Symposium Opening Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Article excerpt

Thank you Professor Ahranjani, thank you to the Symposium and the American University Washington College of Law. And thank you all for being here today.

My name is Stephanie Schriock and I'm the president of EMILY's List. For twenty-eight years, EMILY's List has been focusing on creating a culture of women's leadership and has become the nation's largest resource for women running for office.

Women's leadership in our country, or the lack thereof, has become quite the popular topic of discussion these days.

In fact, Jennifer Lawless, right here at American, just released some new research that found young women were twenty percentage points more likely than men to have never considered running for office.

And now we hear people asking if women are "leaning in" enough?

So why is there this gender gap in leadership? At the end of the day, all of these conversations tend to come back to the same two questions-is the problem the choices that women are making? Or, are women facing systemic limits to the choices they can make?

And I'm here to tell you that no matter what the original source of the problem is, you can fix both of those issues by having more women run for political office.

Not only do women in political office serve as role models for other young women and girls to follow in their footsteps, but they create a country that is more conducive to developing women into leaders.

At EMILY's List we recruit, train, support, and help elect Democratic women to office, up and down the ballot.

Now, that may seem like a simple proposition. Women are running today. Women are winning today. But that was not always the case, and it's still not happening at the numbers we need.

EMILY's List began in 1985 because three years earlier Harriet Woods ran for the United States Senate in Missouri. She was very close in the polls and came to DC to ask for financial help.

She was looking for just $50,000 to buy airtime for an entire week of television ads to run across the state. And you can ask Claire McCaskill- today, that much money would get you about two days of ads in St. Louis.

She went to the unions. She went to the Democratic caucuses. She went to the Party. They all had the same answer: No. Women can't win.

They let her run out of money. And they let her lose-by just 26,000 votes. Less than two percent.

So a group of women decided to never let that happen again. They came together and built a network to finance Democratic women candidates. That group of women became EMILY's List.

They began by supporting social worker turned Congresswoman Barbara Mikulski in Maryland. They helped her become the first Democratic woman to win a seat in the Senate in her own right.

We haven't stopped since.

Our impact is growing, but we still have far to go. The United States ranks 77th in the world for our percentage of women in elected office. 77th.

Even Iraq and Afghanistan have a greater percentage of women in office than the United States. Today, in 2013, our Congress is less than twenty percent women.

It's clear, we have work to do. And no one is going to do it for us. As a young woman, I am honored to take this challenge on for the next generations of women.

I work every day to make sure that women have a path to leadership in politics because I know that this is not a fight we can take on alone.

Let's think about this. Men have been building leadership networks in this country for, well, 250 years; women have only really had the opportunity to do that in the last forty.

And only in the last thirty years have we made changes in the law to open doors and break down barriers across American society-in law, in business, in journalism.

And those networks? They start in rooms like these.

They start by getting involved and supporting each other when we take on challenges and opportunities. When we become the backbone of each other's new ventures. …