Our first virtual social

Want to meet other fabulous people who are interested in promoting women in leadership? Mark your calendars for our fall social on Wednesday, October 7, from 7-9 PM! Colorado 50-50 is partnering with Wyoming Women’s Action Network. We’re particularly interested in encouraging rural women to attend this gathering as they consider running for town councils and school boards in 2021.

Meet women elected officials and candidates. Have fun discussing politics. Get connected with people working on campaigns and hear what it is like. Suggested $5 donation to support the work of Colorado 50-50. You will also have the opportunity to donate to the Wyoming Women’s Action Network.

RSVP now to save your spot!

Colorado women continue leading the way in achieving elected office

Women won 54.5% of school board seats in 2019, higher than the national average

By Erin Hottenstein

In November of odd years, about half of Colorado’s 974 nonpartisan school board seats are up for election. New research from Colorado 50-50 shows that women won 54.5% of school board seats in 2019, higher than the national average.

Does having more women on school boards make a difference? Thompson School District Board President Lori Hvizda Ward of Loveland believes so. “In my personal experience, I’ve found women to be better listeners and more open to seeing opposing viewpoints,” she said. “I think women are more willing to change their mind or position on an issue over time or with new information.” 

“The downside of this is that decision making can be slowed down. Women tend to be less authoritarian and more democratic, especially as board leaders,” she continued. “They often are also the peacemakers. These all lead to better decision-making, as does diversity in general.”

From August through November 2019, a total of 479 people participated in the process – they filed as candidates, ran for office, and/or were appointed. Out of those, 314 people took seats on 129 different school boards.

“Won by Acclamation”

One interesting finding was that at least 91 people (46 women and 45 men) “won by acclamation.” That means that there were either just enough candidates or not enough, and so the school board cancelled the election. For example, there were three seats available and three candidates. With no contest, there would be no need to go through the costly process of an election.

It’s likely that the number was actually far higher. Across the state, there are 178 school boards and yet only 129 were represented in data received from the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. In several instances, school boards had vacancies even beyond November.

Some women looking to get more involved in their communities might find lower barriers to getting elected to the school board. They might only need a small number of signatures to become candidates, and then find that a campaign is unnecessary if others don’t step up to compete.

Women ran in higher numbers and won at higher rates

Across the United States, school boards are remarkable for their gender parity. A 2017 National Association of School Boards study noted that women’s representation had increased from 40% in 1992 to 44% by 2010 to 50% by 2017. That’s quite a feat when you compare it to the 23.7% of congressional seats or the 29.2% of state legislative seats that women hold in 2020.

Of all the Coloradans who participated in the school board selection process, 255 were women and 224 were men. 

Looking at the total number of people who were involved, women won at 26.4% and men won at 20.7%. It is interesting that the other figures are close to even, including the number that won by acclamation (9.8% for women, 9.6% for men) and the number that lost (16.4% for women, 16.6% for men).

If you look only at the pool of contest winners, women won 54.5% of the seats while men won 45.5%. In terms of actual numbers of seats, women won 124 seats and men won 97.

Consuelo Redhorse is a school board member in Summit County. The prior board was all-female and the current board has six women and one man. Redhorse said in her experience women are typically more involved in school events, meetings, and organizations – which could explain why women run for school board in higher numbers.

“[Women] tend to become more familiar with the school culture and environment and maintain more personal relationships with school personnel and other parents who are involved in the school organizations,” Redhorse said. “The relationships and knowledge of what’s going on in the schools make for a good foundation to become involved with the school system on a higher level.”

Front Range vs. Rural

There was a noticeable difference in the win rates for the Front Range versus rural areas. By the Front Range, we’re talking about the urban and suburban corridor around Interstate 25 from Fort Collins south to Pueblo.

Front Range women won almost 62% of the seats, while rural women won about 54% of seats. While both are above the national average for school board members, that’s an eight point difference. 

