Navigating the Challenges of Women in Politics with She Should Run Founder Erin Loos Cutraro

Home Resources Navigating the Challenges of Women in Politics with She Should Run Founder Erin Loos Cutraro
Navigating the Challenges of Women in Politics with She Should Run Founder Erin Loos Cutraro
About The Episode Transcript

In our latest episode, we interview Erin Loos Cutraro, the founder and CEO of She Should Run, a nonprofit dedicated to encouraging women to run for office - it’s so needed! Did you know that women still hold less than 30% of all elected offices across the federal, state, and local level, and the numbers are even lower when looking at women from underrepresented communities? Black women comprise less than 6% of officeholders in Congress, statewide elective executive offices, and state legislatures; only 7.9% of all women state legislators identify as Latina; and, roughly 0.23 percent of U.S elected officials identify as LGBTQIA+. Women are still less likely than men to have thought about running for office or to express interest in running for office in the future. Women are less likely to have opted into leadership roles from a young age. In fact, few of us– less than 2%– grow up with the dream to run for office one day. There’s lots of work to do!

Before the interview, we chat about the movie American Fiction and how the Black American experience is portrayed in media.

[00:02:22] Felicia and Rachel discuss the movie American Fiction. [00:10:50] Interview with Erin. [00:11:15] Origin story and childhood upbringing. [00:18:34] Challenges for women candidates. [00:22:42] Running for office aspirations. [00:23:46] Women in political roles. [00:29:35] Nonpartisan space and misconceptions. [00:33:13] Running for public office journey. [00:36:17] Women's surge after 2016 election. [00:41:17] A different political climate. [00:45:35] Overcoming political exhaustion and paralysis. [00:49:12] Finding women who aren't looking. [00:53:12] The importance of diverse opinions. [00:57:28] Future goals and hopes. [01:00:49] The opportunity in Gen Z.

(00:06 - 00:16) Felicia Jadczak: Hi, and welcome to the She Geeks Out podcast, where we geek out about workplace inclusion and talk with brilliant humans doing great work, making the world a better and brighter place. I'm Felicia. (00:16 - 00:55) Rachel Murray: And I'm Rachel. Welcome, welcome. We are so excited to have Erin Loos Cutraro on this week's episode. Erin has been working tirelessly to advance women in politics for decades. Don't know if you noticed, but we've still got quite a gap in public office when it comes to gender and there's a lot of understandable reasons for this, which we do get into. Note, not one of them is due to lack of skill or ability. Erin is the founder and CEO of She Should Run, a nonpartisan national nonprofit committed to encouraging women to run for office. Full disclosure, I am on the board and I'm so honored to be a part of this incredible work.

(00:55 - 01:25) Felicia Jadczak:

(01:25 - 01:39) Rachel Murray: All right. Let's get into it. Before our amazing interview. Yes, there's something, of course, that we have to discuss, of course, as you longtime listeners know. We've now timestamped it so that you can forward through this if your ears cannot handle this.

(01:39 - 01:41) Felicia Jadczak: I mean, we're so accommodating.

(01:41 - 01:58) Rachel Murray: We try. So last night I watched the movie American Fiction, which was a wonderful movie starring Jeffrey Wright, had an incredible cast. For those of you who have not seen it, we won't do any spoilers.

(01:58 - 02:01) Felicia Jadczak: Maybe if you want to see it, just fast forward ahead.

(02:01 - 02:51) Rachel Murray: That's true. That's a good idea. We'll do a little bit. We're not going to ruin everything, but it's a commentary on how media and literature portrays the black experience, the black American experience in particular. And it is really something I think everyone should see. And it's funny because I was just saying to Felicia that for me, I personally hate movies that have anything to do with like families and like people dying of cancer and like anything sad. And so that ended up being what a lot of this movie actually was, which I didn't think that that was going to be the case. So like, you know, 30% into the movie, my husband Mark turns to me and he's like, you must be hating this movie so much. And I'm like, I am hating this movie.

(02:51 - 02:58) Felicia Jadczak: What made you decide to pick the movie? I mean, of course, I obviously didn't know all of it going into it. But like, what what drew you into the movie?

(02:58 - 03:48) Rachel Murray: Well, outside of The Incredible Cast, which I'm a fan of basically like every single person in that movie who stars in it, outside of that, I thought the topic was really interesting and important, which was exactly what I was just sort of saying around, which is what I thought the meat of it was really going to be, was about this author who basically has not been rewarded for his fiction. And in fact, his books, that have absolutely nothing to do with African-American studies end up in the African-American studies area in bookstores. He is just a writer, fiction writer, who happens to be a Black American. And so he ends up writing something that does pander, and it ends up getting critically acclaimed. And that was what I was really interested in, was to see how they were going to draw it out. And there were some beautiful moments in it.

(03:49 - 05:23) Felicia Jadczak: Yeah, I saw this movie before the Oscars because I was trying to see some of the Oscar nominated movies. And so Steve and I watched it. We really enjoyed it. But yeah, there's so many interesting points brought up because to your point, I did anticipate that they would get a little bit deeper into the whole core crux of the movie, which is the fact that he writes the satirical novel and he's basically intending it to be really obvious and it's like, you know, making fun of everybody. And then to his surprise, it's everyone's really loving it so it's sort of like it's just a really smart like takedown of how you know a lot of a lot of ways we think of things like what is critically acclaimed and like how are we supporting people and whose voices are important and not even saying that it's bad that his voice as a black American was uplifted but the way in which it was is the whole point of it. But there's also you know to your point earlier there's this whole other you know kind of surrounding melodrama of the family, one thing Steve and I couldn't get over was, so, you know, we're talking about the fact that the mother is ill, he needs money, he's got, you know, a lot of stuff going on, there's a lot of family drama, and we just kept laughing because we're like, there is a woman who we could not understand her relationship to the family, and I think she was their housekeeper. And we kept saying, why don't they just let her go? Because they could surely save money if they didn't have to pay her salary. But that wasn't on the table at all.

