Susannah Shakow: I don’t know how much you all know about me, or about what I do, so I won’t say too much so you all can still ask questions. Something you might not know is I am a lifelong Washingtonian, and I grew up doing political jobs. I went to law school after doing some of those political jobs, and the law firm was a great and exciting place to work because we had a lot of old political people who’d retired from political life who came to work at my law firm. It was my life’s passion, so that’s when, in 2002, after having been there for three years, I decided to leave and do Women Under Forty PAC fulltime.
I’d started it a few years earlier, and that’s what I’m doing now and I would love to answer your questions. I understand you’re meeting with one young member of Congress; our mission is to get more young women in Congress, because to say that there are few doesn’t even give you the idea. There are eighty women out of 535, and there are only four women under forty, they’re about thirty men under forty in Congress. That’s are job, to try to get more young women into office, and also to try to get high school women, college women, the younger women to start thinking about politics as a career, and to start understanding the importance of actually getting involved and engaged in politics. So I’ll leave it at that and let you guys ask me anything you want to hear about.
Casey Lightner: I’m Casey, and can you talk about how you came to be the co-founder and President of Women Under Forty PAC?
Susannah Shakow: So I told you all I was working in this law firm, I had gone to law school because I wanted to do policy work. I never wanted to be a real lawyer, my husband, whose law firm we’re using, is a real litigator. He does what I always think of, the actual law and I was doing policy and lobbying work at this law firm. So, I spent a lot of time up on Capitol Hill, lobbying various members, and there were a lot of other young women also working at the law firm. We would get together for lunch and talk about the fact that it just seems so strange that there were a lot of people our age or a little bit older who were members of Congress, but none of them were women.
We were just so aware of the fact that we had so many issues that we felt were very particular to our age group and our gender, and there was nobody there representing our views. We decided to start this pack, another woman and myself. Initially it was just women in our law firm, and then we’ve grown out from there. It’s a really fun thing to do, because I think a lot of young women don’t think about politics at all, and once you start explaining to them how important it is, but also how sexy it can be. It really is, it’s more exciting, I think, then a lot of people give politics credit for, and that’s part of our job to show that element.
Nina Castanon: Hi, I’m Nina. Do you have any success stories so far?
Susannah Shakow: Yeah, we have a lot of success stories, and I’ll tell you a little bit about our PAC just to set it up. We are an all volunteer group, except for me, which is an amazing thing to have a group in Washington that actually functions and does so much. All of my staff, like Alyse Nelson Bloom, who helped set up some of your meetings, she’s the program director of Vital Voices. We’ve got several prominent attorneys, we’ve got people involved in human rights groups, and they do these busy jobs but they also maintain board positions for us and it’s kind of amazing to me everyday that it really works, that people are so committed to the cause that they actually can find time to do two full time jobs. So, success stories. We started in ’99, when we had the very beginning of this idea. In ’99, there was one woman in Congress under forty; it would have been Blanche Lincoln, she was the first senator ever elected under forty. Our first real election was in the year 2000, and that year we had five people elected. We can’ take, obviously, full credit for getting these women elected, but every year we’ve had more and more people elected, this year there are four people right now who are under forty in Congress, and if things go even marginally well, we should have eight by November.
I think that the most good that we do is because we’re small, and we don’t raise an enormous amount of money. We’re not like Emily’s List where we’re funding these people’s campaigns, you know we might make or break a campaign. A lot of these people don’t get a lot of support from the traditional donors, or the traditional ways that candidates get support. Many of them have come up to us and said, “You helped us to believe in our campaigns, and to believe in our candidacies. When nobody else was supporting us, you all were there supporting us.” It’s such a hard job being a candidate; it’s nice to have people on your side from the beginning. That’s definitely one of our successes, but we have grown so much over the past, I’m trying to think how many years it has been, we really started everything in 2002. It’s been about four years, but we now have over a thousand members, and we’re starting college chapters around the country. People are trying to get the fact that there is this disparity between young men and young women in Congress, and the fact that young women just don’t run. This year we actually have more young women running then we’ve ever had before. Hopefully, that will be a trend that continues.
