Why Didn’t You Run For School Board Or Something?
Erin Vilardi, the founder and executive director of the nonprofit VoteRunLead, which trains women to run for office, says women also are expected to work their way up to elected office. Young men, by contrast, are often praised for their boldness in seeking public office. “Somehow women have to climb this invisible ladder and men get anointed into whatever position they want,” she tells Bustle.
Theresa Gasper is a first-time Democratic candidate in the race for Ohio’s 10th Congressional District. She says she decided to run because the issues she cares most about, like jobs and economic opportunity, are largely handled at the federal level. But Gasper tells Bustle she’s frequently asked why she aimed for Congress in her first run for office, rather than something more low-stakes like the local school board.
She recalls fielding similar questions years ago when seeking loans to expand her business. “I would get comments from these bankers like, ‘I have a daughter your age and I wouldn’t want her to take on a risk like this’ or ‘How much does your husband have to do with your company?” Gasper says. “I would say, ‘Well how much does your wife have to do with your job?'”
Gasper, Amiwala, and Phifer all try to counter the assumptions people make about their qualifications by detailing their past work experience and explaining how it will translate to politics. For Gasper, that means touting her background as a business owner who worked to transform Dayton’s South Park neighborhood to illustrate how she hopes to revamp the entire district. For Amiwala, that means detailing how her internship with a Republican U.S. Senate candidate prepared her to work across the aisle. For Phifer, that means starting all her stump speeches by describing her 10 years of work for the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.