Hope is a current running through our atmosphere. Across Minnesota and the country, women are running for office in unprecedented numbers – and they’re winning.
Representation matters. We’re reminded just how vital it is to see barriers broken as women of color and Indigenous women, and LGBTQ+ and trans people are elected to office locally and across the country. When their voices are at the table, advocating for pay equity, reproductive rights, strong schools, and safe communities, families and communities do better.
As women run and take office, young women and girls are watching. We’re reminded of the power of representative leadership every time we hear from inspired young women who have already started to imagine themselves in positions to govern and create equitable policies. They are determined to lead because they see their communities represented in elected office, from school boards to city councils and mayors to Lieutenant Governor – the highest office reached by a Native American woman just last year. I feel chills seeing this measurable social change taking place.
This month, before our most recent elections, I moderated Born to Lead: A Conversation with Women of Color Candidates, a panel of 12 (yes, 12!) women of color and Indigenous women running for seats on school boards and city councils in the metro area. The event, hosted by Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota grantee-partner Women Organizing Women (WOW) Network, was incredible. Each candidate decided to run because of her lived experiences of inequities and hardships; and each of them used their cultural practices, values, and communities to power their campaigns. Their ages ranged from 22 to 60, from all backgrounds and occupations: they included a recent college graduates, executive directors of nonprofits, a former assistant commissioner, artists, a community activist, parents, and more.
Women Organizing Women has led civic leadership and voter education for East African women and grown the Dumar (Women) Leadership Model. As they engage younger generations of first- and second-generation East African women as civic and political leaders in their communities through leadership training, they are ensuring more women hold positions of leadership in government, community, and business.
In the last five years, in Minnesota alone, we have had firsts in every level of office—from school boards and parks and recreation, to city councils, mayors, House & Senate, the Office of the Governor, and Congress. And now? It’s common to see leaders from communities facing the greatest barriers to run … and win! I cannot wait to see the impact of representation on our policies and quality of life in the next 10 years. Because we see their impact on policy and advocacy with communities that have historically been silenced, we are already beginning to feel the power of representation in leadership.
We celebrate all of the women candidates who participated in our recent elections and are excited to witness historic wins in our state and across the nation as women continue to vote, run, march, and lead. Their leadership will push the representation, rights, and resources needed to move forward gender and racial equity and build a better world for women and girls. In running for office, they demonstrate equity in action.
By Lulete Mola, vice president of community impact