League of Our Own. The name instantly reminds us of the hit 1992 movie “League of Their Own” about women playing major league baseball during WWII. The movie stars Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, and Rosie O’Donnell. The movie leaves viewers with a feeling of female empowerment, reminding us of the critical time in America when women moved into roles that were not traditionally open to them as their husbands, brothers, and sons fought overseas. League of Our Own, a Michigan-based organization, has taken this concept of female integration into a male-dominated field and applied it to government. The first thing you see on their website is the statistic that 51% of the US population is women but women only occupy 25% of Congressional seats. However, after the latest election cycle, that number has shrunk to 24% of congressional seats. There is no debate that women are under-represented in every state in the nation and the League believes this is crucial since multiple studies have shown that women govern differently. “Women govern differently; not better than men, because each gender has their strengths and both govern in fine ways, but we believe that difference is important and should be represented,” says Kristin Fair, Training and Mentoring Manager for the League.
Female empowerment is not the only thing the League has in common with the movie. League of Our Own believes that the making of a candidate starts long before they put their name on a ballot. The League is modeled after how the MLB recruits its prospective players. There are several levels of involvement in the organization. There are the Fans, who are the boots on the ground. They are volunteers who organize fundraisers, go door-knocking, and support the candidates once they announce their campaign. Then there are Scouts who are trained to look for potential female candidates in their communities, directing them to the League and its resources. There are Coaches, who are professionals from across the country that help the candidates prepare and strengthen their weaknesses. Some of these Coaches include Edith Jorge, the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the RNC and numerous state and national political operatives. Finally, there are the Prospects themselves, women who have the potential to run for office someday. In total, there are approximately 7000 people involved in the League’s relationship management system, only after 2 years of operation.
The League’s goal is to not push women to run, but build a bench of women who are capable of running when they feel ready and to support then when it is their time. The League simply wants to remove the obstacles from women’s lives that hold them back from running. “Often when women are asked if they ever thought about running it is met with things like ‘My kids are too young’ or ‘I don’t know enough about policy’. Our mission is to try to remove those barriers so when the opportunity presents itself, those women are ready to run,” says Terri Reid, President of the Michigan Freedom Fund.
Since its start in 2017, the League has grown tremendously. In the last election, the League’s goals were to perfect their custom technology and begin recruiting conservative women to become prospects. They easily met these goals and overwhelmingly exceeded them. Wanting to recruit 40 scouts and 120 prospects, the League ended up recruiting 45 scouts and 135 prospects. When asked where they hope for the League to go next, Kristin Fair says the goal right now is to expand. “Our home base is Michigan, but we are looking into the potential of expanding into four additional states in 2019,” she says.
It is easy to see that a critical gender disparity exists within elected positions, especially in Congress. Armed with their clever baseball-style recruiting techniques, League of Our Own is changing the way women are scouted for office. The League believes that women should not run simply because they’re women, but run (and win) because they are qualified and ready. Visit their site and see how you can be involved in an organization that is bound to change the gender makeup of our elected offices.