With This Weekend’s Girls Rock! Event, IGNITE Hopes To Empower The Hillary Clintons of Tomorrow
When Hillary Clinton was in high school in the ’60s, a female had never been the presidential nominee of a major party. Hell, that was still the case for today’s high schoolers until just a couple days ago, really.
We’re not really a nation that’s historically empowered females in politics — or many other fields, for that matter.
This is something that Ann Moses, Ph.D., realized back in 2009, noticing a gap in programming meant to raise civic and political ambition in young women. It was then that she began wrestling with this societal inconsistency by launching IGNITE, a national, non-partisan organization dedicated to training young women in high schools, colleges and universities to run for political office.
Starting in the Bay Area, her organization spread to Texas after receiving a grant in 2011 from the Boone Family Foundation to expand curricula and hire leadership staff. With an inspiring track record as a graduate of Emory, Harvard and Florida State universities and as a leader in the educational and non-profit sectors, today’s Texas Program Director of IGNITE, Dr. Marguerite McClinton Stoglin, leads by example to raise visibility and resources for IGNITE. And, this Saturday, June 11, her organization will be hosting “Girls Rock! Music, Politics and Science,” a fundraising event that’ll include dancing, mingling and empowerment geared towards area high school and college-aged girls.
“[It’s an event that] is near and dear to my heart, as I am always looking for a fun and casual way to excite more young women to get involved with IGNITE,” Stoglin says.
It’s a disparaging truth, but politics and science are two fields where women are dramatically underrepresented. In 2016, only seven cabinet-level positions and three Supreme Court seats are held by women. Furthermore, women represent only 19.4 percent of Congress.
IGNITE wants to impart on today’s young girls that it doesn’t have to be this way. Role models involved with the program include such successful female politicians as former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Berkeley, California, city council member Lori Droste.
Politics aside, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Women in the Labor Force point out that lawmaking is far from the only field where females are criminally underrepresented. For example, only 39 percent of chemists, 28 percent of environmental scientists, 15.6 percent of chemical engineers, 12 percent of civil engineers, 8 percent of electrical engineers and 7 percent of mechanical engineers are women.
Again, Stoglin stresses that it doesn’t have to be this way.
“We want to encourage women to see [politics and science] as viable and exciting career choices,” Stoglin says. “Anyone, regardless of their experience and background, can step up and own their political power.”
That’s something Cindy Ramirez can attest to firsthand. She admits that she “never seriously considered running for political office because [she] was scared of one day facing rejection for one, being a woman and two, being a minority.” Nevertheless, after joining the program as a ninth grader, she says she’s gained a stronger voice in her opinions.
Another voice echoing these ambitions is student leader and the president of the IGNITE club at Ursuline Academy of Dallas, Laura Arroyo. Along with vice president Maria Anderson and secretary Celeste Yost, Arroyo has been planning this weekend’s Perot Museum of Nature and Science-housed Girls Rock! event, the first of its kind. The year’s worth of meetings that have led to the event, she says, have been focused on political discussions about intersectionality and privilege, feminism, immigration and the presidential election.
“More than anything, IGNITE is about finding the courage and skills that we already possess, and applying those to politics and service to the community,” Arroyo says.
Arroyo is confident that without the roles of each member of the leadership team at Ursuline, the event for Girls Rock! would not have been set forth. They’ve also received some help from another “empowerista” — Lindsay Hightower of Hightower Band. Even though equipped with a different set of goals and ambitions, Hightower understands the singular purpose of empowerment and agency of an organization and event such as IGNITE’s Girls Rock!.
“I would love to be able to inspire just one person to try something different,” Hightower says.
That echoes the goals of IGNITE, which hopes that the women running for office in the years to come won’t be met with the same opposition that Clinton’s faced for her entire political career thus far, as happened earlier this year when Donald Trump accused Clinton of “playing the woman card” to pander for votes.
Clinton’s response to those claims: “Well, if fighting for women’s healthcare and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman card, then deal me in.”
And, if fighting for equal representation for women in politics is indeed “playing the women’s card,” then count Stoglin and the rest of her IGNITE crew in, too.
Cover photo of Hilary Clinton by Gage Skidmore, via WikiCommons. IGNITE’s Girls Rock! Music Politics & Science event will be held at The Perot Museum of Nature and Science on Saturday, June 11. Head here for more information.