(05:23 - 05:27) Rachel Murray: But they they what they had to have someone take care of her. She needed 24-7 care.

(05:27 - 05:35) Felicia Jadczak: Right. But that was that was the thing I couldn't understand because I was like, well, they kept they kept saying, oh, well, we have no one to take care of her. I'm like, but you have a woman who's living in the house already with her.

(05:35 - 05:38) Rachel Murray: But then but then the thing happened where she wasn't able to really take care of her.

(05:39 - 06:05) Felicia Jadczak: Yeah, so I just felt like it felt like a detail that was confusing or was confusing to me anyway. But the point of it is, I think, really critical, which is that we do have populations who are aging and there's going to be a real issue around how do we take care of people and whose job is it and how do we support that. That's a whole other aspect to the movie, which I thought was really well done, although surprising and didn't anticipate that.

(06:05 - 07:23) Rachel Murray: Yeah. In addition to the story itself. I agree. And I thought one thing I just really loved and it did. I mean, some of it definitely just really hit home. I like to say, you know, as a white woman, I love seeing some of this stuff. So critiques on people like me, especially when they had the woman with the white hair, the first standing applause for the book. But they had the one scene where they were judging all of the books for this book award, and he was one of the judges. And Issa Rae was one of the other judges. And then there were three white judges. There were five of them. And the three white judges were like, oh, this book has got to be the number one, the one, you know, the alter ego one. Right. And, you know, then and Issa Rae and Jeffrey Wright are like, we disagree with that. We don't think that this should be the number one pick. And they're like, well, it's three against two. And then at the end of the scene, she just beautifully says, you know, I just think it's really important that we listen to black voices. Yes, it was. I loved that so much. So good. What I wanted was I wanted and I totally get why they cut it to the next scene. But I really just wanted to see what would happen, like what happened right after that moment. Did they just like roll their eyes and like walk away or?

(07:25 - 08:23) Felicia Jadczak: Well, and it's such a smart point because it's like, you know, we have the two black characters who are there. So there's presumably lending their voice and their opinion is completely discounted. It's just perfect. You know, if we tie it back to like our work, thinking about representation and like whose voice is in the room and then not only are you in the room, but how is that then played out because that's the other big piece of it, where it's not just enough to have physical bodies in the Zoom room or the physical room or whatever it might be, but how are we working together and how are we listening to people? and sometimes the missing piece. So, you know, the upshot of it is that this satirical dumb book gets this huge prestigious award. And it's like, how did we get to this point? Because this whole escapade is meant to be, you know, a takedown and it's getting uplifted as this amazing piece of literature because white people.

(08:23 - 08:38) Rachel Murray: So that was it was it was great. I very much enjoyed it. And I was and it was It's hard to watch the family parts, but I get why they made me do it, and I'm here for it. Thank you for indulging me on this conversation.

(08:38 - 09:53) Felicia Jadczak: Oh, you're welcome. I mean, I feel like there's a lot more to get into if this podcast was more about that. Like, I would love to talk more on or offline about the Issa Rae character and how her book, which I feel was basically the same thing, but she was basically approaching it as if she had on purpose written. So actually, to that point, it is interesting. It's a Jacksonville story. I'm going to go into it now. Nope, we're doing it. It is a juxtaposition because on the one hand, the Thelonious Monk character, Monk, he writes a book fully intending it to be an obvious satire. It's obviously supposed to be stupid. Then she writes a book which is very similar, playing into these tropes and these characterizations of Black people in the ghetto and whatever. She has done it very sincerely. So that was a really interesting, fascinating subplay there because it's just what is getting uplifted and then also the motivations behind it. I think that was a big difference where she was genuinely thinking that it was literature or she did this on purpose. I think the question which the film leaves you with is, is her approach any different from his?

(09:53 - 10:06) Rachel Murray: It's a great question. I know I was really excited to see that scene between the two of them because there was only the one conversation. And I could have had I could have watched a scene between them. Yeah. For like.

(10:06 - 10:29) Felicia Jadczak: Yeah. Because I think I'm like, hopefully everyone who hasn't seen this movie has already skipped ahead. But her character is basically because he says like he's like, you know, this book is trauma porn. And she's like, no, I interviewed voiceless people and I'm just giving the market what it wants. And you could say that he did the same thing. He just made up the voiceless people, but he's giving the market what it wants. Is any of them better or worse than the other?

(10:29 - 10:39) Rachel Murray: And that's what it's all about. And the whole movie was pandering. All right. Now we're stopping. Now we're going to get out of the interview.

(10:39 - 10:45) Felicia Jadczak: Now we're going to actually get into the chat. So let's switch gears and bring Erin into this space.

(10:49 - 11:14) Rachel Murray: Well, hello, Felicia, and hello, Erin It's lovely to see you both. Yes, hi. Hello. Welcome to the party. We're just going to get right into it, because we've got some fun questions that we want to ask, and we want to learn all about you. So we want to start with our first favorite question, which is, because we're all superheroes, what is your origin story?

