Women win when women work together

For more information about Emerge Nevada, check out http://www.emergenv.org.

For the past five years, Emerge Nevada has trained Democratic women in Nevada who are interested in political leadership. The program boasts 13 alumni who have been elected to office following their time with Emerge.

Emerge Nevada Executive Director Erin Bilbray-Kohn founded the program to educate and motivate more Democratic women to run for public office.

“We still are lacking equal representation of women in politics in the United States,” she said. “In Nevada, we can all point to some very powerful women in some very high-profile political offices, but we’re still not even close to 20 percent. … If you’re going to be a representative government, you have to have representation of gender as well.”

Emerge Nevada has already had an influence on local politics—elected officials such as Sparks City Council member Julia Ratti and Washoe County Commissioner Kitty Jung are graduates of the Emerge program. Another Emerge Nevada graduate, Dorie Guy, went on to become the current chairwoman for the Washoe County Democratic Party.

Emerge Nevada recruits potential female leaders but also has many seek it out while considering a future bid for office. The program offers women seven days of training over the course of several months. The topics covered include communication, budgeting, debates, fundraising, and preparing to declare candidacy, among many other pertinent topics aimed at prepping the women to be able to win their races.

“They say that, on average, a woman has to be asked eight times before she’ll run,” Bilbray-Kohn said. “I think, as women, we want to have our homework done; we want to be completely prepared. We don’t just jump into things, and, in politics, a lot of times, people just jump in. That’s why I think Emerge has been really beneficial—because they go through the program and then they feel prepared to run.”

According to Emerge Nevada statistics, 41 percent of the program’s graduates either run for elected office or are appointed to local boards or commissions, and 60 percent of those who run for office are elected.

“Once they go through the program, they feel prepared,” Bilbray-Kohn said. “Even if they don’t run for office, they usually all get involved in something politically and make a difference.”

A resource such as Emerge Nevada can be vital in the struggle to see more diverse representation in elected offices. The United States, for some strange reason, is far behind some other areas in the world in terms of making progress toward more equal representation in government. We currently rank about 84th in the world for women in elected office.

The reason for this under-representation is not that women in the United States are not qualified or capable enough, so it is most certainly time for this country to demonstrate the high-quality candidates it surely can produce. It is unacceptable for a country that strives to be quite advanced and influential around the world to ignore such a large portion of its citizens so overtly—although the United States is home to a wide variety of people, only those who fit into a very select group are able to hold most of its most powerful positions.

Emerge Nevada is just one branch of Emerge America, a nationwide movement attempting to address the dramatic under-representation of women in political office in the United States. Similar programs exist in eight other states—the most recent to join was Kentucky in 2009.

Nevada is lucky to be one of so few states to possess this program. Democratic women in Nevada who are interested in politics or potentially running for office have access to an opportunity that could provide them with not only a valuable set of tools but also a network from which to branch out and connect with others. It is tremendously important for women to take advantage of programs such as Emerge Nevada that can give them a running start in the competitive political realm.