Two USC Alumna are encouraging women to get more involved in politics through their new organization, Ready to Launch, which launched earlier this month.
“Ready to Launch is designed to grow the ranks of women staffers,” Charlotte White, one of the founders and USC class of 2014, said. “Our vision is to have our participants go on to become Chiefs of Staff, campaign managers and other senior political operatives.”
The gender gap is no stranger to American politics. In fact, there are three men for every woman in the U.S. Congress. However, this past election cycle has pointed to a more inclusive political future for many. In 2020, more women, particularly women of color and LGBTQ candidates, ran for office than ever before.
White and co-founder Erica Liepmann, USC class of 2014, hope to contribute to this progress through their new organization. By providing professional training, building strong partnerships, and creating paid fellowship opportunities, the founders hope that they can help to ameliorate some of the problems that college students and postgraduates face when beginning their early political careers.
White and Liepmann founded “Ready to Launch” after reflecting on their own experiences getting started in politics. For White, her road wasn’t simple. “I took an entry-level job on a campaign making half what I was making when I was working in finance, just to get my foot in the door,” she said. “It wasn’t feasible for me.”
She was able to find her first job in politics “because a former professor of mine had a connection,” White said. “It just showed me how one person in your network can make a difference, but not everybody has that. And, you know, we hope that ‘Ready to Launch’ can be that one connection.”
Many college students beginning entry-level jobs and fellowship positions face financial barriers. In 2019, only 4.9% of all internships in Washington, D.C. were paid. One of the ways Ready to Launch will address this issue is by providing stipends to students pursuing unpaid government internships.
“Removing barriers to entry can help more women of all backgrounds, get their foot in the door, rise the ranks,” Liepmann said. “That’ll mean more women chiefs of staff, more women campaign managers, and more women making decisions at all levels of government, and on successful political campaigns that move the needle on progressive politics.”
The organization kicked off on March 14 with a launch event on Zoom. White and Liepmann to share with over 100 participants their mission and hopes for the future.
“There are so many amazing women of all different backgrounds, all over LA, and all over the country who are already ready to launch,” Liepmann said. “They just need a little bit of support to get there.”
The event featured a speaker panel hosted by Shaniqua McLendon, a fellow at USC’s Center for Political Future and the political director for Crooked Media. McLendon reflected on some of her own early career experiences, and acknowledged the value that ‘Ready to Launch’ will bring to women for years to come.
“Access to unpaid internships or low-paying jobs in politics often determines a lot more than who gets a job, it determines what our public policy looks like,” McLendon said. “Making sure that there’s enough diversity and diverse opinions is really important because women just don’t have enough access to these positions.”