Seychelle deVries: Hi, I’m Seychelle. Given that, In the US, women have roughly the same education as men and are just as capable and have just as much to gain from the political process, why is there such disparity in how many go to the polls?
Susannah Shakow: I think that is an excellent question, and I really don’t know the answer, and I think everyone has theories as to why it is. First of all, the interesting thing is that Women, over all, actually do vote at a slightly higher rate then men. Even young women vote at a slightly higher rate. I don’t know if you guys know, but the latest statistic I saw for young voters was that, I think it’s between 18 and 24 year olds, that it’s 37% of young women and 31% of young men. That’s just ridiculous, that it’s so low, and we’re paying so little attention to such an important thing. The real question is why women are not as involved as men in politics. I think a lot of it is tradition, which women just traditionally didn’t get as involved. I think the main way that you see it is in money. Men have always been the ones who wrote the campaign checks, and who wrote the big checks and gave the big money.
There are great successes with groups like Emily’s List, that are finally getting women to realize the importance of writing checks and getting out there, and that campaigns are made or broken on money. Even though we have Emily’s List, most candidates that I talk to will say, “I’ve got this supporter who says that she would do anything for me, and I say, ‘Well I really need money,'” and she says, “Here you go,” and hands her a twenty five dollar check. It’s still so hard to get women to actually open their purses and give the money that’s need to support the candidates that they want, and I do think that a lot of that just is tradition, and Emily’s List is starting to change the mindset. In fact, one of the thing’s we’re doing at WUFPAC is that students can join WUFPAC for ten dollars, which is nothing. Most PAC’s its several hundred dollars to join, but we decided we wanted to get even our youngest members into the tradition of giving money, and we encourage even our youngest members to write two checks to a campaign. They could be ten dollar checks over the two year cycle, but it’s just starting to get used to the idea of giving money. I hope that answers your question.
Mark Hansen: There seems to be a perfect symmetry between what you do and the work of Vital Voices, so how do you see the connection?
Susannah Shakow: I actually, thanks to Alyse, I’m going on the most wonderful trip on Thursday to Kuwait to meet with women there. I’m sure you guys know that Kuwait just got the vote after thirty or forty years of fighting, so their first political candidates, you heard this from Melanne Verveer so you know all about it, but she wanted me to go on the trip and teach them a little bit about how to start an organization that advocates for the women, that they want to get elected. I really think that America can learn so much from the rest of the world, whether it’s a new place like Kuwait and just sort of helping them as they try to figure out how the system is going to work, or looking at all of the other countries who are doing such a better job then we are at getting women elected to offices. I bet you heard a lot of these statistics from Melanne, but it’s just so stunning to me that of all the countries in the world that we are, but the number keeps changing, but we’re 56 or 60th in terms of the number of women we have in our parliament, or in our legislative body. Countries like Rwanda is number one, and it’s just so interesting that country that we think isn’t a very free place, that they’ve done such a better job of getting women involved in politics, the women understand the importance of running. I think that it’s so vital that all groups look to the rest of the world for examples of how it’s done, and also to share what we’ve learn about how we’re doing it.
Prabha Sharan: Hi, I’m Prabha. You talked about WUFPAC, and what are the challenges you face to make people understand the importance of WUFPAC?
Susannah Shakow: There are a lot of challenges that are very unique to us, first of all we are a bipartisan group, and really we are a nonpartisan group. We don’t even look at party, I’ll tell you more about that later, because that’s sort of a frustration for us too. We don’t have any litmus test, so we look at candidate, I just spent yesterday looking to see who’s filed recently who’s under forty, and if you’re under forty and you have a real campaign, if you have campaign manager, if you’ve started to raise real money, you don’t have to be a candidate that’s going to win. You could be in a race that looks impossible, but you have to be someone who is a serious candidate. We run afoul of so many different groups. Democrats, true, real, hardcore democrats don’t like us because we are bipartisan, we give money republican candidates. The same thing with the republican national committee, we’ve tried to get money out of them and we give money to democratic candidates.