(11:15 - 18:12) Erin Loos Cutraro: Oh, well, first, just thanks so much for having me on today to talk about all this goodness, my origin story. So I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, and I grew up primarily with a single mom. And what I saw, and a sister, and what I saw in my experience, the three of us being in the house is very much a, hey, just figure it out type household. We're going to figure this out. My mom, I was a latchkey kid. My mom was often, you know, not home until the later evening because she worked pretty hard. And so my sister and I would fend for ourselves sometimes. try not to get into too much chaos, but, you know, she trusted us with a lot and we took that seriously and, you know, knew how to figure things out. And she definitely helped us know how to figure things out. So after school decided to get my undergrad in, um, And education. So I actually out of undergrad taught middle. Well, it wasn't middle school. It was sixth grade, but it was an elementary school history. But like that middle school age age bracket, which was a lot of fun because. kids of that age are just forming their wit. They're super fun, sometimes awkward, but also really funny. And I loved that about the age. And for me in that experience, It was probably then that I started to sort of set the foundation for something that became very true for me professionally, which is I was just very lucky to be aligned with and working with people who were incredible sort of systems thinkers, and I was really drawn to it. So even in education, my time working in The classroom, my principal at the time saw in me a desire to figure out, what's the lever we can pull to not just change this in my classroom, which by the way, I was a brand new teacher trying to figure this out, but I'm like, how can we change this in the district? How can we change this for all kids in public education? I thought about going to get my grad degree and ultimately decided that I wanted to do it not just in education, even though I loved the work I was doing, I wanted to sort of understand that greater problem solving. So I got my master's degree in communication, specifically in learning and development. So L&D was my focus and like how people communicate within organizations. And I actually, you know, I took a pause from teaching. I wasn't sure if I was going to go back to the classroom or not, but to pay for grad school, I had a graduate assistantship and needed to do that full time. So it took me on a path that was pretty unexpected. So again, I found myself in a situation where just incredible sort of mentors and people who I had a lot to learn from, who helped kind of introduce me to organizational thinking and learning and development as it exists within organizations outside of education. And so when I left grad school, I actually went into the financial sector, which was a crazy turn for me. So I was working in the financial sector, In learning and development, I was working with executives. It's always my fun fact about myself is like I had to get a series seven license in the experience so that I could work with the executives. And so I learned a whole lot about that world. And while I loved the work I was doing, there was something in me that felt like I just wasn't doing everything that I needed to be doing. And some of the people who were dear in my life knew that about me. And one of them came to me and said, I know this is crazy, but I have this woman that I think you would really be interested in meeting. I think you two are really, you know, would hit it off. Anyway, she's running a statewide campaign, and this was my home state of Missouri. She's running a statewide campaign, and I think you should talk to her. I was not political. People assume because I run this organization, She Should Run Now, that I was this hyper-political person, and I just wasn't. I knew how to navigate a system. I had to growing up, the way that I did and some of the support that we needed, but I didn't You know, I didn't ever think about it as like politics. And so, you know, I went to meet this woman and she was running statewide rates for somebody who was running for secretary of state. And I fell in love with her. I fell in love with the candidate. I ended up joining the campaign. I had the job was was a call time assistant, which essentially meant that I was dialing for dollars. I was trying to get through the gatekeepers to get the candidate on the phone with the people that she needed to ask for money. What was cool about this job and what I always tell people, and I'll pause with my origin story after this, I promise. I know it's a long origin story, but is that that gave me, I had no idea what I was stepping into, it gave me 100% access to everything that was happening. So I was with this candidate, her name is Robin Carnahan, she now works in the Biden administration. I was with her all waking hours of the day. I traveled the state with her. I got to meet, you know, potential constituents with her. I got to see her navigate the systems that were really challenging for her. So two things to happen that solidified my path in that, and this will close on my origin, is One, I saw in that experience somebody who cared deeply about making the world a better place and I made this connection between what you can do in elected office when you're out to do good, how much good can get done. And two, she was a woman running for statewide office and The whole system, the entire system was built for, and now we know is built for by men. Everything about it was a challenge. And to see that firsthand, I just went, okay, these two things, there's something here. And that pretty much set me on the path.

(18:13 - 18:30) Rachel Murray: was an amazing story. I feel like I had no idea of some of the zigs and the zags, so thank you so much for sharing that. I have a follow-up question around just the end piece, which is some of these challenges that you experienced. We certainly see them now. Can you just expand a little bit on what those are?

(18:31 - 18:33) Erin Loos Cutraro: Yeah. Do you mean the challenges for women candidates?

(18:33 - 18:34) Rachel Murray: Yes.

(18:34 - 21:10) Erin Loos Cutraro: Yeah. So they, you know, I have been, you know, I've been doing, I've been doing this work for quite a while now. And, and I would say, thankfully, some things have evolved for the better in terms of the barriers that exist in some that None are fully resolved, but they've certainly shifted. Some things have gotten easier. And unfortunately, some new barriers have emerged. So at the end of the day, there's a couple of things that I always say when people ask me about barriers. I always say there are over 500,000 elected offices in this country. Most people think about only the highest level offices. And so they're immediately sort of thinking about the barriers that women face to running for the highest levels of office. because those are very public. We talk about them, we see them, they're in front of us on the regular and narrative. In our guts, we internalize that and assume it looks the same at the very local level where the vast majority, 99%, over 99% of elected offices are at the local level. And the barriers do exist, but they're different. So the primary barriers are either a real or perceived lack of access to funds that are needed. We're built in a system that most positions, local level, it's much smaller, but you need some sort of you know, ability or comfort or learn, a willingness to learn comfort with raising the dollars that it takes to run for office. And that can be a real sort of kind of a red line for people. Like, I don't want to mess with that. The one that I would say is greater though, frankly, is just what the personal toll it takes. So this reality that especially at the local level, you know, these aren't, sometimes they're 100% volunteer roles, and what you have to give for stepping into that space is realistically a little bit of your privacy up. And there are ways to protect for that, but the perception of how hard that can be sometimes will keep people from even dipping a toe in. because we know it can get real ugly. It doesn't always, but there's a risk and maybe that risk isn't worth it. So it keeps a lot of folks out. And I would say even more so for black and brown women who experience the campaign trail in a really different way and a more challenging way, it can be a real barrier, the systems that kind of exist that force women to rethink whether or not this is a good use of time.

