Updated: Feb. 27, 2017 at 9:36 a.m.
Female officials who work for Rep. Rob Wittman, R–Va., and Mayor Muriel Bowser came to campus Saturday to speak at ElectHer – an event designed to teach college-aged women how to run for student government positions.
Krishna Ghodiwala, an associate director in the mayor’s office, and Jamie Jones Miller, Wittman’s chief of staff, joined about 20 female students in the Marvin Center for the Center for Student Engagement’s event. Both officials gave advice on how to keep up with a campaign while running for office and maintain hope as a minority in politics, which is a male-dominated field.
Bowser was originally going to speak but was not able to make it, Ghodiwala said.
Want to run for office some day? Here are some of the speakers’ tips:
1. Being a woman in a male-dominated field
Miller and Ghodiwala both said having confidence will help women succeed in a majority male profession.
People tend to make assumptions about female working in politics, like what kind of dresses and shoes they should wear or how they should behave, Ghodiwala said.
“There are always going to be people who want to pull you down,” Ghodiwala said. “Always be prepared and know what you’re talking about. That’s the best way to shut other people down.”
Miller said since she works in national defense, she has experienced “imposter syndrome,” which makes her feel she does not belong in a room full of men.
Men do not always worry that they may not know every issue perfectly, unlike women who need a push, she said.
“I believe that women have a voice, have a set of talents and have a role to play in the future of this country,” she said.
2. Find your ‘why’
Miller said female politicians need to remember why they wanted to be in politics to begin with to stay motivated.
“You have to figure out why you get up in the day,” she said.
At the same time, women also need to recognize their likes and dislikes, she said. Miller said she spent too much time working on tasks she did not want to do.
Miller asked the students to consider what inspires them and encouraged them to pursue their passions.
“You are the kind of people I want to hire and vote for,” Miller said.
3. It’s OK to take risks and fail
Ghodiwala said the female audience would learn about themselves and their communities through running a campaign, so it is worth it even if they do not win.
“We’re all afraid of failure, but it’s totally OK to lose,” she said.
Miller said while working on a campaign against Wittman, she met him and decided she wanted to work with him. She then called the chief of staff and expressed her interest in working for him, which is how she got hired.
Miller said women need to take these types of risks to get what they want in politics.
“My advice for you is test yourself, get out there and get experience, work on a campaign,” Miller said. “Don’t be afraid to fail. You will fail. Just don’t make it an ugly fail. Use those times to inform other decisions you make.”
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Wittman’s first name is Richard. It is Rob. We regret this error.