Image sourced from IGNITE National Website
51. That is the percentage of American citizens who are women*.
20.6. That is the percentage of Congressional seats women hold*.
This alarming disparity in representation is not one we should gloss over. For any portion of our society in 2019 to go un- or underrepresented in higher office means that there is a significant gap between the views of the voting public and the makeup of our current elected officials. Gender parity has proven beneficial time and time again for equity in education, healthcare, voting rights, and bolstering our nation’s economy. Furthermore, when female candidates have been elected, they have been more likely to introduce progressive, equity and accessibility driven legislation (see Rep. AOC’s Green New Deal or Rep. Susan Davis’ Universal Vote By Mail Act). Yet, when considering careers in public service, often overqualified women deny themselves the chance to run, believing that they lack the skills to try.
That is where IGNITE comes in.
IGNITE is a movement of young women who are ready and eager to become the next generation of political leaders.
So how does this work? With a mission to train 5,000 young women annually, IGNITE works to find innovative ways to engage young women in the political process. For now though, I will focus on their signature training conference series, Young Women Run (YWR). YWR occurs annually in each of IGNITE’s chapter cities, offering attendees a localized understanding of what it looks like to run for office. As IGNITE enters it’s tenth year, it has been able to build a coalition of fierce advocates and female elected officials to help lead trainings, have lunches with students, and offer advice to potential candidates. IGNITE strives to curate an intersectional, ideologically diverse list of speakers to motivate and challenge attendees from all walks of life. At this year’s Young Women Run D.C. conference for example, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-7) shared the same stage as Congresswoman Susan Brooks (R-IN-5). They recognize that the way we build power in our government is by working together to motivate young women from vastly different backgrounds toward the same mission: running for office.
Classes at this year’s culminating D.C. conference included developing a field plan (Crossroads Campaigns), proper money management (Jacqueline Modaferri, Chase Bank VP and Branch Manager), on-Camera media training, and social media campaign management (Facebook: Tools for Candidates). These workshops helped attendees understand what elements are most important to building and sustaining a successful campaign. On the final day of the conference, IGNITE took on The Hill, sending more than 200 young women to lobby for voting rights reform, better civics education in schools, and menstrual product accessibility.
IGNITE’s work is starting a necessary fire on Capitol Hill and beyond. As someone who has been a member, conference speaker, and mentor in IGNITE, I can attest to the transformative work it does for members of marginalized communities, both through encouraging young women to run and through advocacy. Prior to joining IGNITE, I had never been in a space that was both strongly competitive and familial at once. It is IGNITE’s ability to create spaces wherein both can exist that will spark political power in every young woman. Are you ready?
I know I am.