Ready to Run Iowa registration opens Jan. 17

Registration for the first two Ready to Run Iowa: Campaign Training for Women workshops will open Jan. 17. Ready to Run Iowa has been presented every other year by the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics since 2007.

The non-partisan campaign training program aimed at increasing women’s political engagement and representation will begin Feb. 17 with two workshops: "Getting Started in Iowa Politics," from 9 a.m. to noon, and "Launching Your Campaign," from 2-5 p.m. The first workshop will cover how women can get started in politics by getting appointed to state, county, and municipal boards and commissions as well as the status of women in politics in Iowa and the electoral process.

In 2012, Iowa became the first state in the country to require gender balance on boards and commissions at all levels of government and, since then, the number of women serving in these positions has increased. The gender balance law provides a great opportunity for women to get involved in government since many cities and counties are looking for women to serve.

“Serving on a board or commission is an easy way to get started in politics since it doesn’t require running a campaign, and it isn’t a full-time job,” said Kelly Winfrey, assistant professor of journalism and coordinator of research and outreach at the Catt Center. “Research also shows that boards are a great springboard into other political offices, and many of the women serving in the Iowa legislature got their start on a local or state board.”

All evidence indicates that the gender balance laws in Iowa have made a difference. Since 1987, Iowa has required gender balance on state boards and commissions and has met the goal of approximately 50 percent women and 50 percent men serving. Since the 2012 law went into effect – setting gender-balance goals for county and municipal boards – women’s representation is increasing. On county boards, women’s representation increased from 29 percent in 2013 to 33 percent in 2015, and the number of gender-balanced county boards increased from 50 percent to 59 percent. On municipal boards, women’s representation increased from 37 percent in 2013 to 40 percent in 2015. The percentage of gender-balanced municipal boards also increased from 50 percent in 2013 to 59 percent in 2015. The Catt Center tracks these numbers by collecting data every two years from all 99 counties and 207 Iowa cities.

Kimberly Lanegran, associate professor of political science at Coe College and a 2017 Ready to Run speaker, has built on the research conducted by the Catt Center to better understand what makes some counties and cities more successful at achieving gender balance than others. She became interested in this research after discussing the merits of gender quotas in her classes. “I was excited when I realized that my state was an innovator in this area,” Lanegran said.

Her research found that demographics did not explain differences in achieving gender balance; it was not partisanship, geographic, cultural or socioeconomic factors that explained which counties and cities were more successful. Instead, Lanegran found that “a small number of individuals participate in appointment processes, and their actions largely determine the degree of gender balance achieved.” She noted those who achieved gender balance “thought it was so commonsensical. They don't think they are remarkable and are so surprised to learn that other counties and cities have done less well.”

Tracie Gibbler, Iowa’s director of boards and commissions, will join Lanegran during the “Appointments to Boards and Commissions” session during the first workshop on Feb. 17. The session will focus on applying for and serving on state, county and local boards and commissions as well as the value of gender balance. The first workshop will also include a discussion of the political status of women in Iowa by Dianne Bystrom, director of the Catt Center, and a panel discussion on the electoral process.

The second workshop, held from 2-5 p.m. on Feb. 17, will focus on launching a political campaign with sessions titled “Political Parties and Resources,” which will feature speakers from both the Iowa Republican and Democratic parties; “A Step-by-Step Guide to Launching Your Campaign,” presented by experienced campaign strategists; and “Women’s Campaign Experiences,” a panel discussion among women who have run for office in Iowa.

Each of the six interactive workshops is taught as an individual training session that can be attended separately or in conjunction with other workshops. All workshops will be held in the Memorial Union at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

Online registration begins Jan. 17 for the Feb. 17 workshops. Registration will open Feb. 28 for the March 31 workshops and March 31 for the April 28 workshops. Each workshop is $20. This fee includes workshop materials, parking pass in the MU garage, and light refreshments. A limited number of scholarships are available. With priority will be given to groups traditionally underrepresented in politics, specifically women who are students and/or ethnic or racial minorities. Space is limited, so registration is required to attend.

Participants can register for the Ready to Run Iowa workshops by visiting the Catt Center's website. Details of each workshop are as follows:

Friday, Feb. 17:

• "Getting Started in Iowa Politics," 9 a.m. to noon, Pioneer Room, Memorial Union, with sessions on “The Political Status of Women in Iowa,” “Appointments to Boards and Commissions” and “Elections in Iowa.”

• "Launching Your Campaign," 2-5 p.m., Pioneer Room, Memorial Union, with sessions on “Political Parties and Resources,” “A Step-by-Step Guide to Launching Your Campaign” and “Women's Campaign Experiences.”

Friday, March 31:

• "Fundraising for Success," 9 a.m. to noon, Campanile Room, Memorial Union, with sessions on “Fundamentals of Fundraising,” “Making the Ask” and “Advice From Experts.”

• "Campaign Messaging and the Media," 2-5 p.m., Campanile Room, Memorial Union, with sessions on “Creating Your Campaign Message,” “Candidate and Issue Advocacy” and “Working With the Media.”

Friday, April 28:

• “Communicating With Voters," 9 a.m. to noon, Campanile Room, Memorial Union, with sessions on “Developing and Delivering Your Stump Speech,” “Communicating on Camera” and “Direct Contact With Voters.”

• "Winning Internet Strategies," 2-5 p.m., Campanile Room, Memorial Union, with sessions on “Building a Website,” “Campaigning on Social Media” and “Online Campaigning in 2016 and Beyond.”

Grounded in the latest research on women's political participation, program sessions are presented by local, state and national political leaders and campaign strategists. The 2017 Ready to Run Iowa sponsors are the Ames Chamber of Commerce, ISU Women's and Diversity Grants Program, the League of Women Voters of Ames and Story County, and Mary Jo and Richard Stanley of Muscatine, Iowa. Their sponsorships provide the funds necessary to keep registration costs low.