A lot of women’s groups are pro-choice, and they don’t like us very much because we’re all inclusive and the pro-life groups also. We have unique challenges because we’ve decided there are so few young women that run every year, I just did the tally yesterday, I think it’s eighteen candidates who are under forty, women who are running for Congress who are under forty, so there’s so few women who are run that if we started saying that we’re only going to take democrats, and of those democrats we’re only going to take the pro-choice democrats, and of those only the people who really look like they’re going to win, which I’m telling you a lot of the groups do, they just make it more narrow because they want to use their resources wisely. We start out with a field of fifteen to eighteen candidates, so we’ve decided that our mission is to get young women excited and interested, and not just young republican women, or young democratic women, or young women who believe in choice or not choice, but right now want to get young women thinking about politics and supporting other young women running.
While high school and college women and men get that idea, strangely to me it really is an age thing. The higher up you go the more you say, “You’re not part of my group and I don’t want to support.” That’s our biggest challenge, explaining that it is important for us to have this inclusivity. I hop that it will never change, but it is a challenge of us in terms of raising money, because the big pockets are the older, more established folk, so we’re thinking of more creative ways of making money then trying to get it from some of the traditional sources. That’s probably way more then you wanted to know about that. One little side note too; we are a non partisan group. For reasons that I don’t know, and we’ve got a student this summer whose sole job is going to be to study this, we only have democratic candidates, for the most part. Every so often we’ll have a handful of republican candidates, whether it’s for federal office or state and local, it’s just amazing how many democrats there are. Every time we find a republican we all cheer because we’re trying so had to be bipartisan, but republican young women don’t run.
Luke Sanders-Self: Do you ever feel daunted by the size of the issues you’re working on?
Susannah Shakow: Yes. I think all of us have times every day when we think, “This is just impossible.” For some of the reasons that you were asking me about, it would be a lot easier for us to do something where we are popular with some of the big groups, if we decided to have a mission where we were democratic and pro-choice, then supported all women, we would have more friends so it is daunting to try and do something that a lot of people don’t really get. Those of us working on this believe so strongly that if you don’t get young women into office, it’s not just that young women’s views won’t be heard, and I do that that is a problem, that young women’s issues are not on the table nearly as much as they should be. Really, I think there is a much deeper reason that we’re working for this.
In our system people who run for Congress, like Anthony Weiner, I don’t know how old he was when he got elected, but he was young. He was probably early thirties, so he got elected and he’s popular. Even if he wasn’t all that popular, you know incumbents tend to stay in, so he’ll be there for twenty years, and they’ll say, “Anthony Weiner has been here for really a long time, maybe we should make him chair of something.” That’s not exactly how it works, but seniority is so important in terms of getting those leadership positions, whether its majority leader or chairman of a committee, it’s so important to have marked that time. Women tend to run for office much much later in life then men, they have their families. So many women who I try to talk into running will say, “I’ve got young children, I couldn’t possibly run. They have their families, they often have a first career, and then when they are in their fifties, they think, “Maybe I should run for office now.”
The problem is that then they’re at a great disadvantage, in terms of getting into leadership, just because they’re not there as long as the men are. It is daunting to try to do things the way we’re doing it, but I think we think that the outcome is so important. I think it’s not just women, I mainly deal with women, but I think that most men that I talk to think that political system would be a better place, or maybe the country would be a better place if you had more of a diversity of opinion in the leadership. Men and women do think differently, people who are forty and people who are twenty do think differently, and if you have more opinions coming into decisions that it will be better for everybody.
Andrea Schmitt: Hi, I’m Andrea and I as wondering if you’ve ever been discouraged by the problems that you have.
Susannah Shakow: I think I have been discouraged, we have board meetings once a month, and often we will talk about all the discouraging things that will happen. It’s difficult for us to raise money, and I think that’s our primary frustration. It’s frustrating not to be able to find these republican candidates so we can look as bipartisan as we actually are, but what when we get discouraged about these things, we are sitting around debating what we do about them. If everything was always going great I don’ think you would think about ways to do things better and different, we’re always building upon what we have and we’re always thinking of new ideas, and better ways to make everything work. That comes out of being a little discouraged, I think. If you were just happy and everything was going along beautifully, I don’ know if we’d have as much creative juices flowing to actually improve things. So, discouraged but good in the end.
