Can the fashion industry be a force for good in politics?
In the past, brands and designers have shown their support for particular candidates and causes by creating outfits that send a message. For instance, 17 designers, including Prabal Gurung, Tory Burch, and Diane von Furstenberg, created T-shirts for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. But what if these brands could actually help women run for political office and address the gender imbalance in government?
A wave of fashion and beauty brands is doing exactly this. She Should Run, an organization that helps women run for office, is teaming up with female-founded fashion companies including MZ Wallace, Birchbox, and Lingua Franca to create more opportunities for women to acquire the skills they need to enter politics. These brands have signed on to offer professional training for their employees that will encourage them–and other women–to develop the skills they might need to one day become political candidates. She Should Run is asking more companies to be part of this fight.
She Should Run has found that women still have a long way to go to be equally represented in government. The organization’s data shows that only 13% of women have moved from considering a run to actually filing the necessary paperwork. In other words, for every eight women who explore entering politics, only one actually runs. And yet, many of the women who have run–and won–in recent elections, had little background in politics. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for instance, famously went from being a bartender to a congresswoman in a short amount of time.
To bring more women into politics, She Should Run believes that women need a lot more support and education. Many companies already have professional development opportunities for women, and She Should Run believes that if they geared some of these efforts toward helping women translate their leadership skills outside the corporate workplace and into politics, this could help change the landscape of American politics. For instance, She Should Run has helped develop workshops that tackle two of the most important issues women face when exploring a road to run: combatting imposter syndrome, and helping understand what running for office will really mean for them.
Ultimately, She Should Run is making the case that these skills are valuable to the companies themselves, by tapping into employees’ own leadership capabilities. And when more women are in political office, this will help women in business as well, by tackling the entrenched gender pay gap, for instance.