(21:10 - 22:28) Felicia Jadczak: That makes so much sense. And, you know, it's interesting because I haven't run for office really myself. I'm involved in a lot of local yet committees and volunteer stuff yet. But what I was going to say is my husband, before we were married in Medford, he actually ran for city councilor position. He didn't get it, but. he went through that whole process in 2019. So right before the pandemic. And that was really what like my first real exposure to a lot of what you touched on, even for someone as, you know, privileged as he is, you know, being a man, being a white man, having a lot of easy access, but it was still really challenging. Your point around how that challenge is just only amplified for folks like Black and Brown women, women overall, it's just so pertinent. And I think that's a great bridge to something I want you to talk a little bit more about, which is stuff we kind of touched on, but I really want you to get into more of what is She Should Run. So you're the founder, you're the CEO, we talked about some challenges, we talked about, you know, sort of how you kind of got to this point, but can you talk a little bit more about She Should Run specifically? What's the mission? What are you focused on? And then we'll have a lot more questions to get into from there, I'm sure.

(22:28 - 22:33) Erin Loos Cutraro: Okay, I will answer that question, Felicia, but I have to ask you a question first, which is,

(22:34 - 22:36) Felicia Jadczak: It's not this kind of podcast.

(22:36 - 22:42) Erin Loos Cutraro: So I'm curious, you said you haven't run for office. Have you thought about running for office?

(22:42 - 23:25) Felicia Jadczak: Yes. Rachel's laughing because I told her that I am thinking of running for office at some point, maybe mayorship. I don't know. But I will be honest, I did look up recently because I was very curious. So I live out in Western Massachusetts and I had seen an article about A few years back, some of the local towns in this area had sort of banded together because one of the towns had said that their city councilors and mayor were very underpaid, which was true. So they had pulled a lot of data around this. And I'm just nosy, so I wanted to know what my local officials were getting me. Yes. And I looked at it and I was like, I don't know if this mayor's salary is enough for me.

(23:25 - 28:35) Erin Loos Cutraro: Right. Right. OK, well, first, I'm so glad. I'm so glad to hear it. And I, you know, selfishly, too, it's you know, this is at the core of what She Should Run does is like, let's have the conversation about about if you've thought about running for office, if not, why? And all of the answers, yes, no, maybe, they're all okay. What's not okay is when we're not having those conversations or we feel uncomfortable or like it's not our place. And you named something that, by the way, that is very real and challenging about that whole system, which is the pay is just, not there at a livable wage in most places. And so it really changes who has access to those roles, which is part of, I can talk about She Should Run. So, you know, I started She Should Run as a project inside of another organization. I was working for an organization called Women's Campaign Fund that supported women in the electoral space so electoral in our world is like active candidates women who are on the ballot and my job I was a political director for most of my while with it was to was to help. Women who are at that very beginning stage of their candidacy establish. pathways to get institutional support. So what we saw was, you know, there's never enough support, of course, for women, especially the wonderful women who run for office. It's extra challenging for women who aren't coming to the table with the privilege of built-in networks to navigate their ways into the rooms where the institutional support exists that they need. And so after years of doing that work, what was maddening to me is that… there weren't nearly enough women who weren't already on the inside of those, you know, political power circles thinking about running for office. And so I was sort of charged with coming up with like a simple recruitment program. Like, how do we find those women? And when it started, it was like a simple, really, really simple, uh, what we would call today, like an ask a woman to run program. Like, let's tell us about a woman that you know, that should run for office. And what was crazy about it is, you know, we had this, you know, longstanding organization that I was working within that, you know, had been in operation since the early seventies. And the landscape was shifting so quickly that the energy towards the work that that org was doing was, um, was sort of waning while I kept pointing out like, wait, but this program is like one program is doing really, really well. And so. Ultimately, I made the case, like, let's pull this program out. Let's make it a standalone entity. Let's see what we can do with it. And so just prior to the 2016 election, we spent about a year, year and a half building, researching, frankly gearing up for what we thought was a Hillary Clinton win. Well, it's residency, right? Yeah, we were there with you. I know, right? So there. So, so we thought we were looking at the research that says, you know, once you sort of elect a woman's the highest level position, the work gets so much harder, because people assume mission accomplished. And so we wanted to build, you know, something that was played long game that I felt very strongly needed to operate in the nonpartisan space because I felt like, hey, if we're leveling the playing field to make a case for women to run for office, it's harder to do if you're coming at it through an issues lens or you're coming at. So like, let's just figure out how to make this case. Let's just figure out how to, especially for those women who are like maybe not even identifying strongly with a political party. Like, how do we find them and encourage them? And so, you know, fast forward to where we are today. You know, Shisha Brun is a 501c3 nonpartisan, nonprofit that works to help women see their potential in elected office. And we've helped hundreds of thousands of women since our start take their very first steps on their political journey. And, you know, that doesn't mean that's hundreds of thousands of women who have gone on to run. I'm always really clear about this. Our goal is to get women to even look behind the curtain. because the research is really clear that women are counting themselves out before they've even taken a look at what could be done there. And so we're holding that space for women to be able to take that look. And we do that through resources and toolkits and webinars. It's mostly in the virtual space. It's most definitely happening all across the country. The majority of women we serve, you know, are looking at local offices and what they can do there and just trying to figure out like, what does it actually look like to prepare myself for this? Should I want to actually throw my hat in the ring?

(28:35 - 29:35) Rachel Murray: That was wonderful. I'm obviously, you know, I'm a big fan of she should run. So I had the mission and I think it's really unique the space that you occupy because I think I know when I talk about she should run outside people just assume that you're a boot camp, you know, you're you're that's what you're doing or or some sort of a running. So I get that sometimes too. But one area that I think is the most interesting is this nonpartisan space that you occupy and we've had conversations about it and I really honor that and really appreciate it. And I wonder if we could just talk a little bit more about what some of the, maybe some of the myths are around that and misconceptions around, you know, this idea that if you are this type of organization, then therefore you are 100% progressive, you know, partisan, right? Can you just talk a little bit about that?