Sadanand Maillard: As long as you don’t give up, right?
Susannah Shakow: Yeah, well so far, I actually just met with the whole board a couple weeks ago individually to make sure everything was going great. Nobody has given up yet.
Kristin Van’t-Rood: My name is Kristin. Is there a support network for young women in Congress?
Susannah Shakow: Oh, well that is interesting. The interesting thing is that I think there is an informal support network, right now there are no senators, I guess there are some forty-something senators, but there are these four young women who are under forty and then there are a lot that are forty one or forty five that are close to it. we had an event last may where we had Congresswomen who had young families come in to talk about how they could do it, because, like I say, that’s the number one thing when I talk to candidates to try to recruit them they say, “Well, I’ve got t family.” We brought in these Congresswomen who did have families, and talk about how they made it all work. Because, of course, the Congresswoman is in their district on the weekends but they are in DC away from their families during the week, they all live together.
There is a group house with Debbie Wasserman Schulz, and Melissa Bean, and, I can’t remember who else, but there are four women and they sit around, they get in their pajamas, and they watch TV, and eat popcorn, after hours, and talk about what happened during the day. I think that is a nice support network, I like the fact that they are living together, and the Sanchez sisters, Loretta and Linda Sanchez, who both were elected under forty, I don’t know if they’re still living together, but they were living together. In terms of an institutional support for them, there is a thirty-something on the house side, I think it’s probably just the democrats, but all of the thirty-something members get together and they are given time after the business of the day is over, and I keep meaning to watch this and I’ll tell you, I have not actually been on CSPAN at eight o’clock at night recently, but they floor time to talk about whatever they want. I think it is a leadership initiative to get the young people, give them more of a chance to speak. You all should look at CSPAN if you are ever so inclined, and see after the seven o’clock, eight o’clock, there should be a whole group of thirty-something’s on there talking about different issues.
Emily Crubaugh: I’m Emily. Did you ever have any particularly inspirational mentors that helped you get to where you are now?
Susannah Shakow: I did, and Madeline Albright said in a book that I read, that there is a special place reserved in hell for women who don’t help women. I think that that goes beyond just women; I think it is so wrong for people who have gotten to an interesting position and done well in their lives, not to look over their shoulder and help people who are coming up. Everybody I know has certain mentors in their life, people who it just seems like their success is a threat to the people that they work for. I’ve had a lot of just great mentors, women who, for the most part, believed in me. WUFPAC actually does a lot of mentorship programs where we, like during the summer we hook up interns who are in DC to professional women in their same field, or the field they want to be in. We do programs like that just because it’s so important to have people help each other. I hope you all get good mentors.
Sadanand Maillard: Inez McCormick, who is recognized by Vital Voices, she was the first woman president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. She was in town one day, and Alyse got her for us. One of kids asked her a similar question, and she said as a young woman in a private school, when you move forward and you don’t reach in to the space and pull someone into the space behind you, you’re going to be just like all the other leaders that went before. It seems like a very powerful message that’s coming out of the women’s leadership about mentoring.
Susannah Shakow: I’ll tell you, there’s a very bad stereotype that I hear often, which is that women don’t help women, that women are not good bosses, and that women are good to the people they work with, and that’s just something we shouldn’t allow. You’re not a strong group unless everybody is helping, each part.
Daniel Nanas: Hi, I’m Daniel. We’ve met several women, such as Melanne and Alyse Nelson, who, like yourself, work for the advancement of other people in politics. I found that many women leaders have a tendency to work in collaborative and supportive roles, as opposed to taking leadership positions in the spot light. Do you think that there is a way that women are raised in our society that leads them into supportive rather then leading roles, and how can women use the asset of being collaborative workers and still serve in needed national leadership positions?
Susannah Shakow: God, what a good question, and a hard question too. I think that for a long time women weren’t expected to be the leaders, look at so many other countries, women are expected to be in the background and not to be in the limelight. I think that’s really changing in America, I’m sure everybody at this table feels that you could be a leader, if that’s what you choose, you certainly have the ability to get there. I think that there are some things that are holding women back, and I do talk to people a lot who say, “I’m very happy helping somebody become whatever, Congresswoman, but I don’t want to do it myself.” I think, actually, one thing that might play in to that, and I don’t know what the answer to this is, that it goes back to the whole children thing.
