women in public office

A Woman’s Guide to Winning Leadership

Political Activist for Women

Rebecca Sive


Rebecca Sive is a self-proclaimed fierce and devoted advocate for women’s full participation and leadership in every sphere of public life. She is also a lecturer at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy Studies, where she was the founding Academic and Program Director for Women in Public Leadership and author of Every Day is Election Day: A Woman’s Guide to Winning Any Office, from the PTA to the White House.

Can Women Candidates Win?

When asked the question, “Are the American people ready for a woman president?” Rebecca reminds us of the fact that millions more people voted for a woman to be president in 2016 than for the person currently holding that office. She adds that millions of women in the U.S. today want to run for public office. And when a woman runs, statistics show that she is just as likely as a man to win. It’s true! Winning is not gender-based today because women and men have an equal shot at winning a public office!

18 Million Cracks and Counting

Rebecca’s inspiration to write Every Day Is Election Day came from the 2008 Presidential Election. When she saw the “18 million cracks in the glass ceiling” created by people voting for a woman candidate, she reached out to ask women their stories of the obstacles and strategies they used to win their races and to share her expertise in leadership and politics. Rebecca has two reasons behind her passion: first she was raised to believe that working in public service furthers the greatest good, and second, most women seek public and political leadership because they care about issues and it follows that if they win, things will get better.

The Biggest Barriers to Women in Public Office

When Dr. Nancy mentions how women are attacked for how they look or what they wear–things that shouldn’t matter to political office, Rebecca agrees. However, she says that gender prejudice is only one of the barriers. The biggest barrier is that women do not get to sit at the table where leaders decide who runs for office. There are several reasons for this, but one of them is that women often don’t decide to run early enough. Before they can make that decision, they have to talk with their families about how serving in public office will change their lives. Yes, most women take the majority responsibility at home, so the commitment and time away from those duties affects everyone in the family. But however it’s done, support for women candidates must be communicated to the decision-making committees before we will see more women in public leadership.

How Can You Help Women Candidates?

The first thing to do, Rebecca says, is identify a woman in your peer group—perhaps one of your close friends—who is willing to seek a leadership position. Tell her that you want to support her. The same goes for you if you want to seek office. Tell your close friends and family what you want to do and how they can support you.
Next put your strategy together. That part, Rebecca advises, requires many different areas of expertise in politics, issues and business. Friends can help in their professional areas, such as accounting, contacts in the community or state, etc. Like any professional position, public service requires training and there are many organizations that provide this online (some are listed in the Resources section of Rebecca’s book).
Of course, every candidate needs financial help, but you don’t have to be wealthy to help. You can have a bake sale, organize a fundraiser, or sponsor a benefit. Finally, and most important, if the campaign begins to struggle, for example if your friend loses points in the polls, let her know you are still there for her. And there are numerous ways to support depending on the situation. For example, someone at a forum asks your friend who is going to cook dinner for her family when she has a meeting. You can expose the gender bias by asking a male candidate the same question. It’s up to all of us to be aware and advocate for women leaders who are willing to take on the task of making our world better for all of us.

More Guidance from Rebecca

To learn more about Rebecca’s work, check out her website and watch her videos at RebeccaSive.com or read her posts on Huffington Post. Every Day Is Election Day is available on line and from ChicagoReviewPress.com. Now you can get it for half price with the code, SheRuns. Also group sales are offered for 38 or more copies. Rebecca says the more women do things women have never done, the more we will reduce the barriers to our leadership potential. Listen to this interview for more insights into the most important actions we can take to resolve what Rebecca believes is the biggest crisis facing us today.

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