Breaking Barriers & Building Bridges: Supporting Women’s Leadership

Uplifting & honoring women’s civic leadership this Women’s History Month

We can’t help but reflect on the incredible progress women in our country have made in civic leadership. There are currently a record-setting number of women serving as state governors and the highest percentage of U.S. congresswomen in history. The 2022 midterm elections also saw the most Black and Latina women in history run for House, Senate, and Governor seats, and the White House issued the first-ever national strategy on gender equity in 2021.

At the same time, we know that so much more is needed to achieve true gender equity in our country’s political leadership, policies, and practices. Because the reality is that women represent over 50% of our population and only 29% of the seats in Congress and 25% in the Senate.

This Women’s History Month, we’re naming ways to support and uplift women’s political leadership. When more women can break through the barriers that so often hold back their advancement, all of us stand to benefit. Women’s political leadership has a profound impact on promoting diversity and inclusiveness in government, achieving gender equity, and advocating for women’s issues. Studies have found that women leaders tend to prioritize policies that promote social justice and equality, such as increased access to healthcare and education; introduce more bills and see more bills enacted into law; and work across party lines more regularly. 

Research also shows that just by simply running for office, women are influencing future generations’ political engagement and confidence levels. This is why we’re particularly proud of the 57 LEE women who stepped forward in the 2022 November election cycle to run for elected office. Learn more about one of those women, Lorena Chavez, or join us later this month to learn from and uplift women’s stories. The effect these candidates have on younger generations, whether they win or lose, is critical to us achieving a more equitable society in the years to come.

Here are just some of the barriers women currently face and the support that can be helpful in overcoming them.

You Are Not Defined By Your Resume

One of the biggest concerns we’ve heard from women considering political leadership is they lack the background and qualifications needed to be successful. This mental barrier - that you should have more experience - is common with women before pursuing any type of leadership role, and it often stops them from pursuing opportunities.

LEE Elected Leadership Coach Aisha Bien-Aime says having a thought partner or mentor to support you through this is critical. Finding a leadership coach who will provide you the empowerment you need and work past these hurdles in close partnership can help women move forward.

Similarly recognizing that someone’s educational history or work accomplishments do not always equate to a greater ability to make an impact on a community is essential. Aisha shares that so much of running for office is about making a commitment to your community, stepping up for what’s just and equitable, and working on behalf of the people you represent. No particular degree or job title will make anyone more qualified for that. 

Your Future Impact Is The Star

Another barrier that we often hear from women at LEE is that the spotlight often shines too brightly on you when running for office. The concern that others will perceive you differently and scrutinize your priorities frequently holds women back from pursuing politics.

Aisha says the inclination to center conversations around community, rather than self, is exactly what makes candidates more effective in elected office. “In my experience, individuals who shun the spotlight are more likely to prioritize the interests of their community and to effectively advocate for collective needs.” she says. 

Working with a team to support your campaign messaging and fundraising work can be instrumental in overcoming this challenge. When you have the right framing of your goals for your community and can articulate how you plan to shape the future of your district, you’ll feel much more empowered and ready to run. 

LEE’s elected leadership coaches like Aisha regularly practice these types of conversations with members considering running for office. With campaign messaging expertise and countless resources for making fundraising pitches, coaches like Aisha and programs like LEE’s People of Color Political Leadership Program can help dissolve your spotlight concerns and accelerate your leadership. 

Your Network Is Your Support

Women more frequently face the burden of balancing their work and personal lives, which can hold them back from pursuing leadership opportunities. We regularly hear the concern that the added responsibilities of caring for children and fulfilling work obligations make it difficult to find the time and energy to run for office or participate in political campaigns. 

At LEE, we know this is a real barrier, and data shows that even in 2023, women continue to bear the burdens of household tasks more regularly than their male counterparts. 

Aisha says that it’s important to acknowledge that no one person can be expected to “do it all.” Delegating tasks to others is an essential component of any political campaign. As she suggests, candidates need the input and effort from their entire community to succeed. By sharing responsibility and building a supportive network like the one LEE offers, women can overcome the barriers to political leadership and make critical advancements for their community.

If you’re considering stepping forward, LEE’s leadership coaches have combined several decades worth of experience providing leaders with individualized support not typically found in political environments. Our coaches have worked with hundreds of women through their political campaigns by developing personal connections and finding opportunities that meet your interests and needs. We’re invested in your long-term leadership development and helping you meet the needs of your community, and we would love to support you on your journey. Connect with us to learn more.

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