By student contributor Asthaa Chaturvedi
Global Gender Current is proud to present its first post in a short interview series that aims to understand the perspective of leaders in the arena of women and development and ask the simple question of why working for equality and agency of women matters in this moment in the 21st century. Through short interviews and audio clips we hope to engage our readers and connect with folks who are in the process of learning about the multifaceted process of improving the wellbeing of women in the U.S. and around the world.
We’re beginning our series with the issue of women in politics. According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, women hold just 20.4 percent of parliamentary seats around the world. Internationally and at home, there are disparities when it comes to the political involvement and leadership of women. Susannah Wellford Shakow, President and co-founder of Running Start, an organization that aims to support young women and girls as they think about running for political office in the U.S., has dedicated much of her career to this cause. Shakow also cofounded and led Women Under Forty Political Action Committee, the only PAC devoted to getting young women of all parties into office.
While Running Start’s initiatives are focused in the U.S., Shakow has conducted workshops in Israel, Kuwait, Russia,and Shri Lanka and finds that regardless of the the audience, in rural villages or sophisticated boardrooms, women share the same concerns. The key is the same in developed and developing countries. Women need the confidence to be leaders themselves.
Shakow says she realized that women might not be on the same level playing field when she was a lawyer and questions started to arise about when she planned on having children. She decided that women could balance both a career and family, and do extraordinary things.
“I’ve found that biggest changes have been made in the business world. Businesses are starting to pay attention to women, because if they don’t, women will leave,” Shakow said when I asked her about where the biggest strides have been made. Running Start programs help young women from middle and high school practice the skills they need for leadership positions, meet women who can serve as role models, and understand the importance having a voice in the political process. Check out our audio clip below to hear Shakow’s perspective on why getting women into political office remains relevant in this day and age.