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.
The 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.
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 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.