Matt Crowley/The AS Review

Western Washington University has been one of only 11 schools in the country selected for the Elect Her training program, an opportunity for women across campus to train to run for office.

The Elect Her initiative is the brainchild of Running Start and the American Association of University Women, a nationwide network that includes over 100,000 members whose mission is to advance “equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research,” according to its website.

AS Representation and Engagement Programs Associate Director Morgan Holmgren applied for the grant last year, at a time when there were no female members on the AS Board of Directors.

“I applied for the grant because one of the goals for the year is to increase the participation of students in elections on campus, and that includes getting more people to run for elected positions,” said Holmgren. “And the other thing we’ve seen the last couple of years is the number of women getting elected significantly declined. We went from having four women on the board in 2008-2009 to none 2009-2010 and only one this year.”

Once Western was accepted, Holmgren handed the reins to the Women’s Center, but Coordinator Lizzie Lamb says the process has been “extremely collaborative.”

“We’ve been with Morgan every step of the way,” said Lamb.

The training, the details of which have not been finalized, will likely take place in February and will be for one day only. Holmgren is hoping for at least 50 applicants, which is about as many as they can take. Along with the training, one student will be selected to receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the 2011 National Conference for College Women Student Leaders in June.

“I see this training as a way to give women the skills to pull off a successful campaign,” said Lamb. “We’d really like to see women be able to do what they want to do.”

While most of the day will consist of workshops being taught by both AS and AAUW members, a number of speakers are also expected, including current AS elected members and individuals who have run for office in the past. The goal, according to Holmgren, is to help women on campus gain the confidence to not only run for office, but to run a good campaign.

Alisha Beck, the only female AS board member for the 2010-2011 year, understands the inequality evident in our student government.

“I think [Elect Her] is super important because in the past two years I’ve been the only female elected to the board of directors,” she said. “In order to appropriately represent students, there should be a more even female to male ratio the board.”

The inequality in government isn’t just evident here. According to the AAUW, in both state and national legislatures, women are severely underrepresented, with under 20 percent of Congress being female.

“We want to see more women get elected because there are women running, and there have been women running for the past several years,” said Lamb.

According to the AAUW,  “Running Start’s high school programs expose young women to the importance of political leadership. Elect Her - Campus Women Win gives college women the concrete skills they need to be confident to run for student government.” Beck is hoping they can do the same thing here.

“I think with the Elect Her grant, we can hopefully try and foster those leadership skills within individuals and get them to run,” she said. “I really just want to hopefully help contribute to the awareness of females being underrepresented.”

For more information, contact the Women’s Center or visit aauw.org.