Experts say role models are key to getting women in political offices

Cedar Rapids District 5 Representative Ashley Vanorny says having women in important roles goes a long way in encouraging other women to run for legislative offices in the future.

When Governor Kim Reynolds rose to her position after former Governor Terry Branstad became the United States Ambassador to China, she became the first woman to hold that office in the state of Iowa.

According to the Iowa Legislative Services Agency, right now women make up 22.7% of the state's legislators.

"Women have to run for office in order to get political offices. The question is really 'why women don't run?'" questioned Libby Slappey, one of the board members for 5050 in 2020.

Libby Slappey has dedicated her last three years to helping prepare women to run for political offices—so for that question, she has the answer.

“When women haven't seen themselves in those public roles, they're hesitant to run. They don't think that they can do it,” explained Slappey.

It’s because of the last few years, though, that she senses a change.

“There's no question that girls and young women are seeing role models finally,” said Slappey.

From Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run--all the way down to women taking up city leadership positions--roles models are appearing.

"Just last week someone was telling me. They said, 'My daughter saw you on TV and now she keeps talking about you. She says daddy, that's the girl from your work.',” said Ashley Vanorny, Cedar Rapids City Council Member for District 5.

Ashley Vanorny was elected to the city council late last year so she knows a lot about what it is that holds women back—like facing judgment.

"Going into an election I think that's something that scares people off because they know they're going to do that,” explained Vanorny.

On top of the judgment, she says women have to handle not being taken seriously and in some cases, sexual harassment.

"It really does take someone who's willing to sift through that and overcome that,” said Vanorny.

It’s that sifting and overcoming that she sees women doing now that makes the future look brighter for generations to come.

"You guys are little superheroes just waiting until you're old enough,” said Vanorny. “When 18 hits, the sky's the limit."

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