Another issue is the number of seats. Along the Front Range, women won 58 seats and another 17 won by acclamation for a total of 75 seats out of 130 that were available. 

However, in rural areas, there are many more districts and board seats. Rural women won 75 seats and took another 20 seats by acclamation for a total of 95 seats out of the 182 seats available. Bear in mind that our study includes all the 49 Front Range districts among the 129, but does not include 49 other rural districts for which we did not have information. 

To put it another way, 82% of school districts in Colorado are rural and 18% are urban or suburban. 

Trying to fill more seats in a less dense population can be a challenge. “It is hard to get any candidates in some of the more rural areas,” Hvizda Ward said. Sometimes “they waive the two-term limit, allow employees to serve, or have people that serve repeated terms after being off for a term or two.”

There is a tremendous opportunity for rural Colorado women to step up to leadership and make a difference in their communities. They can learn more about their local districts by volunteering on something like a parent accountability committee, or by attending school board meetings. Once they decide to run, women will need to circulate a nomination petition, which happens in early August. We hope that women from across Colorado will begin thinking now about running for school board in 2021 and contact us so that we can support them.


About Colorado 50-50 – We are a statewide all-volunteer organization that inspires and trains women to run for office. We also encourage women to apply for boards and commissions, because we want to see gender parity everywhere. Please reach out to us to volunteer or talk about a joint event.

Thanks – Our sincere gratitude goes out to the following volunteers for their help with the research. Data analysis and research – Aili Miyake and Erin Hottenstein. Research – Megan Sanders, Dani Dawes, Micala Khavari, Natalie Hodgman, Laurie Krall, and Tara Eveland.

Methodology – We started with a list of school board candidates from the Colorado Secretary of State’s website. We got the first list after the filing deadlines had passed, but before election day. We got the second list a couple of weeks after the election. Looking at the names, we made our best guess as to the gender of the person. For gender neutral names, we sought more information via internet search engines. Based on this method, we were not able to determine if a person was gender non-conforming, nonbinary, or transgender. For these reasons, it’s possible we made errors. 

Then, we sought to determine if the candidate won or lost using the Colorado Secretary of State’s website, county clerks’ websites, school districts’ websites, and online newspaper articles. In some cases, we contacted the school districts for more information. Along the way, we found information about people who had won by acclamation – meaning the school district canceled the election for lack of a contest. We also found appointees and folks who had been candidates, but didn’t register with the Secretary of State.

We divided the counties into Front Range and Rural. Front Range counties include: Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Denver, Douglas, El Paso, Elbert, Fremont, Jefferson, Larimer, Pueblo, Teller, and Weld. Rural counties include the other 51 counties. Toward the end of our project, we realized that there were 178 school districts in existence, but only candidate filings from the Secretary of State’s office for 129 districts. In the interest of time and needing to turn our attention to the 2020 election, we decided we would go with what we had and seek more complete data next time.

Nearly Spring Social – March 13 in Colorado Springs

Does the thought of getting on a board or running for office seem overwhelming? We will demystify the process! Learn how everyday women just like you are doing it.

Our special guests so far:

  • El Paso County Commissioner Holly Williams
  • D-11 School Board Member Mary Coleman
  • Candidate for U.S. Congress Jillian Freeland
  • former State House candidate Maile Foster

Join us for our Nearly Spring Social! Come talk politics, and meet elected women officials and women candidates. There’s no admission fee. Drinks and food are available for purchase. Donations will be accepted to further the work of Colorado 50-50.

Location: Coquette’s Bistro, 616 S. Tejon St., Colorado Springs.

Date & Time: Friday, March 13, 2020, 6-8 PM

Winter Social 2020

You won’t want to miss our Winter Social!

It’s happening Sunday, January 26, 5-6:30 PM, at Monroe’s Lounge at the Best Western at I-25 and 34 in Loveland.

This is an enjoyable and informal local opportunity to meet people interested in promoting women in leadership, as well as candidates, and elected officials. 
The event is free with a cash bar. Donations furthering the work of Colorado 50-50 are encouraged and will be happily accepted.