(29:35 - 34:34) Erin Loos Cutraro: Let's get to that juicy stuff. It is most definitely something that I feel like we are in. It does feel like a sort of a constant narrative battle for is like the people who will say, OK, I get it. I understand your mission. OK, you want to see more women run for office. You want to see more women in office. This is like a wink wink progressive thing, right? And what I say to that always is, first, I get it. I understand where that's coming from. So let's set the table for this. There is a reality that if you look at our current infrastructure of support and the current division in our country, so we're primarily a two-party system, of course, and there is in if we just even follow the dollars, there is much more support for women who are Democrats than women who are Republicans. And there is a perception that if you are in support of seeing more women step up to lead, that that must be a partisan, you must be like a thinly veiled or not partisan player. And my real takeaway from doing this, as long as I've done it, is that people just want things to be simpler than they are. They just want to simplify things. They want to say, OK, you have to either be this or that. And it's just not the case. It's sort of back to the piece of, people even being confused as to what she should run would offer. The reason why people are confused as to what she should run would offer is because there is a perception that to run for office, what it takes is you decide to run for office, you go to a training program, and you're on the ballot and you either win or lose. And that's like this linear, we have a bunch of visuals, I know this is a podcast, but You know, I like just picture that straight line. And that's what most people are. It's like, OK, start here. Go boom. You're on the ticket. Here's the reality. What it actually looks like to run for office is like a giant squiggly all over the place, especially for women and especially for brown and black women or women from any kind of marginalized community, because. There are fits and starts. There are, hey, I'm going to think about this. But actually, oh, crap. It's actually not a good time in my life. Or what role would I even run for? Or that thing that I actually care about doesn't even look like it has an elected role. Or why not do activism versus public office? Do I even trust government? I don't know. Do I have the money? Anyway, there's all of these things that happen before you are actually making a decision to run that people don't create the space for. And so for me, we're living in a partisan world. I would be crazy to be on here and say, you know what this is? This whole world is actually not as partisan as people think. No, actually, we are the most polarized that we've been and certainly in our lives. There is a place for partisanship. There's a place if that is how you are motivated by political party, perhaps it's how you're forced to vote, by the way, you know, by on your ballot. That work is later stage. So I always come back to like, if you picture as much as you can, sort of a funnel. Shisha Run's work sits at the very top of the funnel. Let's call the very bottom of the funnel, the like actual person who is elected. Shisha runs at the very top of the funnel. Our work in leveling the playing field for who's thinking about running for office. can't be partisan because it's truly, it is an equity play. It is a how can we make sure that there's no woman or no girl who's out there who doesn't know that her voice is needed in elected office. Now, you go down that funnel, you get to the place of the person who's already running, We're a 501 c three, we can't touch that space, she should run can't, there are lots of organizations that do that work to support women with money to, you know, do get out the vote efforts media plays, etc. Those individuals are going to tell you who to vote for and which party those individuals are. And I am never going to be in the position with my she should run hat on of saying you should vote for or not vote for this specific person, because that's not the work of she should run. She should run. You're never going to get there. if a woman's not thinking about running for office, and that's the work she should run. So she should run inherently is not partisan for that reason, but it is not, it is, I am always careful to say it is not because we are, you know, think that the world doesn't exist with partisanship.

(34:36 - 35:31) Felicia Jadczak: Got it. That's super helpful. Thank you for outlining that for us, Erin I have a follow-up question based off of what you were sharing around that 2015-2016 timeline. And then, of course, as we all know, Hillary did not win. And that was a huge shock for a lot of us. And it obviously, I'm sure, had a lot of impact for She Should Run. So I'm curious if you saw, given what you just shared around the partisanship discussion, Did you see any reactions, any backlash, any anything that came out of Trump winning over Hillary that impacts or impacted she should run? Because I know just from a personal standpoint, that's when I first became aware of you. And of course, obviously, that aligns with your launching. But I became aware because so many women were galvanized to get into politics. So just curious if you could share a bit more around that.

(35:32 - 39:37) Erin Loos Cutraro: Absolutely. Yeah. So it was such a sort of unexpected turn of events in all of the ways. And for Shisha Grun, like I said, you know, I wouldn't say that I don't think I could ever say like, I wish I knew and then we just prepped for the scenario that we saw in 2016. But we had prepped for something that actually set us up to be able to be supportive in this moment where so many people in this country were sort of searching for where to use their voice, where they should lean in, how they could be part of a future that they wanted to see. I will never forget the series of days after the 2016 election, as many people won't. For us, you know, we were in such early stages of our She Should Run program that I kid you not, I had this alarm alert system that every time someone signed up for She Should Run program, I would it would like send me all these different notifications. And we did that intentionally because we had set this really ambitious goal over the course of a year to see a hundred women, you know, sign up and access She Should Run's programs. And we wanted to count and celebrate every single one of them. And in the days after the 2016 election, you know, when everybody was, you know, confused and in a haze, you know, days of sorts, my team was, we weren't sure, like, are we, is this it? done or where truly uncertain of how we were going to go forward, what started to happen, and I will never forget it, was the ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, the nonstop notifications that I was getting of women who were signing up for our programs. And it was like, it gives me chills to even talk about it now. Like what is happening? And I remember I ran like an op-ed after, I don't know, a couple of weeks, days, I can't remember, but of just the first names of all of these women. And we saw just before the end of 2016, thousands of women sign up for She Should Run's programs. And then, you know, that continued to grow from there. You know, The biggest sort of takeaway looking back at that time is that we were not in the driver's seat. We were not in the driver's seat of that in that moment. I mean, we were there, right, supporting. Thank goodness our programs were set up to be able to support and take all these women in. But we weren't in the driver's seat of of being able to say, okay, you know, here's all the people who are coming to us. What about the women who aren't looking for us? How do we get to those women? And that's the shift that we ultimately made once the floodgates started to close just a little bit. The reality is that, you know, that 2016 moment, I've talked to our friends over at Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers about this too was this moment of they're like the great data keepers of the field. It was this moment of if you like picture the, you know, trees, the apple trees all being shaken, everything that could have seeds that were planted fell in that year to two year period. We saw this huge surge of women on the ballot the next cycle. We saw new women sort of paving that path for the following cycle. And it's just this last cycle that we're finally at the point where we're like, did this work just get a lot harder? Yes, it did. Yes, it did. Because it's almost like we're back to pre pre-2016 moment of sort of starting over to build the next big rush. Not the next big 2016 rush. That's not my crystal ball.

