Second Elect Her workshop promotes women's involvement in Congress, university politics

The Saturday event was run through the American Association of University Women.

Women make up more than 50 percent of the U.S. population, But they represent only 20 percent of congressional positions.

“It’s not that women are less capable than men,” said Eileen Hartmann, director of the New York sector of American Association of University Women, about the discrepancy. “It’s that they are sometimes less confident.”

On Saturday, Nov. 15,  approximately 40 students gathered at Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel and Conference Center to address this issue in SU’s second annual Elect Her workshop. Elect Her is an organization run by the AAUW that promotes female representation in Congress. Elect Her specifically promotes the idea that campaigning at the student government level provides women the foundation to pursue congressional positions later in life.

“There’s not just a lack of women in politics,” said education senior Adrianna Kam, who served as the campus coordinator for the event. “They are also scrutinized.”

This workshop, hosted annually on hundreds of campuses across the company, caters to young women who have an interest in shaping government, as well as students who wish to take a leadership role on their campus, Kam said. Led by a facilitator, students spent the morning and early afternoon building their support network, developing campaign speeches and discussing current issues on campus.

SU alumna Kate Farrar, who served as the facilitator for the event, said she believed SU has the capability to be a starting point for female empowerment.

“It is important to begin practicing leadership skills now, at the university level,” Farrar said.

Kam, who worked on the Student Association with political science senior Allie Curtis, attended the Elect Her event that Curtis ran last year. Kam said she was inspired to continue it after she saw the lack of female confidence in running for leadership positions. She was interning at a local middle school as a school counselor, for example, and especially took notice of many girls’ lack of self-confidence.

“It hurt me to see all these girls so upset,” Kam said. “It showed me that social construction starts in the classroom, because right now, for them to go into higher leadership positions, it seems almost impossible.”

Kam believes that workshops such as Elect Her fulfill a need for many female students to gain empowerment, and not just in the political sector. The workshop, however, is not just important for women.

“It’s a men’s issue as well," Kam said. “Men should see what it’s like for a female to run for office and how it’s different.” Several men were present at Saturday’s event, up from just one last year.

Throughout the day, students conversed with one another about issues on campus that were important to them. They created mock campaigns that focused on some of these issues, which included the closing of the Advocacy Center, the dining hall food and reckless driving on campus.

Students practiced giving speeches and were taught the basics of running a successful campaign, from funding to publicity to managing one’s campaign team. Farrar provided the attendees with the nuts and bolts of pursuing a student government position.

This year, the event was funded by Fast Forward Syracuse, a competition set up by Chancellor Kent Syverud to promote student-chosen events and activities. Students submitted proposals, which were then selected for funding. Kam applied to bring Elect Her back onto campus, and was awarded a grant to pay for the event and the conference room at the Sheraton.

Looking ahead, Kam said she hopes to expand Elect Her’s role with Syracuse. Younger students in the Student Association are planning to continue Elect Her’s relationship with Syracuse, she said, and hopefully transform it into a staple event at Syracuse. Next year, she added, she hopes the university can provide transportation for local high school students to attend.

“There are so many students that need these mentors and these workshops in the local community,” Kam said.

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