I’ve got six year old twin boys, so I’ve dealt with this my whole life. It’s very hard for people to figure out how to do what you want to do professionally when you have children. It’s hard, and it takes a lot of flexibility and juggling. I think that a lot of women still think that they don’t want to deal with the hassle, that they want to stay in the background so they can have that time with their family, that they can be the mother and not take away from that. I do think that is factor for women, I think the more role models you see of women who are fabulous mothers, who also have a great professional career, and who are leaders, I think that’ s what helps. There’s a woman in Congress right now, Debbie Wasserman Schulz, from Florida, and she’s thirty seven, and she has twins who are six, and she’s got a two year old, or maybe a there year old. I’ve talked to her a lot about how she has made it work, she actually decided to run for Congress a month before having her baby, I think that’s what it was, yes a month before having her baby she decided to run for Congress. She’s the perfect example of somebody who you think, “She’s just crazy to have tried this, campaigning with a new born baby, and the first meeting I had with her was at this fancy restaurant, and all I knew was that she was this up and coming candidate, I didn’t know much about her personal life, and she shows up with her mother, and a baby in a little car seat carrier to this fancy restaurant, because she was breastfeeding she had to bring the baby.
I think it’s all about role models, really for all of this I think it’s all about role models. You just have see how it’s done, and a lot women are afraid to be in leadership roles because they are worried about the job, or the responsibilities of that, taking away from other important parts of their life. There are so many other factors, but that’s one I think people don’t talk about much.
Kendra Froshman: Do you think the flipside of that is now that paternity leave is becoming a bigger thing, and just men having a bigger role with kids?
Susannah Shakow: You can’t do it without a supportive husband. My husband, I feel like I shouldn’t even say this in this building, but I think he’s the very first person at this firm to take paternity leave. It’s still a controversial thing, but I don’t think you can do it. As a woman, I don’t think you can have a professional career that is interesting and going places if you don’t have a supportive husband who takes a lot of the slack. It’s interesting that it doesn’t seem to really go both ways, that it’s much easier for men to have a family and to do whatever they want to do, but women feel, in my experience, so much more responsibility for taking care of the kids or the housework or whatever, and that is something that has to change. Women have to stop feeling as much responsibility and learn how to share it with their husbands too.
Madeline Weston-Miles: Hi, I’m Madeline. How can I be the kind of person somebody will want to mentor?
Susannah Shakow: Oh, what a good question! I think part of it is choosing the person you want to mentor you. I’ve had times in my life where I’ve gone into a job, and seen, “That’s somebody who I’d love to pay attention to me.” There was a person in my law firm, a woman who was actually a really intimidating person, but she was so interesting and so involved with so many things. I kind of chose her, and it worked in the end. I was very interested in her life; I was very willing to do whatever she wanted. She’d ask me to work on a project, and I’d always be very willing to help her however she wanted. I think choosing is the most important thing. You choose that person and let it be known that you’re very interested in that person, and that you want to be there to help them, and they will reciprocate, hopefully.
Megan Mitchell: Hi, I’m Megan. Have you noticed a pressure on women coming into Congress not to advance women’s issue based platforms, and in other words, are women in Congress forced to play by other people’s rules?
Susannah Shakow: I think that is what we would expect. If you were going in as a young Congresswoman, you don’t want to be typecasted as “Oh, she only deals with women’s issues.” I’m sure that a lot of people think that, and it’s really interested to look at Hilary Clinton right now, because she is positioning herself, obviously, but she has dug into all of the men’s issues. National security, and all of this defense stuff. She has moved so far away from the traditional women’s issues, so yeah, I think there is a fair amount of that. It’s so interesting that even though we might expect that, that women would be wary of typecasting themselves, there’s this professor at Georgetown University, who went back and she took four years of Congress, and she look at the voting records of all the members of Congress in the House during that four year period. She wrote a list of all of the bills that were introduced those years, and the ones that were women’s bills, ones that helped women, or helped children, the one’s you would think would be the soft issue bills that would help education, or whatever, 99% of those bills were introduced by women. Her conclusion was that it was the women and it had nothing to do with party; it was just if you were a woman, and you were going to be the one pushing this type of legislation.
