When President Trump won the presidency in 2016, June Diane Raphael, producer-actor-podcaster-feminist, thought that if Trump could win elected office, she certainly could too. She had no idea where to start. She couldn’t find a running-for-office guidebook with the information she wanted and so she teamed up with Kate Black, former Vice President of EMILY’s List, to write REPRESENT: The Woman’s Guide to Running for Office and Changing the World. REPRESENT inspires women who are thinking that maybe, possibly, they might want to run for office one day and encourages them to run and to run now.
REPRESENT is part inspiration and part hard truths about the difficulties of running for office. On the inspiration side, REPRESENT presents academic research as well as testimonials from women who have run for office and won. Did you know that a 2011 study found that men are 60% more likely to feel qualified to run for office than women? And that’s not all. During the same study a majority of men who felt they were not qualified to run still said they would consider running anyway.
Ayanna Pressley (US Rep from MA) explains that self-doubt was one of the problems she had to overcome before she ran for Congress. She worried she wasn’t smart enough and that she hadn’t done enough to run for public office. She eventually realized she was qualified because she had the desire to serve and her experiences would make her an empathetic and effective leader. And now she’s a Congressperson.
The authors tell you in all caps headers that “YES, YOU ARE QUALIFIED TO RUN FOR OFFICE” and “YOUR EXPERIENCE IS YOUR EXPERTISE.” And they point out that “Men. Are. Not. Waiting.” Men are not waiting until they have more experience in their careers or more experience in local public office before they run for a state or federal office. And if you need more reminders later in the book, each chapter ends with “Keep Reading. Stay Working. We need you.”
REPRESENT doesn’t sugar coat how hard it can be to run for office, the book holds some hard truths. Depending on the office you are running for, campaigning takes time and money. You may have to get help with some of your current responsibilities like caring for an elderly family member or taking kids to sports and activities. Or you may have to ask for some time off from your job so you can spend time campaigning. In the end, win or lose, the work of campaigning for office will open up new opportunities for you and so the time you invest will be well worth it.
Women face even bigger hurdles than men when it comes to raising money. Women have accumulated less wealth than men, women get paid less for equivalent work, and women don’t have the same access to networks of wealth that men do. And, let’s face it, even in the best of circumstances raising money can be difficult and uncomfortable,
REPRESENT offers advice about how to figure out how much money you will need, how to get started raising money, and organizations that can help build your fundraising expertise. Crisanta Duran (former CO State Speaker of the House) provides her advice, “Lead with your ideas and values for the position you’re running for. It’s easier and more effective than asking ‘Hey can you contribute money to me and my campaign?”
REPRESENT stops short of telling you how to actually win your campaign. There is no information about calculating your win number, defining your universes, cutting turf for door knocking, setting up your office, or training your volunteers.
REPRESENT provides a realistic way to determine if you should run. It tells you to quit worrying about things you don’t need to worry about (am I qualified?) and instead focus on the real issues you may deal with (can I rearrange things so I have the time? can I raise the money?). All of this comes with a healthy dose of encouragement to go for it. You are needed at the table.
Start Running! We need you.