Women: Why You Should Run for Office and How to Get Started

Melissa Richmond and Catharine Richmond

Only one in four officials at all levels of elected leadership are women. What might surprise you, however, is that women win at the same rates as men. Although a record number of women are running for Congress, there still aren’t enough women running to fill even half of the more than 500,000 elected positions in the United States.

You don’t need experience to run—if you care about your community, have identified issues that affect the people around you, are willing to share your unique experiences, and want to help create solutions, then you should run for office.

Contrary to popular belief, there is not a special set of prerequisites to run. Just remember to think local. The more local the issue, the more likely diverse groups will unite to solve it. Caring about community issues—and not necessarily the most hot-button, controversial, divisive issues—matters. That’s what makes America great.

Running Start is a nonprofit that trains women to run for political office on a nonpartisan basis. A key feature of each training is when each woman identifies an issue and stands up to deliver a one-minute elevator speech on why she cares, how it affects her, why others should care, and what she is asking for from the audience. All great lawyers know that they are most successful when they synthesize vast amounts of information into a few key points and draw in their audiences through personal storytelling. Candidates who can speak compellingly about issues to many voters on a one-to-one basis are the candidates who win.

Surprisingly, among women state legislators, community involvement is the number one reason that prompted them to run. Running Start is in the middle of surveying more than 1,800 women state legislators about why they ran and what prepared them to do so. Here’s what women say prompted them to run:

  • Involvement in community
  • Support from family and friends
  • Being asked
  • Having a supportive partner
  • Interest in a specific issue

You’ve been trained to think analytically and to speak and write persuasively, which dovetails perfectly with a desire to create change in your community. You can—and should—consider running for office. While there are training programs you can attend and other resources you can access, you don’t need any of those things. You’re ready. Pick an issue, speak about it based on your personal experience, convince others why it matters, and you can—and will—win!

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Melissa Richmond

Melissa Richmond is vice president of Running Start, a nonpartisan nonprofit based in Washington, DC, that trains young women to run for political office. 

Catharine Richmond

Catharine Richmond is an assistant US attorney prosecuting drug, gun, gang, and fraud crimes in the Central District of California.