Kay Bailey Hutchison has a quote that says, “It’s not that men don’t care about these issues, it’s just that they had honestly not thought about how this was a problem.” Women, we have different concerns and different cares in our lives, and so there are just certain things that we might see as a problem that our male counterparts in Congress don’t. It was really interesting for me too see that, and too see that if you’re a woman and you want to vote for somebody that is going to push your agenda, whatever that agenda is, the woman’s side of your agenda is how I should say it, then you might be better served to vote for a woman republican then a democratic man, because it’s more likely that she’ll be introducing bills that affect a part of your life directly.
John-Nuri Vissell: Hi, I’m John. We work on getting women into politics, but is there also an importance on getting politics to young women? As in high school programs that come in and introduce the attention and idealism of young women in politics?
Susannah Shakow: You know, there isn’t really. Right now what we do is we do events where we invite a lot of young people to hear interesting political speakers talk about cool things, which we think they might be interested in. We have a program that we are trying to work out with the charter schools in the area, where we’ll come in and actually bring one of the young Congresswomen in, and not necessarily just Congresswomen, but we’re also talking about bringing in young candidates who are running, just to act as role models, to do exactly what you we’re saying, to say, “I don’t look so different from you, I’m running for Congress or I’m in Congress and this is how I did it, just to inspire them. That is a big component of it, and I know there are a fair number of other groups who do that sort of thing, but we think that especially bringing in the young Congresswomen will be a great thing because there’s so few of them, and it’s so different for a young girl, especially in the inner city in DC, to be able to see these role models who really made it happen. That is an important part of what we do now, but especially what we plan on doing.
Todd Wilson: My name is Todd. Based on what you were saying with Megan’s question, it seems that bringing more women into Congress won’t necessarily pass more legislation on women’s issues, so what I’m wondering is how much you think one’s personal identity affects your ability to represent the identity of others.
Susannah Shakow: Well I often, when speaking to a male politician, I often get a lot of hostility. I was speaking to the mayor of Salt Lake City, which is kind of random, and I was telling him about WUFPAC, and he was genuinely offended with what we were doing, because he said, “I have a wife, I have daughters, and I can’t believe you think that I wouldn’t represent their issues just as well as anybody else, because I love them and I care about them.” I think it really goes back to the idea that it’s not that these male politicians don’t care; it’s that I think sometimes people do vote on their experience. They vote on the issues that affect their lives most personally, and so I think it’s just that there are some issues that are gender issues, that women are going to be more aware of or men are going to be more aware of. It helps to have both points of view at the table. You all know ’92 was the year of the woman, it was the year we got the most women into Congress ever in history, and some people are saying this is year is going to be the same, so it will be interesting.
After ’92 a whole lot of really big women-related bills got passed, it really was that all these women suddenly started talking about, “Hey, why has nobody ever done his?” I think one of them is kind of controversial, ‘Family and Medical Leave Act,’ where they allow people to take of time to help a sick child, or a sick parent, or I suppose themselves too, but it’s mandated time off. That just had never been around before ’92, and a lot people say it’s because all these women came in and they often had to leave their jobs to go care for the sick child or the sick parent. Breast cancer funding was another big one, prostate cancer had gotten a whole lot of money and breast cancer hadn’t gotten as much money, and all these women came in and said, “We need to have some parenting.”
Sadanand Maillard: It’s interesting, you’re bringing forward something that, as an educator and someone at home doing innovation and education, it’s very easy to go to the negative said and say it’s wrong. All that does is set up the opposition. The thing that has occurred to me, especially in the last few years, where we’ve been doing conferences on the innovation and education, is to understand that it’s not wrong, it’s just incomplete. If we can have more diversity in the room, we have that greater breadth of perspective.
Susannah Shakow: It’s all about that, perspective.
Sadanand Maillard: I’m trying to figure out, and I think you probably are too, is how you promote change without the shadow side of the resistance. I think the first step is not to make the other guys wrong. I’m hearing you say that, and that really makes lot of sense.
