Jasmine Sessoms is way ahead of the curve. Long before #MeToo and #TimesUp, Jasmine started advocating for women to get involved in politics on the local level in 2013.
“In 2013, there was no place for women to talk about the issues they faced in running for office,” says Jasmine. “I realized this while running a judge campaign and was disheartened by how challenging it was for her because she was a woman.”
Not satisfied with this just being the status quo, Jasmine connected with 2 female members of Philadelphia’s City Council and found that there were specific challenges faced by women in politics at every level. It was harder for them to fundraise, harder for them to network, and harder for them to ask questions without being made to feel stupid. She left that meeting thinking about how to address those problems and decided to turn curiosity into action.
Jasmine went on to launch a bipartisan nonprofit called She Can Win, which provides education, training and support for women who want to run for office.The program has become so successful over the past few years that 5 of the Judges listed on the 2017 ballot had gone through the She Can Win program, and 3 won their races.
Role Models: Once you identified the problem, how did you go about creating a tangible solution?
Jasmine Sessoms: I left that meeting with the Councilwomen in 2013 thinking about how to address the problems they had laid out for me. I decided to invite a bunch of smart, powerful women to an informal discussion to create some group think about how to best navigate these issues. I got really great feedback from the women and decided to organize a more formal class to educate women about these issues. I wasn’t expecting much, but 25 women showed up! I was really amazed by the turnout. And six of those women ended up running for office.
RM: What would you say is the biggest difference between how men approach a political run compared to women?
JS: Everyone is scared about money--they don’t want to quit their jobs, are worried about their kids and the general time management that is required to balance a campaign and a personal life when you run. But the men are not as concerned about being qualified, or people thinking they are qualified for the job. Men just go for it.
RM: In the 4 years since launching She Can Win what have you learned from the experience?
JS: I’ve developed a really thick skin. I used to take rejection so personally, but I am really able to detach from that now. I’ve also had to erase my party affiliation and build a nonpartisan reputation to earn the trust of women on both sides of the aisle. At She Can Win, we don’t care what a woman’s party affiliation is, we just want more women to be part of the conversation.
RM: What has the biggest challenge been since launching She Can Win?
JS: Hmmm. I would say there are two main challenges we have consistently faced. One is how to bridge the divide between Democrats and Republicans because politics have become really unnecessarily partisan. And another one is figuring out how to open more doors for women across the board.
RM: What has been the most rewarding part about running She Can Win?
JS: Watching women get sworn in to office and knowing that I have been a part of it!
RM: What advice do you have for women who are shy about getting involved in politics?
JS: Allow yourself to dream without limits. There is no “perfect” situation when it comes to politics--people of all races, socioeconomic backgrounds, and experiences are qualified to run. Just look at Oprah or Beyonce, who both come from nothing, and have made magnificent success for themselves.
RM: How did you end up getting into politics?
JS: I graduated with a degree and found a job working as an event planner at a hotel. My hours were crazy and I just was burning out, so I left to plan events for a nonprofit. Shortly after I started there, the head of development quit and they offered me her job. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but it turns out I was good at it! Eventually, I left to fundraise for my best friend Jordan Harris, who is a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. I felt like an imposter at first, but people kept paying me to do it and I just kept going!
RM: What’s your biggest challenge as a business owner?
JS: Ha! That’s an easy one. Work/life balance is the biggest challenge in my life. I have two young daughters and sometimes end up working when it should really be family time, which I know is not fair to them. And my poor husband--I am guilty of texting and emailing during dinner with him, but have forced myself to shut down and stop working so that we can have quality time together.