Elect Her conference aims to amplify new voices


Kaitlyn Murray

Kathleen Clyde, who served four terms in the Ohio House of Representatives, speaks on the importance of having women in office at the Elect Her event on Feb. 4, 2023.

Faith Fistler, Reporter

While the 2022 midterm elections saw record-breaking wins for female candidates, the demographics of elected government officials is still disproportionately male.

The Elect Her training seminar seeks to give underrepresented voices a microphone.

The seminar came back to Kent State after a two-year hiatus Saturday to train and inspire a new generation of students to strive for leadership positions.

The program was created by Running Start, a non-profit organization that trains young women to run for office.

Several on-site Kent State organizations, including the Women’s Center, Leadership Center, Undergraduate Student Government, May 4 Visitor Center and Community Engaged Learning also collaborated on the event.

Women’s Center director Cassandra Pegg-Kirby said a more diverse government starts at the university level.

“What’s been found is that people who run for office like government offices, school boards, things like that often have had experience of holding office in college,” she said. “So if we can get people started, then it sort of pushes the pipeline a little bit more to include more people in consideration for those higher level offices within our communities.”

While the program emphasizes female empowerment, Pegg-Kirby said the doors are open to everyone. The event was attended by students from different backgrounds and fields of study.

“It’s really at its very core, I think, much broader and larger, empowering folks to feel like my voice matters,” she said.

The one-day training seminar focuses on honing skills that will best prepare students for building campaigns and networks through interactive exercises.

“It’s about teaching skills, preparing, helping understand what the process is, and encouraging more young women to run for office,” Pegg-Kirby said.

The exercises were led by Chloe Roblyer, operations manager of Running Start. The attendees were tasked to identify issues they are passionate about, build connections and practice advocating on their own behalf.

Senior early education major and second-time event attendee Kayla Stephens said she recommends the event for everyone.

“I feel like it’s just helpful because now you know that you have a support system, but it also changes your thinking and provides a different perspective,” Stephens said. “So I highly suggest this event for anyone, even people who don’t think they’re going into politics. It gives you something to think about.”

The featured guest speaker, Kathleen Clyde, former Ohio House of Representatives member, spoke about the importance of women in leadership positions.

“I think that our democratically elected leadership, whether it’s student government, whether it’s your local school board, your local city council, should look like the population of the city, the town, the state, the country,” Clyde said. “And when you have only 10 to 20 to 30% of that electorate being women, or sometimes 0%, that’s not reflective, that’s not democratic.”

While Elect Her is an annual event that happens on the first Saturday of February, Pegg-Kirby said there are opportunities for students to practice their leadership skills all year round.

“Leadership is not just running for a political office, that gives you sort of the maximum,” Pegg-Kirby said. “But it may be that you’re thinking about being involved in a student organization, or taking some leadership in your classroom or doing some things differently.”

While Elect Her is a training program, it is more so the starting point for conversation to give all underrepresented voices a seat at the table, Pegg-Kirby said.

“It’s having people think a little differently … What do they have to offer in the fact that their voice matters, and how can they share that?” she said. “And how can they participate? And how can they make sure that their voice is being heard?”

Faith Fistler is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].