, 2015

 

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Join Running Start’s President & Founder Susannah Wellford and Liz Matory, Candidate for Maryland’s 8th Congressional District! (Learn more about this year’s Summit and past Summits here.)

Get tickets now!

Summit Invitation

Our wildly popular Summit is back for a third year on Saturday, July 11, 2015! The Summit will bring together young women from across the country for the opportunity to hone their leadership skills, strengthen their political connections, and take their leadership to the next level.  This exciting forum will feature nationally acclaimed speakers and highlight the work of some of our incredible partners working to empower women in politics.

In this podcast, Susannah and Liz talk about what it’s really like to run for office as a young woman. Hear more from Liz and other young women candidates at this year’s Summit and get more tips and inspiration!

Get tickets now!

Summit 2015 Podcast: Episode 2

June 19, 2015

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Join Running Start’s President & Founder Susannah Wellford and Summit speaker Laura Cox Kaplan, Principal-in-Charge of U.S. Government, Regulatory Affairs & Public Policy at PwC. Susannah and Laura briefly discuss the topic of Laura’s upcoming Summit panel, How to Look the Part But Still Be Yourself. (Learn more about this year’s Summit and past Summits here.)

Get tickets now!

Summit Invitation

Our wildly popular Summit is back for a third year on Saturday, July 11, 2015! The Summit will bring together young women from across the country for the opportunity to hone their leadership skills, strengthen their political connections, and take their leadership to the next level.  This exciting forum will feature nationally acclaimed speakers and highlight the work of some of our incredible partners working to empower women in politics.

In this podcast, Susannah and Laura highlight some of the most critical tips and pitfalls faced by women figuring out how to navigate how to dress for their careers. From jewelry, to weather, to family–these successful women give an enticing taste for the insight and advice you’ll get at the Summit itself.

Get tickets now!

Summit 2015 Podcast: Episode 1

June 10, 2015

 

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Join Running Start’s President & Founder Susannah Wellford and Co-Chair of Running Start and Founder and Principal Strategist at Solid Grounds Strategy Jessica Grounds as they preview the exciting schedule for this year’s Young Women’s Political Summit! (Learn more about this year’s Summit and past Summits here.)

Summit Invitation New

Get tickets now!

Our wildly popular Summit is back for a third year on Saturday, July 11, 2015! The Summit will bring together young women from across the country for the opportunity to hone their leadership skills, strengthen their political connections, and take their leadership to the next level.  This exciting forum will feature nationally acclaimed speakers and highlight the work of some of our incredible partners working to empower women in politics.

In this podcast, Susannah and Jessica highlight some of the amazing panels and speakers and emphasize what a fabulous opportunity the Summit provides to learn important leadership skills, to meet high-power DC connections, to practice networking, and to leave knowing that you have what it takes to run for office.

Get tickets now!

Walmart Announces Three Year Commitment to Washington, DC-based Running Start Star Fellows Program

April 27, 2015

Walmart Transparent
Walmart Contact
Amanda Henneberg
1.800.331.0085
amanda.henneberg@wal-mart.com
news.walmart.com/reporter

 

Walmart Announces Three Year Commitment to Washington, DC-based
Running Start Star Fellows Program
Walmart Supports Local Not-for-Profit Dedicated to Helping Young Women
Experience Capitol Hill

Washington, DC, April 21, 2015 – Today, Walmart Stores, Inc. announced that the company is committing to donate $500,000 over the next three years to the Running Start/Walmart Star Fellows Program. Running Start is a Washington, DC-based program dedicated to providing young women and girls with the skills and confidence they need to become the political leaders of tomorrow.

The Running Start/Walmart Star Fellows Program brings college-aged women to Washington, DC each year to learn about politics by working in the offices of female Members of Congress on Capitol Hill. In addition to honing their policy and political skills, the Fellows take part in a seminar each week conducted by Running Start which gives them the skills and contacts they need to become political leaders. The Fellows emerge from their semester in DC with a deeper understanding of the need for more women to run for office, and confidence in their own abilities to lead, whether at their schools or on the national stage.

“Walmart’s support of Running Start has been invaluable in helping us attract a diverse and highly talented pool of Fellows for our Star Fellowship,” said Susannah Wellford, President and Founder of Running Start. “This program is one of our most in depth trainings, offering students housing, a stipend and a challenging job working for a female member of Congress.  Our graduates have gone on to win elected office, find policy jobs on the Hill, and work in public service. We are so grateful for Walmart’s support!”

Walmart’s support of the Star Fellows program helps provide housing and stipends so young women of all socioeconomic backgrounds have an opportunity to participate in the potentially life-changing experience of working on Capitol Hill. Since 2009, the Star Fellows program has helped support 70 young women to come to Washington, DC and work on Capitol Hill.

“We are thrilled to continue our support of the Running Start/Walmart Star Fellows Program,” said Jana Barresi, Director, Federal Government Relations Walmart. “Running Start is an honorable organization that energizes young women to seek change through the political process and provides them with the programs needed to support them in achieving their goals.”

With the addition of the newly committed $500,000 over the next three years, Walmart’s donations total $1.5 million since the start of the Star Fellows program.

