Canadian Women Talk Politics with U.S. Counterparts

On May 14, 2014, Meridian organized a “speed convening” session in partnership with the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) to examine the role of women in public service, with a focus on elective office. A signature initiative of Meridian, speed convening pairs international visitors with their U.S.-based peers in small group discussions during several timed sessions. The single-country IVLP project, Representation of Women in Politics, included a dynamic group of eight Canadians from diverse backgrounds committed to the promotion of meaningful participation of women in politics.

Conversations throughout the sessions focused on sharing the techniques, strategies, and best practices for promoting the engagement of women in politics, as well as exposing participants to U.S. organizations focused on the political mobilization of women. U.S. colleagues shared their insights on the methods for identifying, training and equipping women to seek elective office, fundraising, communications and methods of political engagement. Among the dozens of issues raised in these 20-minute sessions were campaign fundraising, corporate political contributions and endorsements, awareness raising, challenges of women’s involvement in the political process, political training for women, media training on messaging and communications, free speech connected to campaigns, Political Action Committees (PAC), voter turnout, capacity building and leadership development of women to run for electoral office, and promoting electoral changes.

U.S. speakers included Janet Blanchard, The Council on Women’s Leadership at Meridian; Johanna Hellrigl, Senior Assistant Program Officer, Women’s Democracy Network, International Republican Institute (IRI); Susannah Wellford, President & Chair of the Board, Running Start; Kate Farrar, President, Women Under Forty Political Action Committee; Maria Jeffrey, Political Director, National Federation of Republican Women; Katie Vlietstra, Immediate Past President, Women Under Forty Political Action Committee; Kate Yglesias Houghton, Director, Democratic Women’s Alliance, Democratic National Committee (DNC); Susan Kemp, Senior Program Officer, National Democratic Institute (NDI); and Claire Olszewski, Director, Women’s Leadership Forum, Democratic National Committee (DNC).

During their Washington, DC visit, the Canadian women will have high-level meetings with DC Councilmember Muriel Bowser, DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, and representatives from National Foundation for Women Legislators, National Women’s Political Caucus, Women’s Campaign Fund, Indigo Strategies, and Voter Participation Center, among others. The visits will offer them an opportunity to develop partnerships and contacts with female politicians, strategists, political organizations and NGOs in the United States.

Project summary

Canadian Women Talk Politics with U.S. Counterparts
Number of Attendees: 17
Regions: Western Hemisphere
Countries: Canada
Impact Areas: Empowering Women and Girls
Program Areas: Exchanges, Forums
Partners: Private Sector, Public Sector