SC Women in Leadership Celebrates Anniversary and Discusses Future Plans
SC Women in Leadership (SC WIL) is celebrating its fifth birthday as an organization and many women gathered on the state house steps Tuesday to show support. Members of the South Carolina Women’s Legislative Caucus, SC WIL Founders and friends were in attendance to acknowledge what the organization has accomplished so far and their plans for the future.
Founded in 2018, SC WIL is a multi-partisan, multi-racial alliance of women with a mission to increase engagement in local and state opportunities. The organization provides resources, information, networks and partnerships for women who want to run for office or leadership positions.
“We wanted to start an organization that didn’t look at whether people were D’s (Democrats) or R’s (Republicans) first, that they looked at a problem that needed a solution and worked together across party lines to do that,” said SC WIL President and CEO Barbara Rackes.
SC WIL is planning to bring the organization to other states across the country. One way they are expanding is through the use of their software MatchBoard, which matches local governments with qualified citizens who want to serve. Ten counties and municipalities adopted MatchBoard in the first 12 months and they are working to take it to the national level. SC WIL also plans to increase its outreach to a younger community in colleges and universities, as well as connecting more with women in rural communities.
SC State Senator Katrina Shealy said when women run for political office, they are just as likely, if not more likely to win. The main issue according to Shealy is that women do not run for office as often as men.
“The problem for women isn’t winning, it’s deciding to run. Women are less likely to be asked to run, and even women who are recruited often believe they aren’t qualified,” said Shealy. “We must work together to help women overcome obstacles to seeking and winning positions in elected office.”
According to the SC WIL 2022-23 Annual Report, the 2022 election saw the total number of women in the SC Legislature decrease, reversing a decade-long trend of gains. Across the state, 276 women filed to run for elected office and 119 women won their races.
“When I was first elected in 2012 with Senator Shealy at the same time, the amount of women who were running for office or winning elected office was increasing here at the state house. As we see in the election year of 2022, that number is decreasing,” said SC State Rep. Beth Bernstein.
SC WIL has trained and connected 850 women through campaign, appointed office and community leadership trainings. Their signature trainings include the Spring Training Series for women seeking elected office, the Springboard Conference for women seeking positions in public appointed boards and commissions, and an introductory workshop on leadership opportunities called Fixin’ to Lead.
“Today’s our birthday and we’ve come together to affirm our mission, which is to increase race and gender representation and the influence of women from the ground level up,” said Rackes. “With your help, we are going to triple the number of women who are running for elected and appointed office in 2024.”