A Clear Message at YWCA USA Annual Conference: More Women Need to Run for Political Office

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A Clear Message at YWCA USA Annual Conference: More Women Need to Run for Political Office

by Amberlie Phillips
Chief Development Officer, YWCA Utah

The YWCA USA conference a few weeks ago was full of inspiring speakers, great networking, and wonderful educational opportunities. I learned so much during each portion of the conference – from watching my CEO and a YWCA USA Board Member gracefully navigate an advocacy day meeting with an unsympathetic legislator, to getting insights into how different generations approach their philanthropy. It was three days of reinvigorating immersion into the power of persimmon!

For me, a repeated theme of the conference was one that holds personal meaning at our YWCA in Utah: in order to make change in our government, we need to have more women at the table, in the halls of Congress, and in the White House. Leader Pelosi made this point during her Capitol Hill Day address to attendees, and Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress echoed this sentiment during her luncheon keynote on Friday.

This message is particularly poignant for Utah women: in Utah, not a single woman holds a seat in Congress or statewide elected office. Since Utah became a state in 1896, we have elected just three women to Congress (Martha Hughes Cannon in 1896, Karen Shepherd in 1993, and Enid Green in 1995). In this year’s state legislature, women made up just 16.3% of legislators, while nationally the ratio was 24.2%.

At the YWCA Utah, we are working to bring these national and state numbers up, and also to get more women elected at all levels – county, municipal, you name it! We are the founding partners of a local initiative that is designed to encourage more women to run for office at all levels: Real Women Run. Real Women Run is a bipartisan, collaborative endeavor that will begin its fourth year this fall. Our partners include local universities and colleges, current and former female elected officials from both parties, and other nonprofit and community groups who share our belief that more women in the halls of power will result in better government.

Real Women Run provides training and networking opportunities for women interested in running for office, working on a political campaign, or serving on a public board or commission. Our most recent general training attracted close to 100 women, and this was in an “off” year, with only municipal elections planned!

Initiatives like Real Women Run and continued conversations about the importance of diversity of all kinds among our elected officials are just two ways that this issue is being addressed.

I was grateful to hear a call to action from speakers at the YWCA USA annual conference, and hope to see more women on the ballot with each coming year. Women are 50% of the population, and I believe that equal representation will better serve all citizens of this country. What efforts is your community or local YW making to encourage more women to run?

Amberlie Phillips became a member of the YWCA Utah’s management team in 2012. She reports directly to Anne Burkholder, YWCA CEO and oversees all fundraising, grant writing, marketing, communications and volunteer efforts for the organization. Phillips earned a Bachelor of English and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Utah. She has over 12 years of experience in fundraising and marketing and has worked raising major gifts at San Diego State University, as Development Director of the Utah Food Bank and also in development at Ballet West. While at the Utah Food Bank, her team’s work was honored with USFR’s 2006 Development Communication Campaign of the Year Award. Early in her career, Phillips was selected as a member of the inaugural YWCA Young Women’s Leadership Board.

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