Susannah Shakow: Hopefully, because a lot is threatening about trying to get young women into office is threatening to some people.
Sadanand Maillard: How do you disarm people before they get to the ‘being threatened’ stage?
Susannah Shakow: Well obviously with the mayor I didn’t do a good job.
Sadanand Maillard: That’s one of those things that will promote your next genius, how to do it differently next time.
Susannah Shakow: We do talk about, especially talking to older men who tend to be the most skeptical about the idea, that if they do have daughters just saying, “Don’t you want to see more women role models, women leaders that they can model themselves after?” It’s really true for me at least; it’s hard to imagine doing a job that you don’t see anybody like you in. It may be a strange thing; I think it is Emily’s List that says, you can’t be what you can’t see. I do think that if you look back in your lives, if there are only men doing one sport, maybe it wouldn’t occur to women to try that sport. I think it really is important to have that.
Sadanand Maillard: Martha Nussbaum said something about that. Anybody remember it? She’s a philosopher, in Greek philosophy. She said something about how you only desire what’s in our framework; you only desire what you see.
Susannah Shakow: Stephanie Herseth, the young Congresswomen from South Dakota, she’s the first women they’ve ever sent to Congress. She’s the first women who’s run in a very long time, and she was saying she would go to these state fairs, which is a lot of what she did when she was campaigning, and that she was mobbed by middle school age girls, she was just a rock start to them because they had no idea that a woman, and she’s a very young looking woman, that somebody who looked like their babysitter could run for Congress. They would all go ask their moms, “I could do this too?” It’s important to see those people out there.
Daniel Nanas: This relates to Margaret Wheatley. She said we define ourselves by what we choose to notice, when we notice what is around us and what we do.
Xander Crawford: As a male—
Susannah Shakow: Let’s hope.
Xander Crawford: As a male, I am a man. Is there anything that I can do, aside from giving money to support equal representation in Congress?
Susannah Shakow: We have a lot of men who are our members, and are very supportive of what we do because it’s not just women who are noticing this problem. Men, for example in law firms, only fifteen percent of partner’s nation wide are women. In Fortune 500 companies, I can’t remember the astonishingly low number, but it’s like three women are CEO’s. Men notice that there are women missing at the top, and do want to help make it more even. Women are equal to you in all ways in high school and college, and then when you get out there comes a time when you realize, “Wow, something has happened, and there’s not as many women in leaderships or high positions as there should be. I’m sure it’s as disturbing to men, really, as it is to women. I would encourage you to get involved in groups. Emily’s List has lots of men working for them contributing to them, and it’s very important, I think, to put your money where your mouth is and support causes that do, maybe it looks like a woman’s group, but to show your support that way.
Sadanand Maillard: They get to hang out with the power women, too.
Susannah Shakow: I’ll tell you something else, too. I have some single male friends who just love going to WUFPAC events because it’s just all young women. I thought that they just liked me, but that was what it was.
Kendra Froshman: I think that a lot of young people are frustrated right now that they see in dialogue, maybe with other leaders around them, they don’t see it as a dialogue, maybe more as a monologue, or something like this. How do you do WUFPAC or generally a strategy to listen to young people?
Susannah Shakow: I think that young people say that “I’m not going to vote because it’s not going to matter, nobody ever talks about the issues that we care about, so why does it even matte if I get involved?” But of course, I know that you all know that politicians don’t pay any attention to people who don’ vote, or give money, or get involved. Ads about political issues aren’t aimed at you guys, not at all. They know you don’t really care, you guys care, I’m sure, but many of your peers don’t care, so they tend to focus on older people because they know that they give money, and they will be out thee voting, and that they truly care. I think that encouraging as many people as you know to get out there and vote.
To give five dollars to a political candidate, just choose somebody, educate on who is running and who is out there, because nothing is going to change. The youth will never have a voice unless you ask for it, and people have not been asking for it. Back in the last election there was an enormous push to get youth out to vote, and the youth vote did rise a lot, but we could do so much better. Just telling people over and over again, of course it’s not interesting to you right now, of course they’re not focusing on your issues, but it’s up to you to knock on that door and to ask, and to make them pay attention to you, which they will if you vote. Voting is the first step, you’ve vote and then giving money and getting involved in campaigns is nice too, and running yourself is especially nice.