About Walmart
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) helps people around the world save money and live better – anytime and anywhere — in retail stores, online, and through their mobile devices. Each week, more than 245 million customers and members visit our 11,000 stores under 71 banners in 27 countries and ecommerce websites in 10 countries. With fiscal year 2014 sales of over $473 billion, Walmart employs more than 2 million associates worldwide. Walmart continues to be a leader in sustainability, corporate philanthropy and employment opportunity. Additional information about Walmart can be found by visiting http://corporate.walmart.com on Facebook at http://facebook.com/walmart and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/walmart. Online merchandise sales are available at http://www.walmart.com and http://www.samsclub.com.

About Philanthropy at Walmart
Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are committed to helping people live better through philanthropic efforts that draw on the strengths of Walmart in the arenas of sustainability, economic opportunity, and community. As part of our commitment to creating a more sustainable food system worldwide, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are leading the fight against hunger in the United States. They recently exceeded a $2 billion goal to fight hunger one year ahead of schedule and have donated more than 1.5 billion pounds of food to those in need across the country. To learn more about Walmart’s giving, visit www.foundation.walmart.com.

 

Elect Her Featured in News Broadcast

February 25, 2015

High Point University’s Elect Her training was recently featured on Time Warner Cable News!
Learn more about Elect Her, a one-day conference held on 50 college campuses each year
to train women to run for student government.

Running Start is proud to announce our most exciting ad ever!

November 6, 2013

The 10 second ad below is playing every hour on a 500+ square foot screen in the heart of Times Square from now until January 10th. That means it will play more than 1,000 times! During this holiday season, more than 3 million people per day will pass through Times Square. We hope this ad will draw attention to Running Start’s mission of bringing young women to politics.

Please click to nominate a girl to lead today!

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Running Start is grateful to Con Edison for making this ad possible.     conedhorizontal

Goodbye Letter from Our Executive Director

November 1, 2013

Running Start supporters and friends,

JNG.new.Headshot.smallToday is my last day as the Executive Director of Running Start.  I’m leaving my position to pursue my dream of helping to elect our first woman president by becoming Director of the Women’s Office for the Ready for Hillary political action committee.

I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to help start and grow Running Start.  Our work to empower young women to become leaders is deeply meaningful to me and it will be difficult to give up this work as my full-time focus.  I will very much miss the young ambitious women I get to work with and mentor everyday, along with my amazing colleagues, board, and advisory council members.

Through the years of my work with Running Start and our sister organization Women Under Forty Political Action Committee, I have given a lot of advice and council and now I am taking some of my own.  I have often told our young women that they have to step into risk and challenge to really achieve growth and find their full potential.  This is my goal with this next step.  I am grateful to be able to continue to serve Running Start as a board member in the coming years.

Thank you to everyone who has helped and supported me along the way. In particular, I want to thank Running Start’s President and Founder, Susannah Wellford, who has been an incredible colleague and mentor. Susannah’s deep passion for people, her family, and her work, are palpable and makes each person who meets her strive to be better.  I feel so lucky to know her and will continue to support her and Running Start as we all continue to inspire more women to greatness in the most public and important field of all–politics.

With gratitude, 

 

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Jessica N. Grounds

PRESS RELEASE: Elect Her–Campus Women Win Will Reach 50 Schools in 2014

October 21, 2013

Elect Her 2014 Applications Opening SliderElect Her–Campus Women Win, a program designed to expand the pipeline of women running for elected office in college and beyond, heads to 50 colleges and universities in 27 states, the District of Columbia, and Jamaica next year. The program’s 2014 expansion to include 17 new sites was announced today by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and Running Start, which joined forces in 2009 to change the face of politics.

After the last cycle of trainings, 88 percent of the Elect Her participants who ran for student government president won.

“More women see themselves as leaders because of Elect Her,” said AAUW Executive Director Linda D. Hallman, CAE. “We need women leaders because they change the conversation, whether it’s in student government, city hall, or Congress. If there had been more women’s voices on both sides of the table, the recent government shutdown may have been avoided altogether. Women’s leadership in striking a deal to reopen the government shows that a diversity of perspectives is crucial.”

While 20 women now serve in the Senate, an all-time high, women are still underrepresented at all levels of government. Likewise, among U.S. News & World Report’s top 50 colleges, men account for more than two-thirds of student government presidents even though nearly 60 percent of college students in the United States today are women.

Elect Her, which first debuted on nine campuses, will next year reach 50 sites, including community colleges, state schools, and minority-serving institutions.

“We are thrilled to launch the fourth year of Elect Her trainings, hosting our program at a record 50 colleges and universities. Each year I’m consistently impressed by the college women leaders we meet,” said Running Start Executive Director Jessica Grounds. “Running Start and AAUW are committed not only to equipping college women to lead on their campuses but also to imparting the message that we need them to consider leading in politics after college. We are addressing the lack of women political leaders head on by telling college women that their country needs their leadership.”

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The American Association of University Women (AAUW) empowers women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research. Our nonpartisan, nonprofit organization has more than 170,000 members and supporters across the United States, as well as 1,000 local branches and more than 800 college and university partners. Since AAUW’s founding in 1881, our members have examined and taken positions on the fundamental issues of the day — educational, social, economic, and political. Learn more and join us at http://www.aauw.org.

Running Start is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that brings young women to politics so that they are knowledgeable about the process, invested in the outcome, and interested in participating as elected leaders. Our programs educate young women and girls about the importance of politics and imbue them with the skills they need to be leaders so that they can get the “running start” they need to achieve greater political power. With an earlier start in politics, women will climb higher on the leadership ladder, allowing more women to share in the decision-making power of this country. Find out more at Running Start’s website.