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‘Women running for office will change the world:’ Elect Her event elevates marginalized voices

Over 60% of Kent’s campus consists of female identifying students, but this is not reflective in the student leadership roles currently held.

Elect Her is a program that teaches students about running for office and the skills they need to hold leadership positions. The day-long training was created by Running Start, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that trains young women from high school to early career to run for office.

“Women running for office will change the world,” Allison Goulden, facilitator and digital & evaluations manager of Running Start said. “Over the last 15 years, we have given over 25,000 young women the confidence, capabilities and connections they need to run for office and win.” 

Cassandra Pegg-Kirby, director of the Women’s Center, talked about the importance of empowering women and letting their voices be heard.

“It’s super exciting to have this space with all these folks at different majors and different levels within the university, inspired and interested to elevate their voices, be heard and get in places where decisions are being made … that impact their day to day lives,” Pegg-Kirby said. 

She said the energy of the program itself brings women together, but it also allows for opportunities in the future. 

“So you see the immediate impact of it just by people lighting up, them feeling welcome, them coming in a little nervous and then by the end we’re all hanging out,” Pegg-Kirby said. “But then down the road is the running for positions.” 

Many on-campus organizations including the Women’s Center, Undergraduate Student Government, Community Engaged Learning, the League of Women Voters and May 4 Visitors Center worked to put this event together. 

The featured guest speaker, Elizabeth Walters, chairwoman of the Ohio Democratic Party and first woman elected to this role, spoke about the challenges that come with being a woman in government. 

“The other thing I think is very real that no one ever talks about, because we’re all supposed to be women who don’t care about these things,” Walters said. “The commentary on your appearance is relentless.” 

Almost every person in the crowd nodded in agreement or rolled their eyes, having experienced this. 

“As much as we all can build up some callouses to that, that kind of stuff is tough,” Walters said. “As women we’re very conditioned that [our appearance] matters.” 

Walters also talked about dealing with the high expectations and people forcing their opinion on her. 

“I get talked over a lot,” Walters said. “My facts, my reason, my beliefs get questioned a lot, even as state party chair, men … want to tell me why I’m wrong.” 

Sherry Rose, president of the League of Women Voters of Kent and Kent State alumna shared the importance of making sure they clear any obstacles to the ballots. 

“We’ve been fighting for people’s access to the ballot for 104 years and it doesn’t just stop with the color of skin or the race or gender of people, it goes to their socioeconomic situations,” Rose said. 

Sonia Karkare, program coordinator at the Women’s Center, said this program is not only for representation, but to bring about a transformational change in the political climate across the world.

“It’s sad to know that the [League of Women Voters] has had to exist for 100 years, meaning that we’re constantly having to fight battles politically, professionally and personally,” Karkare said. “I hope we ignite a spark of wanting to exercise your voice and your vote here, I want them to be able to exercise that right unhesitatingly and unapologetically.”

Sarah Robinson, the graduate assistant for the Women’s Center, attended the event last year as well and was excited to see this year’s turnout and the passions each student had. 

“There’s just not enough resources or topics like this for women in general,” Robinson said. “So it’s just important to have this opportunity and see the diverse perspectives, and races all involved in seeing what issues are most important.”

Shannon Brown, a junior and current senator for the Honors College, is running for Undergraduate Student Government president and attended the event. 

“It’s so important. We can inspire students and give students who feel like they do not have a voice, to be that voice for them and advocate for them on issues that matter to us in our different identities,” Brown said. “If I can be that voice, I would be honored to do so.” 

Jessie Starkey, a junior and current director of governmental affairs for undergraduate student government, is running with Brown for vice president. She believes it is important to get civically engaged as soon as possible. 

“As women we are underrepresented and it’s important to make sure that our voices are heard,” Starkey said. “Sometimes we have to fight for ourselves and that starts as soon as you can.” 

Savana Capp is Print Planner. Contact her at [email protected].

Elaina Matricardi is a TV2 Reporter. Contact her at [email protected]

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About the Contributor
Savana Capp, Print Planner
Savana is a sophomore journalism major with an English minor and the print planner for KentWired this semester. Previously, she was a reporter and general assignment editor. She enjoys writing about important things going on around campus and student life. In her free time, she loves reading, journaling and crocheting.
Contact her at [email protected]

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    Jeff GliddenFeb 4, 2024 at 10:54 pm

    “Over 60% of Kent’s campus consists of female identifying students, but this is not reflective in the student leadership roles currently held.”

    What percentage of student leadership roles are currently held by female-identifying students? That’s kind-of a pivotal statistic.