(39:37 - 39:38) Rachel Murray: That's not a crystal ball.

(39:38 - 39:39) Erin Loos Cutraro: That was not what that was.

(39:42 - 39:45) Rachel Murray: I just want to say really quickly. I'm going to get some sage out just.

(39:45 - 40:00) Felicia Jadczak: Oh, my God, seriously. But I just want to say I also had chills when you were sharing that story, Erin, and I just had this vision of like when the documentary gets or when the movie treatment gets gets put out there, like you and your team sitting in all the dings.

(40:07 - 41:16) Rachel Murray: The Hans Zimmer music comes in swelling. Yeah. Related to that, so I'm glad that you brought up sort of the current state because, wow, have things shifted. I mean, we see it in our own work. We watch it, listen to the news. We read the articles about this. I think there's two pieces of it, and there's probably more, so I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. There's a lot of disillusionment in general. You mentioned partisanship and therefore just a lot of lack of faith, and you mentioned that too, in government in general. There is a fear if you run for public office for your life at this point. And then on top of that, you just got people who were just burnt out in general and just are like, you know what? I just want to have a nice time, watch some Netflix, have a nice meal, maybe with my family, whatever, and call it a day until I die. So I feel like we're in this very different moment of sort of pulling back. And I'm just curious if you're seeing that and if you are, how you are addressing it. I mean, we experience this in our own work, too.

(41:17 - 45:24) Erin Loos Cutraro: Yeah, I mean, short answer that I'll follow up on is yes, we are seeing it in a massive way. We're seeing it across the board. We're seeing it with just how much more intentional we need to be in, you know, in finding women that are outside the echo chamber. Because for us, like, look, there there is a reality that. Not to suggest the work was easy because it was not, but, you know, when floodgates were open, women were coming to us. And it was it was frankly not at the core of what we intended to do. We were there to to deliver for that moment. But the core of what we're intended to do is to find the women who aren't looking for us, the women who, you know, are in, you know, primarily in marginalized communities that aren't, you know, they're solving problems, but they're not thinking about their role in elected office. And and Never did I believe it would be as hard as it is right this moment. I mean, you mix, I know Pew Charitable Trust did a recent shocking study that showed that 64% of Americans, and this is regardless of political party, by the way, are a sight exhaustion and fatigue when politics are mentioned. We know it's been what, three, four years in the making that the Edelman trust factor shows that businesses are trusted more than government institutions, that sort of this the idea of politics, the idea of public service, which I wish we would get back to more than politicians, because just the word itself is tough to break through, but it's something that just really people have distaste for right now. It's scary because it's scary for our democracy. And but people don't want to be scared by anything more. I mean, especially women coming out of the pandemic and economic crisis, it's like I can't take one more thing to be scared about. And so, yes, it's easier to stick your head in the sand on. on the idea of politics and know, yes, I'm hopeful that all of your listeners are voting. That's bare minimum. Let's vote, people. But that sort of feels like the checkbox moment of, yeah, yeah, I'll vote. And I'll think about that when I have to think about it. But I do not want to touch it before then. And what I'm hopeful about is that there's always a handful of people who want to see another way forward. And I think helping them know that they can be a catalyst for change. Some of the messaging we have now is like acknowledging the exhaustion. We all feel it. We're there. And talking about how important it is that when you're, you know, when you're at a. Neighborhood gathering or a friend gathering, and it's like doom and gloom conversation and everybody's running away from the conversation. What you can do in that situation, let's talk about what we can do. What you can do is you can say, here's what I'm doing. Here's where I'm volunteering my time. Here's how I'm making myself not feel like this is the end of the world. And that will shift. It'll shift the tone. It'll shift people to know. And by the way, it makes it feels real good to, you know, if it is giving your time to a local candidate or to a cause you care about, um, we have to shift. the collective mindset out of a place of doom and gloom and say, like, look, here's the reality. We all play a role in this. We don't have any choice but to move forward. And so be part of that movement in the right direction. Name it. It is what it is. Like, it's awful. It's terrible. Everyone is exhausted. Some communities more than others. And you have to acknowledge it. And you also have to not accept that this is just where we are and be, you know, be part of the paralysis.

(45:25 - 46:25) Felicia Jadczak: Yeah, it's so interesting because I think there's a lot of overlap with our work and, you know, how we experienced 2016, how we're experiencing work and people's sentiments right now. And I kind of want to go back to talking about this mission that Xi Jinping has always had, which is reaching out to people who don't even know that they could or should be entering into this space. So can you talk a little bit more about not just what it takes realistically to run for office, but also how is She Should Run reaching out to folks in communities that are just not already thinking, talking, maybe these are women who aren't even voting, which as you said, is like bare minimum, but still there are people out there who aren't even doing that. And I am also curious, sorry, this is like a big question. I'm also curious if you're seeing, you mentioned, you know, like race, black and brown women. I'm also curious if you've seen anything around like class or age factor into that as well.

(46:26 - 46:31) Erin Loos Cutraro: Yes, most definitely. So let's go back to the original question. Yeah, sorry.

(46:31 - 46:40) Felicia Jadczak: That was like a multi-parter. I'm like, okay, wait, I was about to answer the second part. I'll try and take notes to make sure we get to all of it. Not your fault at all. This is my bad.

