Perspectives: Erin Loos Cutraro of She Should Run
Meet the powerhouse behind the organization that’s working to get 250,000 women running for elected office by the year 2030.
Since founding She Should Run in 2011, Erin Loos Cutraro has helped encourage 40,000+ women to run for office across the United States. A respected voice on gender equality in elected leadership, she’s been featured in The New York Times and The Washington Post, and designed and implemented a number of strategic programs in the public policy, non-profit and financial business arenas.
Thanks for chatting with us today, Erin! To kick things off, can you give us some background on the main goal and motivation behind She Should Run?
She Should Run is a leading national, nonpartisan organization dedicated to leveling the playing field for women in the electoral arena. Our mission is to expand the talent pool of women running for office in the United States by providing community, resources and growth opportunities for aspiring political leaders.
We believe that women of all political leanings, ethnicities and backgrounds should have an equal opportunity to lead in elected office, and that our democracy will benefit from the varied perspectives and experiences that women bring to leadership. We know that when women run for office, they win at the same rates as men. Yet women are not encouraged or recruited at the same rate as men. We intend to change that.
We encourage RUBY readers to join our community and nominate a woman to run. Tell her you think she’d be outstanding. Nominate yourself – we think you’d be outstanding! We have resources and support that can demystify the whole process so you can find your voice and take that next step.
We love that mission! And how did you, specifically, come to lead this organization?
I was raised in St. Louis by a mom who showed me what it looks like to work hard and never give up. I’ve used her example throughout my career as motivation to give back to the community – first as a teacher and then by getting involved in politics and policy.
I volunteered in 2004 for a presidential campaign in Iowa and there were no women in the field. I went on to work on the race of the first woman to run for Secretary of State in Missouri. It was an eye-opening experience that led me to where I am today.
The idea of She Should Run came out of a discussion on my porch about how the standard playbook in politics felt like it wasn’t enough. Cycle after cycle, we were making little to no gains in the overall number of women serving – even with tremendous effort and dollars.
Yet the research clearly shows that when women run, they win at the same rate as men. She Should Run started as a simple virtual tool that allows for anyone to encourage a woman to run for office, to ensure that all women see what’s possible for their leadership in elected office. And it has grown to where we are today with a robust community and a vision for 250,000 women running by 2030.
As the founder and CEO of She Should Run, what would you say are the unique strengths that you bring to the table in the fight for representation of women in office? What’s the perspective behind your passion?
I work every day to ensure that girls in the next generation grow up in a world with a level playing field. I want them to know that seeing themselves reflected in leadership positions is not only possible, but inevitable.
And in order to make that vision a reality, I’m committed to lifting up bravery and risk-taking, and showing the importance of letting go of perfection. I view it as my job to help each and every woman in this country understand that they have something to offer their community and their country.
My contribution is to help others see what’s possible for their leadership, even if they can’t see themselves reflected in current leadership (yet).
If your readers aren’t ready to run for office, they can still get involved. They can get involved by using the resources they have at their disposal:
Know a great woman who should serve in public office? ASK HER! And stay on her about it.
Want to get better connected to your neighborhood? Get to know who is running for local office and adopt a candidate. Knocking on doors for a candidate or hosting a meet and greet are great ways to make a difference for your community.
Know someone who is thinking of running or who has already put herself out there? Tell her she is brave and lift her up for her strengths publicly, even when she’s not perfect. Because no one is perfect.
We know it’s hard, but women get it done. We figure it out. We push through. Plus, all of the challenges that make it harder for us to get involved – giving our best at work, going to school, taking care of parents and kids – will only ease when we have people enacting policies that understand what that feels like.
What do we as women need to know about the current state of leadership in politics?
There are some simple facts. Women make up more than half the population. We make up 20 percent of elected offices and there are over 500,000 elected offices in this country. Women bring distinct perspectives to issues, and our opinions and views are not homogenous. When we leave half the population on the sideline, we are not getting the best possible leadership for this country.
Because of these stark realities, She Should Run has made it our mission to see at least half of those offices contested by women within this lifetime, rather than the next. This is a big goal but we believe that it is possible by 2030.
To achieve this goal and close the gender gap, people from all backgrounds and walks of life must come together and support women leaders in their communities.
We know that when women run, they win at the same rate as men. They’re just not running. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t challenges, like fears about raising money, balancing home, work and campaigning, and other barriers unique to women, but the bigger challenge is convincing women of all walks of life that they have something to give to their communities and their country. It’s about getting them to put their names on the ballot.
Thank you, Erin! This has been so inspiring. Before we wrap up, tell the RUBY community: What’s next in line for She Should Run?
This year represents a watershed moment for women on the ballot. But it’s only the beginning – for the women who win, lose and for those yet to run. Our leading program is going to continue to be 250KBy2030 as we seek parity.
Our programs are designed to give women the tools they need to be ready to run. Our one-of-a kind incubator helps women in our community get specific on why they want to run and the impact they’ll make in elected office.
Once they’ve made the decision to run, we demystify resources available for additional support on their journeys to elected leadership. Joining the incubator also gives women access to a community made up of thousands of other women who are in various stages on their paths to public office.
In the coming months, we are rolling out enhanced programs that better connect members of our community with one another and with the resources that matter most in their leadership journeys.
Stay tuned! We have a number of exciting updates on deck. And we’ll continue to think and act boldly with our eyes on putting ourselves out of business once we reach our goal of getting 250,000 women to run for office by 2030.
Katarina Kovacevic is founder and editor of RUBY. Follow her on Instagram @Little_K_Kata.