Holly Richardson: Women wanting to run for office can receive help

What is a progressive Fox News political analyst doing in Utah next Saturday? She’s speaking to women in Utah thinking about running for political office, that’s what.

Jehmu Greene, the daughter of Liberian immigrants, calls herself an “Evangelist for Change” and has been active in politics for more than two decades. She is the founder of “Barbara’s Legacy,” a new initiative to train, nurture and support women of color, and is the co-founder of “Define American,” an organization committed to elevating the immigration reform conversation. She is also a founding board member of VoteRunLead, a non-partisan organization that has trained over 35,000 women nation-wide to run for office.

Jehmu will be in Utah on Friday, Jan. 17, and Saturday, Jan. 18, to speak to attendees of the Real Women Run Kaleidoscope event (Friday) and annual training (Saturday).

It was nine years ago that Real Women Run held their first day-long, nonpartisan training for women who wanted to run for elected office. Since that day, events from the collaborative organization have seen a total of 2,232 people join together for networking and training.

Too often, women especially think that there is some magical threshold one must meet to be ready to run for office, or they wonder if it’s only an elite group of wealthy attorneys who can run for office. The goal of Real Women Run is to help women of all stripes to step forward to run for office, work on campaigns, serve on boards and commissions and otherwise engage in the political system.

Real women like Christine Watkins, a mom, a teacher and a state representative, or Deidre Henderson, a stay-at-home mom and state senator, or Jenney Rees, who spent most of her career in the health care industry and is also the Mayor of Cedar Hills.

There are other women in Utah who are deeply involved in campaigns, who are active in advocacy organizations like Action Utah and Mormon Women for Ethical Government and the current signature-collecting effort on the tax referendum and others who serve on boards.

But Utah can do better.

Did you know Utah has never had a woman on the ballot for governor? (Aimee Winder Newton is trying to change that this year!) We still have no women holding statewide office and no women in our federal delegation.

2020 marks 100 years of national women’s suffrage. Better Days 2020 has been at the forefront of recognizing the great contributions of Utah women. Rep. John Curtis just introduced a bipartisan resolution to designate Jan. 11, 2020 as “National Martha Hughes Cannon Day,” and later in the year the Martha Hughes Cannon statue will be placed in Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C.

In the meantime, as the 2020 cycle ramps up (and heats up), wouldn’t it be great to see more women than ever seeking political office? There’s still time to come to the Real Women Run events and hear from women like Jehmu Greene and local luminaries like Rep. Sandra Hollins, Tamu Smith, Olivia Whitely of Girls Lobby, former Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck and Utah’s newest representative, Candice Pierucci.

I’ve heard I should stop talking about seeing more women run for office. I’ve heard gender doesn’t matter. I disagree. I believe it matters a lot. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” Better decisions are made when we as women are at the table. Let’s make 2020 the best year yet for getting women elected.

Holly Richardson

In addition to being a regular Salt Lake Tribune columnist, Holly Richardson is also the current chair of Real Women Run.