Elect Her Strives to Get Women Into Office

University of Cincinnati. Posted by Cynthia Terrell on November 10, 2015

By Sophia Gaines

Female students of University of Cincinnati were encouraged to run for political office and student government and given the tools to do so at an Elect Her workshop Saturday.

The workshop, held in the African American Cultural Resource Center (AACRC), focused on topics such as the importance of leadership and different positions in student government. 

Multiple activities highlighted how to take a stance on an issue, networking, campaign strategy, creating an “elevator speech” and campaign simulation.

Many female leaders spoke at the workshop, including those at the university and throughout Ohio, including Danielle Hagen, a UC graduate and Elect Her facilitator.

Hagen has served as a deputy communication director for Congresswoman Michelle Bachman and a media relations and communication strategist in Washington D.C for elected officials and agencies.

She previously taught public relations and public speaking at UC.

Hagen discussed the low percentage of women in government positions. For instance, 24 percent of state legislators in the U.S. are women and women of color account for 5 percent of state legislators. 

Representation 2020, an organization that works to raise awareness of the underrepresentation of women in elected office, recently assigned each state a Gender Parity Score measuring women’s electoral success at local, state and national levels.

The median Gender Parity Score is 18.1 as of the beginning of 2015. This year is the first time any state has achieved gender parity, with New Hampshire scoring a 57.1.

Ohio ranks 35th in the U.S. with a Gender Parity Score of 14.6.

Hagen talked about her past experiences as being one of few women in university programs and in her career.

More progress, fiscal benefits and less corruption, Hagen explained, were a few of the benefits women receive for holding leadership positions.

In reference to the U.S. government shutdown in recent years, Hagen said, “It was the women in leadership who said, ‘That’s enough. We need to get the government running again.’”

Women’s issues are not limited to only reproductive rights and education, Hagen said. Taxes, gas prices, jobs and more are women’s issues as well.

As part of the “What’s Your Issue?” activity, students discussed issues important to them, such as campus safety, diversity, inclusion and not having feminine sanitation dispensers in some bathrooms.

Tamaya Dennard, a UC graduate and political director of the P.G Sittenfeld U.S. Senate Campaign, discussed her passion for politics. 

Dennard’s TED Talk, “I Run Like a Girl,” was also shown.

“It was politics that chose me,” Dennard said.

She told stories about helping a homeless veteran receive benefits, and a bus stop by a grocery store in which was threatened to move because of the “crowd” it was attracting.

These situations made her want to get involved with politics, she said, adding her passion for getting women involved in leadership positions, she said.

“Until we get involved in politics, the pay gap won’t be changed and pregnancy will be seen as a handicap,” Dennard said.

Ashley Nkadi, a fourth-year neuroscience student and president of the United Black Student Association, gave a presentation about campus activism, student leadership, social justice and how to use skills learned at UC after graduation. 

“Service also has to be that component of reaching into the community and people of lower socioeconomic status,” Nkadi said.

She also listed where service can be forgotten, such as the greater Cincinnati area, Cincinnati Public Schools, communities and identities that are not one’s own. 

Ellie Thiemann, a second-year student and member of SG, discussed student involvement and student government.

“Just by being here today and already speaking up for causes you care about; you’re being a model to other students,” Thiemann said. “Someone is listening to you, I promise.”

Both she and other women at Elect Her stressed the importance of networking and reaching out to those you look up to for advice.

“We have great resources, even the people in this room,” Thiemann said.

A panel of elected officials also answered questions about challenges as women in politics, inspiration, importance of women in office, their past college leadership experiences and gave advice to attendees.

Yvette Simpson, president Pro-Tempore of Cincinnati City Counsel, said a challenge she has noticed for women in politics is finding the balance of being a strong leader.

“The difficult part is making sure that we’re perceived in the right way and that we don’t take other people’s issues on ourselves,” Simpson said. 

Judge Beth Myers of Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas said the biggest challenge for judicial candidates and office holders is making sure people know who they are and what they do. 

“I will put in a plug to any of you who ever want to come and watch an active court room,” Myers said. “Our courts are open. I will invite you personally to come to my court any time that you want.”

Myers’s advice to students was to find something they feel strongly about, and do not join groups just to join groups.

“I don’t think you need to follow the path of any one of us. You need to find your own path,” Myers said.

House Representative Denise Driehaus talked about her inspiration to get into political office after having a political family, being president of the Parent Teacher Association and on community council.

“You do all this stuff in leadership roles and then you say to yourself, ‘Wow, I’d really like to take this to the next level and…spend real time working on these issues and get paid for it,” Driehaus said.

She added she has thoroughly enjoyed her time as a state representative.

Brigid Kelley, representative of the local 75 chapters of the United Food and Commercial Workers, referred to her leadership positions during her time as Xavier University undergraduate trying to restart the College Democrats. 

Kelley said she and other students had to make the rest of campus care about what they were doing.

“It was hard, and it was tough but it was really worth while because eventually we got it off the ground,” Kelley said. “If we didn’t take the initiative and we didn’t work hard to make it happen, then it never would have.”

Her advice to students was to always be honest about what they believe in.

“Know what you stand for and tell people,” she said. “You’re not going to find people who agree with you on every single thing.”

The remainder of the event included advice from Hannah Kenney, a fifth-year biomedical engineering student and Rachel Motley, a third-year political science, international affairs and history student.

Motley said having women in politics is extremely important.

“I actually went to Elect Her last year and I saw how amazing of an event it was, and I really wanted to put it on again this year and open up to as many women as possible,” Motley said.

Also included was a portion called “The Nuts and Bolts of Running for Student Government” with current UC Student Government senators Meghan Cappel, Brooke Duncan, Jackie Mulay, Veronica Nunez and Satra Taylor.

Emma Fox, a third-year neurobiology student said, “I think we need to be a little more cognizant of…uplifting people who have different barriers than us of getting into leadership.”

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