As Colorado women interested in politics, we believe one of the most important conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion is about women’s representation in government. Colorado ranks 18th on the 2019 Gender Parity Index, meaning that women’s representation is high in some respects, but low in other areas. For example, in 2020 Colorado had the second highest share of women elected to any state legislature at 47%, and in 2019, 54.5% of statewide school board races were won by women. Despite this, Colorado has never sent a woman to the U.S. Senate.
Nationally, only two out of nine current federal elected officials are women. Locally, only 33% of Colorado’s major cities are served by female mayors. While there are several explanations for why increasing the representation of women in government is difficult, two prominent reasons include a lack of socialization to the idea of public office as a viable career choice and the challenge of deciding to run in the first place (Brookings 2008, American University 2013, Politico 2017).
In partnership with Colorado Municipal League and Colorado 50-50, El Pomar Foundation, one of the oldest and largest private foundations in Colorado, hosted a virtual ‘Women in Politics’ event through its Forum for Civic Advancement, which hosts lectures, panels and seminars to support civic dialogue. This event sought to encourage more women in Colorado to run for elected office, clarify the process of running and provide resources to attendees as they consider running.
While there are compelling reasons to run for office, many women find the process of initiating a run daunting. For women working outside the political field, the complex logistics of campaigning and getting on the ballot can deter women from entering a race. This event aimed to demystify the process by providing clear, concrete resources to women. For example, if a woman were to run for office this year, what would she need to succeed? Who does she need to contact? What steps are required to get on the ballot?
The event answered these questions in three ways: first, by directing women to organizations focused on supporting women who are running for office such as She Should Run and Vote Run Lead; second, by providing resources including Barbara Lee Family Foundation’s “Keys to Elected Office: The Essential Guide for Women” and Women’s Definitive Guide to Getting Political from the Center for American Women and Politics; and finally, by inviting elected officials as panelists to speak to their personal experiences of running for office. El Pomar and its partners were proud to host Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-1), State Senator Faith Winter (D-24), State Representative Stephanie Luck (R-47), State Representative Iman Jodeh (D-41),Alamosa City Councilor Liz Hensley and former University of Denver Student Body Vice President Jess Davidson. The panels were moderated by Erin Hottenstein, Founder and Executive Director of Colorado 50-50 and Sallie Clark, former State Director of USDA Rural Development Colorado, El Paso County Commissioner and Colorado Springs City Councilmember.
If you are interested in viewing the program, you can find the recording at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0__2AtSaJsk.