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Women's Group: A Conversation with Erin Loos Cutraro, Founder and CEO of She Should Run

June 2018

Why did you start She Should Run?

Erin Loos Curaro: I started She Should Run in 2011 after working in politics for a number of years with active candidates running for office across the country because what I found, cycle after political cycle, was that despite all the talent and resources allocated to help women get elected, there was still little progress being made in terms of the overall percentage of women serving in elected office. It felt like there had to be another way to address the problem because using the traditional playbook was not going to create gender equality in our lifetime.

The research is clear that when women run for office, they win at the same rate as men, but there just aren’t enough women who are at the table in politics. She Should Run was born as a simple idea, where we created an online tool where anyone could submit information about a woman they knew who should think about running for office. Our team would then reach out to those women, and from there it took off. This tool is still active on our website today and continues to be the #1-way people come into the She Should Run community.

What is the mission of She Should Run?

Erin: Our mission is simply to encourage women to run for office in the United States and our goal is to encourage 250,000 women to do so by the year 2030.

Was there a specific moment in your life that spurred you to get involved in politics? How was the idea of being politically active demystified for you?

For me it was a hunger for learning and having a wider purpose. I found my way to politics through volunteering, so it was completely outside of my professional role at the time. I started getting to know different causes that were very particular to my community and spent a lot of time talking to folks in the neighborhood about what issues mattered to them and had an “ah-ha moment” of the change that is possible when policy is involved.

As I saw what was possible in politics, I started following some local and federal races and got to know more people who were involved in political circles. Then one day a friend reached out to me who knew I had an interest in being around really smart people who were getting things done in their communities, and asked me to consider joining a campaign staff that was forming for a state-wide race in Missouri. At first, I thought it was crazy because I had a secure job, so leaving it to go work for very little money seemed out of question. However, as I thought about it, I knew it was something I needed to try, so I joined the campaign and that was my entry into politics.

During the presentation you mentioned that women often do not run because they do not see themselves as qualified. How does She Should Run actively work to counter these perceptions? What programs or exercises do you recommend in shifting women’s attitudes toward themselves as leaders?

Our flagship program is the She Should Run incubator and it is a free, virtual program that is a self-guided series of resources women can access. It helps women become more aware on multiple fronts. First, it encourages self-awareness of their own qualifications as a candidate as well as how the women in the She Should Run community can be helpful to those who are also thinking of running for office. This is so important because women are often not only hard on ourselves when questioning whether we have what it takes, but we also are hard on one another – even if unintentionally. Therefore, the SSR community asks women to recognize when they are holding themselves to too high of a standard, and when they might be doing so for others as well.

My highest recommendation for shifting attitudes is to always be encouraging.

You cited an important reason we need women in office is because they bring unique experiences that inform policy, and that we cannot have the best, most comprehensive policy making decisions if there is not proper representation. Is there a specific example of how you’ve seen this play out?

The examples of this are countless, but perhaps one of the most obvious examples would be the numerous occasions when policies are being crafted that will have a huge impact on working women in our country without any working women at the table.

I also want to be careful in saying that women don’t bring just one perspective to the table, they bring a variety of perspectives that should be represented when any policy decisions are made. Any and all policies in our country have a high likelihood of impacting women just as much as they will men, but we can’t arrive at the smartest and best solutions if we don’t have women at the table, and a variety of women at that.

What excites you most about the next generation of female leaders and the way they approach being politically involved in the age of tech and information sharing?

With this next generation there is a natural and enthusiastic ability to break down barriers and connect people with others that they may not have been able to before. I’ve also seen that young people are less and less likely to identify with political parties – they don’t need those labels to make a difference, but they are purpose driven and want to make a difference, so I think that will contribute to a healthier democracy in our future where people are more informed and engaged.

Any there any other thoughts or ideas you would like to share with our CoreNet members?

I just want to make it clear that while some people may think they couldn’t possibly get involved in politics and balance their current careers, there are in fact so many ways for a person to get involved, and it does not have to be an either/or. Beyond running for office in a part-time or volunteer role, you can choose to help someone else who is already running, or leverage your position of power within your current organization to help a social cause. Champions within private sector organizations who have figured out how to leverage their existing circles of influence are the most helpful to our mission. Everyone can play a role.