Girls have always run the world, (thanks Beyonce for putting that to music) but we want to know more about who these fierce females are. As part of our new series, we talk to some of the leading women in politics from all over the globe, from Campaign Managers to Field tech advisors - there is no role that women do not fill.
First up, we have Laura Laussade, an American expat in Brussels, who works as Campaigns Advisor at ALDE, and someone who we at Ecanvasser have the pleasure of working with.
Why did you decide to get politically active?
As a child, I decided that I wanted to contribute to helping society and the world. I wanted to do good. So in college, I decided that if I really wanted to make a difference I had to be where the decisions were being made and were the power was to make lasting change which was in politics. So I studied political science and European politics and today, I work in politics. But the 2016 US election changed everything for me and redefined what it meant for me to be politically active.
During the 2016 US election, I thought that that election was too important to sit out and just watch unfold from my couch in Brussels. So during the last 6 weeks of the election, I took some time off work and went to help Hillary Clinton’s campaign in West Philadelphia. I know that everyone says that Hillary’s real problem was that she did not inspire people (also “those damn emails!”) but I was inspired by her. It was inspiring to work for this strong and brave woman who had dedicated her life to fighting for children and women’s rights and healthcare. After we lost that election, I was devastated. As women, we still couldn’t get the most powerful office in the world. I came back to Europe defeated and crushed but I realized I had to do something. My way of doing something was to become a campaigner and advise parties and candidates I share values with on how to win their elections and get a seat at the table. As Hillary Clinton says “do all the good you can” which has been my mantra all my life but now even more so since the 2016 election. So I have decided that my way of doing all the good I can is to help people get elected to do something to fix the problems and injustices in society.
Has your gender helped/hindered you during your career?
As ex UK Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills and for Women and Equalities, Jo Swinson says in her new book Equal Power “Gender inequality is everywhere. It is ingrained throughout society, in each and every one of us. We are all sexist, and so are our institutions and power structures… We’re all part of the problem to varying degrees – but equally, we can all be part of the solution”.
Boys conform to ideas of masculinity from an early age and are taught not to cry. While as girls, we are taught to be polite and nice. We don’t ask for things because that would be rude and brash and that is not what nice girls do. We hope that if we are nice enough and work hard enough someone will notice and give us that raise or that promotion or invite us to the table. But that will only happen if we ask for it. We will never be given anything we don’t ask for. There is a book called Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office and all women should read it. It discusses the unconscious mistakes we make as women because they were ingrained into us as children that sabotage our careers. And I can tell you I make a lot of the mistakes laid out in that book.
So yes absolutely. My gender has hindered me but gender and the stereotypes and the discrimination that come with it has hindered all people in varying ways. But the power does remain more with one gender than the others.
Why do you feel it is important for women to politically engage in 2018?
In the US, women are 50.5% of the population yet only 19.4% of the US Congress are women. Since fewer women run for elected office, the number of women in elected office often doesn’t statically reflect the population. Research shows that women are less likely than men to be encouraged by parents, teachers or party leaders to run. Women underestimate their abilities and assume that they need to be even more qualified than men in order to run for office, apply for that job, or even raise our hand to speak. One thing that blew my mind when I heard it but is absolutely true from my experience is that men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications while women only apply if they meet 100% of the qualifications.
If women are going to be fairly represented in government then more of us need to run. Especially in the era of world leaders who talk openly about sexually assaulting women and #metoo, it is so easy to just complain. But we need to stop complaining and do something like running in elections or helping fantastic women get elected.
Bottom line, more women need to run. In order to address women’s underrepresentation in politics, in 2016, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Party in cooperation with the European Liberal Forum and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation launched the European Women’s Academy of political leadership and campaigning (EWA). We found that too many parties were doing too poorly in involving and electing women to different levels of representation and we believed it was time to address this in a tangible way. So we created a state of the art training program for female politicians aimed at inspiring and enriching them with the knowledge and tools to win their upcoming elections. The training program involves personal education and empowerment to help female candidates to claim their space and become more professional. As the Director of the EWA, I facilitate and manage the program as well as train and mentor female politicians to become more influential in politics.
Since the program began in 2016, four of the 2016 EWA alumnae have already been elected (one has even become the Chair of the Finance Committee in the German Bundestag) and another alumna has become a state secretary in Norway. At the ALDE Party, we are committed to getting more women elected and to helping liberal political parties achieve this goal.
Thanks to Aoife O Halloran and Laura Laussade who made this piece possible.
Make sure to follow the Ecanvasser Blog for more in the Women in Politics 2018 series