Sadanand Maillard: I know we’re almost at the end of our time, but we have a traditional closer that we’ll go to, but I want to do a bit of lobbying for these guys, and that is you brought up several points that really dovetail into that last question. One is that we need to be listening more; we need to be more of a learning culture, because we have a lot to learn from countries around the world. We’ve seen it in our classroom, people I bring in from Africa, for example, have taught us more about what it means to be human, and because they haven’t necessarily had their lives interrupted by all the things that take us away from who we really are in the pace of life. There’s one idea that we need to get into the process and get our ideas heard, there’s this other idea of preparing the next generation to assume leadership. There’s always idea that if you somehow listen to us and learn what we know, then eventually you’ll be at the point where you are capable of doing something. My observation is that if we actually listen to them now, they’ll tell us how we’re doing, and if we want people to mentor people in the process, we have to give them a seat at the table. One of the things that I advocate for is, in the political process, not just saying “Here we are, and if you’re smart enough to figure it out,” but to bring them to the table, bring them to these fundraising events, make sure there are young people at the table when we’re doing business, because that’s the best form of mentoring.
Susannah Shakow: I definitely think so too. And I think what you’re saying is not just mentoring, it won’t be just that you all will absorb what’s going on, but that you’ll have a different, fresh perspective.
Sadanand Maillard: And some institutional memory about why it went the way it did, and yet I see that as a missing piece in the system. A connection of the generations, which I think is something that the indigenous know that we’ve forgotten.
Susannah Shakow: Do you all have internships that you do during the summer, or the school year? I grew up in DC so I had it easy, but I always had an internship. In DC you mainly work for free, which seems so ridiculous, but the experience you get of being right there, wherever it is, I mean White House internships are amazing. Hard to get, but you guys are smart, you could get one. Internships are just a wonderful way to get your foot in the door and really see what a place is like.
Sadanand Maillard: Kendra is a graduate of the program, she graduated seven years ago.
Kendra Froshman: I was working for non-profit in DC.
Susannah Shakow: Which one?
Kendra Froshman: It’s called the Fellowship of reconciliation. It’s based in New York, but there’s a satellite here.
Susannah Shakow: What does it do?
Kendra Froshman: I was working on the Middle East programs, so we were sending delegations to Israel and Palestine, and then to Iran to learn about he situation there and then educate.
Susannah Shakow: I’d love to talk to you more about that, it sounds great.
Kendra Froshman: It was very interesting.
Susannah Shakow: Are you still in DC?
Sadanand Maillard: She came home to us. I had three interns here last year, one for Congresswoman Matsui, one in Vital Voices, and then Kendra was finishing up her tour of the Middle East.
Susannah Shakow: That’s great, well WUFPAC is always looking for interns, too. We’re small, so we have about for or five interns, but if any of you all want to apply.
Sadanand Maillard: Jonji, you want to do the closer?
Jonji Barber: As our teacher said, this is question that we ask at the end of every interview. It varies from time to time, but as our generation develops and grows into this adult world that we’re all facing, now, is there any advice that you think would make the process more meaningful?
Susannah Shakow: I don’t know if this is exactly the advice you were asking for, we were just talking about being a good mentor and looking over your shoulder and bringing people up, but I think there are some people who think that you have to be, that there is no place for niceness. There are some people who think that niceness is weakness. The people that know that do the best over a long period of time in their careers; they are people who understand the value of treating other people well. This might seem like such a basic lesson, but I’ve see it so many times. People, like when I started at my law firm, people treating their secretaries like dirt because the secretaries were not at the same level as they were, or not wanting to mentor somebody because they felt they were too important and they didn’t have time to have lunch with somebody who wasn’t going to give them anything. I just think that it’s so important in your lives to realize that being nice, it’s such an asset because you win friends, and you make great networks, and being the type of person who thinks they are too self-important, I mean DC is full of those people, frankly, people who think they are so important they can’t bother with the niceties of life. The truth is, it’s extremely important. That’s my advice, thank you.