Young women who are college students in or from Iowa are taking a weeklong course that started today at the University of Iowa which aims to inspire and prepare them to run for office. Laurie Haag, with the U-of-I’s Women’s Resource and Action Center, says this is the fourth annual Iowa National Education for Women’s Leadership Institute.
“The program was started because there’s a real discrepency in female leadership, particularly in electoral politics,” Haag says. “The state of Iowa has never had a female governor or sent a woman to Washington as a congressperson or senator.” She says this year’s theme is “Women Building Sustainable Communities” and the workshops will run through Friday in Iowa City.
“This is a little bit of a Head Start program for women interested in public leadership,” Haag says. “The primary goals of it are to get them excited about leadership and to provide them with the skills that will help them get started in it.”
Participants are from all over Iowa, including from the U-of-I, Iowa State University, the University of Northern Iowa, AIB College of Business, Northeast Iowa Community College, Drake University, Dordt College, Augustana College, Mount Mercy University, Morningside College and Luther College.
Haag says the five-day institute is designed to develop leadership skills, support engagement in civic life and create opportunities to build relationships at the local, state and national levels.
“They’ll learn some basic skills like public speaking,” Haag says. “They’ll learn about philanthropy. As part of the institute, they’ll be volunteering at a Habitat for Humanity build. They also hear women who are leaders of non-profits or in elected office talk about their process.”
One panel discussion on facing challenges will be led by women who’ve run for various offices and didn’t get elected.
Haag says participants were chosen based on their leadership, intellect, maturity, ability to confront adversity, capacity to observe and reflect on their own strengths and challenges, the diversity and depth of their personal, academic, and work experiences, and a commitment to political engagement, community advocacy or public policy.