SOUTHFIELD — A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization is combating the underrepresentation of women in office by educating women on what it takes to get elected.
A handful of women met for an all-day training session June 11 at Sheet Metal Workers Local 80, 17100 12 Mile Road, for Vote Run Lead’s Run As You Are program.
According to Shannon Garrett, co-founder and board chair of Vote Run Lead, the nationwide event was the fourth of its kind in Michigan.
“(Vote Run Lead) is trying to accelerate the number of women in political leadership, and so we’ve launched the Run As You Are campaign to try to help women see that they’re ready to run as they are right now, that we don’t need any special skills or degrees, that it’s time for women’s leadership now,” Garrett said.
According to organizers, Vote Run Lead has trained upwards of 7,000 women over the last several months, and more women than ever are qualified to run for elected offices.
“Really, since the election, regardless of what side you were on, the election has sparked this need for women to figure out for themselves what they want,” Garrett said. “I think now is the time for women’s leadership, and we’re seeing that all across the country.”
During the session, women learned how to expand their local networks and build a women’s “squad,” plus the ins and outs of the campaign trail, how to articulate their experiences as expertise, and how to outline a path to political leadership.
“We spent the morning talking about expertise and owning your expertise. What we find is women tend not to label the experience we have as expertise,” Garrett said. “When we’re going out and trying to voice our ambition in the political world, we want to establish ourselves as experts. You don’t have to know everything about everything and every issue, but you have experience that you can bring to the table and knowledge. Just living in this world as a woman, you know a lot.”
Rochester Hills City Clerk Tina Barton attended the training session.
“It’s about bringing our voices to the table and bringing equality,” Barton said. “That’s what you’ll see here today is that half the room is Republican and half is Democrat, and I think that’s really awesome, because we’re not going to talk about party today.”
Mary Raglin, 19, a Rochester resident studying public policy at Michigan State University, said she went to the event to learn how to navigate the political world at a young age.
“It’s hard to know exactly how to fundraise and how to make all the connections you need to,” Raglin said. “Like it says, ‘Run As You Are.’ It’s important to learn how to run based on the qualifications you have. At a young age, it’s harder, I think, to gauge an audience when you don’t have as much past experience.”
Malissa Bossardet, of Bloomfield Hills, said she attended the event because she will be running for District 40 state representative. The seat, currently held by Mike McCreedy, is up for election in November.
“For me, it’s about defining the qualifications that I already have in my experience and my expertise, and trying to figure out my messaging and what’s relatable to my constituents,” Bossardet said.
For more information, go to voterunlead.com.