5C students came together to hear from female political leaders, discuss their ideas for social change, and be inspired to take part in political affairs at Claremont McKenna College’s first ElectHer conference Jan. 19.
The conference, modeled after a curriculum by Running Start — a nonprofit dedicated to bringing young women into politics and leadership positions — was designed to encourage more women to run for student government positions across the 5Cs.
The conference featured an Athenaeum presentation by West Hollywood Councilwoman Lindsey Horvath; a panel with current and former female student body presidents and vice presidents Hajar Hammado PZ ’18, Cristina Lee CM ’18, Lupe MacIntosh HM ’18, and Kelly Peng SC ‘18; and workshops with Running Start founder Susannah Wellford.
Melanie Wolfe CM ’20 and Bryan Carlen CM ’20 devised the conference as a response to the 2017-2018 ASCMC election cycle, in which only eight people — all of them men — ran for seven positions on ASCMC, including president and executive vice president.
“This event started as CMC-specific. In the last [ASCMC] election cycle, most candidates ran unopposed, and no women ran,” Carlen said. “That is a red flag for campus culture.”
The ElectHer conference and accompanying Athenaeum presentation also came on the heels of a fall semester in which 38 of the 50 Athenaeum speakers were male.
After Wolfe attended a Running Start conference led by Wellford, she proposed bringing ElectHer to CMC, an effort facilitated by funds from the 5C Women and Gender Leadership Fund. With this funding, Wolfe and Carlen opened the conference to students from all 5Cs.
The Athenaeum lunch talk was attended by about 60 students; approximately 16 stayed for the afternoon panel and workshops.
Events like the ElectHer conference are critical for inspiring students — particularly young women — to become involved in politics and strive for leadership positions, Wellford said.
“Women hold just 20 percent of leadership positions worldwide, including in politics and business … and people don’t talk to young women about politics,” she said. “It’s so important to talk to college students, so that they can envision themselves as leaders.”
“I hope the conference sparked interest in running for office or prioritizing … interest issues [that are important to them],” Wolfe added.
Carlen hopes to expand the ElectHer conference and continue it in future years.
“Most schools [that work with Running Start] hold the conference annually. We’re hoping that we can institute it as an annual event here too,” he said.