Thinking about running for office? This new book can help (especially if you’re a woman)
Authors June Diane Raphael and Kate Black have created a workbook-like resource to be your best friend through the campaign process. We spoke with Black to learn more.
But as she tried to start the process, she found it overwhelming and confusing. Raphael then turned her attention to a different issue: creating a resource that women who wanted to run for office could use to navigate the process.
“June and I had this idea for a very fun, accessible — dare I say funny? — resource for women who wanted to run,” Black told the Deseret News in a recent phone interview. “That’s how this book got started … and now it’s coming into print. ... We’re really excited.”
More journal than book, “Represent: The Woman’s Guide to Running for Office,” which came out Sept. 3, is a mix of information, hypothetical situations and spots for readers to work through their own running-for-office plan. But while the book is mainly aimed at women who want to run for office, the writers hope it extends beyond that circle for an even wider reach. The Deseret News spoke with Black to learn more about the book and its goal.
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Deseret News: I’m curious what the process of writing the book was like. Because of your time at EMILY’s List, was it information that you already knew, or was there a lot of research that had to go into it?
Kate Black: So I think the book has a lot of good content. (It has) a lot of facts about why women don’t run (and) what barriers exist for women. Some of the research is about women who have represented their states or localities — we have profiles in the book, and there’s a great timeline showing the history of women in office, so that research definitely exists.
And where June and I came together to fill out the rest was really having a dialogue about, “If I was going to run for office, what would I need to do to make it work in my real life?” And more importantly … what advice would we give, whether it’s the college student thinking about maybe running for city council, or the mom with two young children who’s thinking about school board or state legislature, or the retired woman who’s thinking about the next chapter.
DN: I’m also curious about what kinds of things you had to do to make sure the book was as inclusive as possible. In the beginning, you both acknowledge that you are two white women and have very similar backgrounds and upbringings, so obviously you don’t speak for all women. But you wanted this to be a guide for all women, so what did you need to do to get to that point?
KB: I think what you see throughout the book is us incorporating the voices of as many different women as possible, and you see that play out in a couple ways. We have included advice and stories from elected leaders themselves. We were so privileged to have gotten the chance to interview some really dynamic leaders … and share their advice and their insights in the book. Our hope is that by including some of these real people’s stories, women who might not look like or have the same experiences as June and I can see themselves and some of their experiences from the female leaders who we profile.
DN: What would you say to a woman who’s thinking about running for office but hasn’t done anything yet, or maybe doesn’t know where to start?
KB: First off, go buy this book! But really, I would tell them, you can do it. You can do it. This book gives you a roadmap, it gives you kind of a best friend along the road when you’re thinking about running for office. It’s meant to be toted along with you, and it can really put you on that path to thinking about it in a real way.
The first thing I would definitely tell them is figure out what fires you up. There’s probably an issue or a cause or a problem that you’re seeing in the world or in your small town or in your city. Identify that problem and use it to fuel your campaign. The second thing I would say is to start showing up. Once you recognize that issue, start showing up. If you’re going to ask your community to show up for you and your campaign, it’s really important that you start showing up for them. And that could look like anything from showing up at a protest to sitting at city council meetings to just educating yourself about your local government.
The third thing I would say is to start talking to people. You have to start saying it because it makes a promise to yourself, but it also tells people in your community, and the next time that open seat comes up, or the next time the filing deadlines come around, someone’s going to remember, “Hey, she thought about running, we should talk to her.” And then the fourth thing is, don’t wait. ... We need women to step up and lead.
DN: I noticed looking through the book that a lot of success, especially earlier in a campaign, depends on having a network of people around you. Do you have any advice for building that network?
KB: I think it’s important to recognize the network that might already exist around you that you maybe haven’t tapped … in a political way yet. So what I mean by that is thinking about your coworkers, your alumni network, maybe a recreational softball league, or … the parents of the children at your day care or the PTA. There are probably networks you currently exist in, (so) think about those networks and how you could reach out to some of the individuals there and ask them to help you run for office.
The beauty of these networks is that there’s probably … people in your network who could fill a lot of different slots for your campaign.
DN: Do you have a female elected official who inspires you the most?
KB: That’s a big question. I mean, it’s no secret that June and I share such admiration and respect for Hillary Clinton. I … see her as someone who has really paved the way for so many women — and I do mean Republican women or Democratic women. Anytime you have a woman running at the top of a ticket, girls and women across the country see that and think it’s possible.
On a local level, Liz Brown is from my hometown in Columbus, Ohio, and she’s currently a city councilwoman. She is one of those women who I think is just a role model for so many others. She was asked to run for office when she was like, eight months pregnant. … I think about that a lot as I am a new mom myself, and just how amazing it is that she presented a new kind of option for pregnant women and moms running for office.
DN: What would you say to women who don’t want to run for office?
KB: I think every woman needs to find a way they can be politically active. It’s not uncommon for someone to say, “I’m not ready to run for office, but I want to help.” In the final chapter of the book, which is “How do I support another woman?”, we answer this exact question. We itemize a variety of ways that the reader could help other women who are running, and that looks like anything from voting for them to fundraising for them to volunteering with their campaigns to also interrupting some of the language around female candidates when we hear it or when we see it online (by) getting in that conversation when someone is saying, “I don’t like the sound of her voice” or “She doesn’t look like a leader.”
Anytime we hear something like that, someone who reads this book feels empowered to jump in and say, “But tell me more about that. Why do you think she doesn’t look like a leader? Is it because we’ve never seen a woman in this position before?” It’s really important to give any woman the tools to be civically engaged and politically minded, and if the book does that, I’m happy.
DN: What is it like to see something you’ve spent so much time on — about three years — become a physical reality?
KB: I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t proud. I think it’s a joy and it’s a treat and it’s a privilege to be able to put your heart and soul into something you fundamentally believe will make the world a better place. I mean, how often do we get to do that?