One woman asked 22 other women a question: Do you think we need more women leaders? In unison, all 23 hands raised — yes.
The women, a mix of Pacific Lutheran University students and community facilitators, were participants of Elect Her, a program that encourages and trains female college students to run for student government positions and political offices.
Last Saturday, the PLU Women’s Center brought the training to campus.
Pamela O’Leary, an adjunct professor at American University and Trinity Washington University, flew in from Washington D.C. to facilitate the conference.
She asked participants to identify issues important to them and why they were important. Examples of issues the women shared ranged from disability access on campus to more transparency surrounding PLU’s budget.
From there, O’Leary asked participants to use these issues to create a platform explaining why they would run for a political position and an elevator speech declaring why they should be elected.
O’Leary said an elevator speech should contain the position for which a student is running, where the student is from and why she or he is memorable. Most importantly, O’Leary said, it should begin with the student’s full name.
“Often we only hear women’s first names,” O’Leary said. “State your full name.”
For the speech to be effective, O’Leary said to pay attention to how each student relayed her information.
“Twenty percent is the words coming out,” O’Leary said. “Eighty percent is how you say it.”
O’Leary advised students to use language their audience could connect to, while remaining intelligent, confident and accessible in their approach.
Maggie Humphreys, communication chair at the National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington, also spoke on the importance of the message. Humphreys said women need to have a mentor from the beginning, maintain an authentic self and “get at the table.”
In the United States, 18.5 percent of congress members are women, with less than 1 percent — a total of five women — under the age of 40.
With these statistics, the United States ranks 80th in the world for women’s political representation. According to research compiled for Elect Her, this is because not enough women run, even though they are elected at the same rate as men when they do.
Once each conference participant had written her elevator speech and tested it out on another attendee, O’Leary asked all of the students to partake in a campaign simulation.
In the activity, each woman wrote her name on a ballot. She then had to go out on campus to find people to listen to her elevator speech and collect their signatures as an endorsement for her election.
When the group reconvened, participants listened to PLU junior and Fircrest City Council Member Shannon Reynolds and Pierce County Council Member Connie Ladenburg share their experiences as elected officials.
Associated Students of PLU representatives also shared their experiences with student government. They said they wished more students knew to attend their Tuesday night senate meetings at 7 p.m. in Anderson University Center room 140.
March is Women’s History Month. ASPLU primary elections take place March 13. ◼︎