Across the United States of America, women are sorely underrepresented in political office. Women make up 50.8% of the U.S. population, but these numbers aren’t reflected in the governing bodies. This is true across both blue and red states. It was just this year that New York gained its first woman governor in its entire 230+ year history. Stats and facts like this can feel daunting, but organizations like Emerge make it less so.
Emerge recruits and trains women to run for office. Their mission is to “inspire women to run” and “hone their skills to win.” Since 2002, the organization has been doing just that with over 4000 women trained, 1000 in elected office, and a presence in over 25 U.S. states. Earlier this year, Emerge expanded their southwestern reach and added Texas to their slate. Serita Fontanesi, the Executive Director of Emerge Texas (and guest on our Future of Roe panel!), answered a few of our questions about this incredible work. We discussed women in office, launching Emerge Texas, and her hopes for the future of Emerge.
Serita Fontanesi identified for us two major barriers women face when pursuing public office: cost and social pressure. In terms of social pressure, Fontanesi says that women struggle with “figuring out how to ‘have it all.’” Emerge addresses these barriers through comprehensive trainings and a considerable alumni network. The organization ensures that their participants have the tools to fundraise effectively, build competent teams, and more. The alumni network is also an invaluable resource. For instance, while Emerge doesn’t financially contribute to campaigns, alumni and other supporters can provide some financial support. Alumni can also offer support through firsthand knowledge and advice. They understand what candidates are “going through, can work together to problem-solve, and lift each other up throughout the campaign cycle and beyond.” It’s a structure rooted in women supporting women.
Emerge Texas is a new addition to this structure. It’s a fitting time for the organization to open its doors. “Texas is in a pivotal moment, and in order to protect vulnerable communities like femmes, Black and Brown folks, queer folks, people with disabilities, the list goes on, we all have to make our voices heard, fight as hard as we can, and continue the work that was started well before 2020,” says Fontanesi. This is a moment where the organization can make lasting change, and Fontanesi is hopeful that this will be the case: “We have to be thinking beyond the immediate moment to create long-lasting, sustainable change.”
Take Action! Uplift women in office and learn more about Emerge Texas HERE.