(46:42 - 52:10) Erin Loos Cutraro: This is the work of She Should Run, is finding and making a case to women that what it takes to run for office is really a desire for change, is to care. We have a saying, which is like, if you care, you're qualified. Certainly, we're not trying to suggest it's as easy as that, because it's not. But there is a misconception that's like it's always for somebody else, you know, especially for women. And it's like, oh, you know, that's somebody else's job. Those aren't my circles. Those are somebody else's circles of influence and power. And I don't belong there. And or there's a whole system in place telling me I don't belong there. And, you know, the what it takes to run for office really starts with and it's a lot of the work that she should run does. It starts with the centering of What do you care about? You know, what's your what's your what would what's your fire in the belly? We all have fire in the belly about something. And, you know, getting really clear about what it is that would get you out of bed every day to give the extra time that it's going to take for you to serve in an elected role is what's going to make it worth it. And if you don't know that, you know, often we hear this like men will just sort of run for office for the power. There's research about this. I think that's really sad. Because that's a lot of time and energy for just not being connected outside of that power feel. And by the way, that's not my way of saying that women shouldn't feel power, they should. But I think the work becomes a lot harder if you're not really centered in the why you're doing it. So we start in a place of why, we start in a place of really laying that groundwork for… It's hard to show up and run for office if you're not super well connected in with your community and understanding what it is that people need and putting yourself in that position of listening and understanding. That just takes time. It may be that the people that we're talking to have spent a lot of time doing that and now they're thinking about running for office. That's a shorter run. But for the people who are just getting started, it is get centered in why Get centered in, you know, what's going on in your community and where you can get connected, build those relationships, build out that network so that this all feels and is easier for you when, when you, when you step up to lead. And I know you were curious about how we find the women who aren't looking for us. It's the best part about this job because it's so hard, by the way, there's no obvious way to do it. We did this really great study last year, just trying to understand the motivators. Like what would it take? Basically, there's so much research about the barriers, like all the reasons women don't run, but not very much research out there about what it's going to take to convince them. And so we looked at it and I'm sure like zero on the scale of surprisability here. It's like, women are not monolithic. They're not one thing. So depending on somebody's background and their experience, different things are going to motivate them. But there were two key themes that came from the motivators, regardless of background, and that is economic background or race and ethnicity or even partisan background, which played a smaller role in what we were doing in this study. We found that there were two areas that it made a lot of sense for us to figure out our way forward because we we would sort of have that quicker path to finding women who would be sort of primed for the case. And that is one, women who are already active in their communities. So if that's, you know, volunteering or working on a cause of sorts, there's a whole lot of women out there who are doing that, who are, you know, badass problem solvers and spending the time and bringing their experience to those things, but not thinking about elected office at all. And that is, by the way, not their fault. That is the system that is in place, that was set up for and by men, that is just not set up to encourage that or plant that seed early on. So that's one is sort of the finding women in community service. And then two is a lot of women can be motivated by issues that they care about. And so this is fun in a nonpartisan world because issues can be perceived to be very partisan, but here's the reality. We don't that you don't get to tell people what issues are or not partisan people experience the world, they have a life experience and then they want to figure out how to bring that life experience to help others. And so, for us, that means how do we find those two groups, it's a lot of partnerships. community partnerships, business partnerships, finding built-in audiences of women who might be talking about volunteering or might be talking about issues, but they're not connecting the dots because there is this red line. We can't talk about politics. We're like, hey, hey, actually we can. We can safely talk about politics. Let's do this.

(52:10 - 53:12) Felicia Jadczak: That's super helpful. I've seen that in my own town in the last year or so because there was A little bit of a kerfuffle slash scandal with our school committee and the superintendent and so a lot of people got galvanized to run for school committee, who had never run before and I liked what you said about the sort of you know is it is the issue partisan or not because it's sort of like a. It's all of the above, right? And I saw that because there were definitely people who I did not really love their takes on the school system or their political leanings. But they were running. And so it's sort of, for me, as more of a progressive, definitely a liberal Democrat, I'm like, well, I don't like these people. But I appreciate that they are passionate about this thing that's happening. And I think that's part of it, right, is you need to have people be willing to put themselves out there, even if you don't necessarily agree with their position, because that's the idea of democracy, right?

(53:12 - 54:45) Erin Loos Cutraro: Right. Right. I mean, we're so it's so it's actually something that I have such a concern about. I so have two daughters. One's 11 and the other's 14. And they are growing up right now. I'm watching increasingly that they are they are siloed. They're not exposed to alternative opinions. And what that looks like is and I'm fearful for democracy for this is that people don't want to engage then it's like, oh, oh, you I you don't I don't agree with you. And therefore, we cannot be in the same room. And the reality is that, you know, it's through those engagements, you have to be comfortable with those engagements. And by the way, that doesn't mean that they all feel comfortable. Right. Like, but we have to sort of force ourselves to be in rooms with people who we don't agree with. And maybe that's just so that our opinions can become stronger. Right. We can validate what we were already thinking. Well, I'm certain I don't believe X, Y, Z now based on really hearing this up front, but also it gives a chance for that person to hear your version of that. And it gives a chance for somebody else to decide, what do I believe in this? And so I think the more we can force ourselves into more people participating, you know, the research is clear, like the more people that participate ultimately, you know, ultimately is better for democracy.

(54:46 - 55:29) Rachel Murray: And see, this is why Erin, you are much better at leading this mission, beautiful mission oriented organization than I would be because I'm just like, and why is this happening? What dark forces are out there? Who benefits from this lack of democracy? That's where my, I immediately go to the dark place. So I really appreciate your concern, but you're framing it in this really positive way. And I'm so annoyed that we don't have more time, but I wanted to just transition quickly to the fact that you do run this organization, this beautiful national organization. And I'm just curious for those who might be interested in doing something like this and starting and leading an organization, do you have any advice for folks?

(55:30 - 57:07) Erin Loos Cutraro: My advice is that we need more people who are willing to follow their guts in the situation where if you have something you believe in and you think there's a way to galvanize other people to participate, go for it. Nonprofit's not the only way to do that. I don't, nonprofit is not the only way to do that, but you know, the, the other version of that is like not doing anything is just such a huge missed opportunity. So, you know, I, I think that working in social cause is, um, is such a gift. It requires a ton of optimism, um, because it often, you know, certainly the work of she should run and it's long game. You don't see the results you want to see immediately, but you do get to see results and you do get to see people's lives transformed and know that that's making a difference. I just, I feel very lucky to do it myself and I always encourage others. It's like, look, you don't have to do it full time. You know, finding your way to, uh, to giving time and energy or dollars to something that you believe in, um, makes you feel good. Like there's a great connection to mental health there. That's important. So fuel that. Um, and then, and then celebrate that you're helping others.

(57:09 - 57:27) Felicia Jadczak: Love that. Can we talk a little bit about the future? So we're entering another election cycle. It's been eight years since you kind of got out there on the scene initially. What are your hopes, dreams, goals, vision for yourself, where she should run, for the work that you're doing?

(57:28 - 59:30) Erin Loos Cutraro: My, my greatest hope is tied to my greatest fear, which is I just want to unstick the paralysis. I, I see it. I see it in the work. I see the exhaustion by the way, peers, you know, I'm never ashamed to say like, Ooh, We are tired. We feel it too. But what gives me energy is being in community with others who are willing to put one foot in front of another. And each of us can do that in our own way. And so I do not have a crystal ball of the future. I am very hopeful though that with time, and I think it will take some time to get closer to the election day. I think people are just facing too many competing crises. Many people are to go all in, but to know that even the small actions can add up. So even following, you know, getting out and voting in your local primary races, knowing that all those down ballot races have a huge effect on your day-to-day life. So taking the time to understand what's happening there. I think will make the difference. I hope, you know, I know there was a report out today that Gen Z voters, this is a Wall Street Journal, was reporting on the overall not good state of Gen Z voters and how influential they'll be in this upcoming election. And, you know, my hope is that with some of the right voices, and I think it needs to come from within, really making a case for just how much power this group of individuals has and how much they can do for the betterment of future that they show up. I think they will, but I am a forever optimist. That's how I do this work.

(59:30 - 01:00:07) Rachel Murray: Beautiful. That is so beautiful. And, you know, I just really want to highlight something that you said, too, around being in connection with other people. I think that is just such an important piece to staying engaged and getting out of that paralysis. It's one of the reasons why we love talking with folks like yourself. And hopefully folks are listening to this, too, and feeling that energy as well to be inspired. And I think you're right, Gen Z is It's crushing it. So they can get out, do the things, we're going to be okay. Final question, which we love to ask all of our lovely guests is, what are you currently geeking out about? And it can't be anything we've already discussed.

(01:00:08 - 01:00:10) Erin Loos Cutraro: What am I currently geeking out about?

(01:00:10 - 01:00:16) Felicia Jadczak: Well… The hardest question of this podcast.

(01:00:16 - 01:01:18) Erin Loos Cutraro: I mean, I geek out about every – I'm such a geek. I just – I don't – I'm like – I geek out about all the things. So I feel like in every one of these – I'll just – I know it doesn't have to be what we just talked about, but even in that Gen Z report, you know, that The headline was terrible, and it felt daunting. I'm like, no way. I am going to read this, and I'm actually going to find where the opportunity is. And it's there. It's reporting, yes, the overall feeling is not surprising. Yes, there's exhaustion. Yes, here you have a generation that has had so many struggles right out the gate. The reality is there's also 41 million Gen Z voters that are eligible to vote. And to me, I'm like geeking out about the opportunity that exists in that. I'm like, we're going to get this done. This is good. We're going to get there. It's just acknowledging what's hard and pushing through that. So that's what I geek out about.

(01:01:19 - 01:01:28) Rachel Murray: Well, we love you, so we're gonna let you get away with that. It's not technically what we were looking for, but we'll let you get away with it.

(01:01:28 - 01:01:31) Felicia Jadczak: Well, we'll chalk it up to Dana.

(01:01:31 - 01:01:40) Rachel Murray: Dana. I'm geeking out about Dana. Love that foolish choice. Chocolate? I geek out about chocolate. Yeah, there we go. Name your favorite. Let's do this.

(01:01:40 - 01:01:43) Erin Loos Cutraro: Milk chocolate all the ways.

(01:01:43 - 01:01:55) Rachel Murray: Wow. I love that. I think that's a hot take these days. I'm into it. I know. We know that we can find you at Are there other places that people should go to find you?

(01:01:55 - 01:02:15) Erin Loos Cutraro: Yeah. I mean, LinkedIn. Find me on LinkedIn. That's the place I'll show up the most the socials for me on the personal front or I wouldn't say the greatest place that I live, but certainly she should run does so she should all of she should run socials. That's where the good works happening.

(01:02:15 - 01:02:38) Felicia Jadczak: Thank you. Wonderful. Thanks so much, Erin Yeah, thank you for the opportunity. Awesome. We hope you enjoyed listening to our conversation as much as we enjoyed it. And for me personally, it was great to meet Erin because I've heard a lot of amazing things through your work being on the board. So I really loved having that chat directly with the source, so to speak.

(01:02:39 - 01:03:06) Rachel Murray: Yeah, she's a cool lady. I'm glad to make it happen too. And so thank you all so much for listening. Please don't forget to rate, share, and subscribe. It does make a huge difference in the reach of this podcast, and by extension, this work. And please visit us at, at, on YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, to stay up to date on all things SGO. And we will be back in two weeks.

(01:03:07 - 01:03:09) Felicia Jadczak: Yeah, see you then. Or hear you then.

(01:03:09 - 01:03:16) Rachel Murray: Hear you then? Speak to you then? I don't know, speak to you then. Talk then? Sure. You'll hear us then? Think then. Then. Bye.