Our special guests include:

  • State Senator Joann Ginal
  • State Senator Vicki Marble
  • State Representative Jeni Arndt
  • Larimer County Treasurer Irene Josey
  • Windsor Mayor and candidate for Weld County Commissioner Kristie Melendez
  • Fort Collins City Councilwoman Julie Pignataro
  • Estes Park Town Councilwoman Carlie Bangs
  • Loveland City Councilwoman Kathi Wright
  • Evans Town Councilwoman Ally Johnson
  • Thompson School Board Director Lori Hvizda Ward
  • Candidate for U.S. Senate Lorena Garcia
  • Candidate for State Representative Holly Herson
  • Candidate for State Representative Yara Zokaie
  • Candidate for Larimer County Commission Kim Akeley-Charron
  • Candidate for Larimer County Commission Jody Shadduck-McNally

By the way, if you are an elected official, former elected official, or candidate, we would love to include you in this event! We will be updating this list here and on social media. Please let us know if you are attending.

We look forward to seeing everyone on Sunday, January 26!

Dear Denver Post – You Need More Women Opinion Writers

Woman reading a Denver Post opinion page, out of which the text of male writers has been cut, leaving many empty spaces.

Dear Editor,

As an avid reader of the Denver Post and the Perspective section, I am regularly disappointed with the lack of women’s voices – and those of people of color – on your pages. Recently, I was shocked to count six guest columns that were not only all from men, but appeared to be all from white men.

Why does Jon Caldara get to take up so much space? Or Doug Friednash? Or Ian Silverii?

There’s nothing wrong with hearing from these – or any other – white males. I’m sure they’re fine people, and they can write. For the record, white males are some of my closest friends.

The problem is that the opinion pages should more accurately reflect the population of Colorado. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that almost half of Coloradans are female. Of all Coloradans, about 68 percent are white, 22 percent are Hispanic or Latino, just under 5 percent are black or African-American, 3.5 percent are Asian, and about 1.5 percent are Native American.

Knowing these figures, it is interesting to know some other facts. A Byline Survey by The OpEd Project in 2012 found that women were penning just 20 percent of opinions in traditional U.S. publications. That’s not anywhere close to 50-50.

Also concerning to people like me who are working to get more women elected is research from Who Leads Us showing that even though white men make up 30 percent of the population, they hold 64 percent of elected offices. While people of color (both men and women) make up 39 percent of the U.S. population, they hold only 10 percent of elected positions. For women of color specifically, the numbers are the worst – 20 percent of people and only 4 percent of seats.

Not only are women absent in seats of power, sometimes they are invisible in men’s commentary about politics. More than once I have read pieces that did not even mention that there were women candidates running in a given race. Women candidates have enough challenges without being casually erased from the opinion page.

These discrepancies have consequences – both in the world of ideas and in the world of policy. We are missing different life experiences, other ways of thinking about things, and valuable viewpoints. As a society, we make better policy decisions when there are diverse voices at the table. Many studies of government and business have shown this to be true.

The good news is women have opinions!

I was so concerned about the lack of women opinion writers that I decided to try to help. I spent some time rounding up a list of women with opinions. The women on this list are diverse in their race, their political party, their age, and their geography.

These women are ready to write columns for you:

  • Cynthia Coffman
  • Paula Cole
  • Melanie Dubin
  • Rebekah Henderson
  • Alice Madden
  • Amber McReynolds
  • Confidence Omenai
  • Vanessa Quintana
  • Elizabeth Skewes
  • Maya Siegel
  • Suzi Q. Smith
  • Kristin Strohm
  • Emma Tang
  • Calandra Vargas-O’Hanlan
  • and me.

This is a brief list. I’m sure that there are many more women who would be willing to lend their voices to the conversations happening in your paper.

Expanding the number of diverse women thought leaders is especially urgent as we approach not only the next legislative session, but also a very consequential presidential election and U.S. Senate election. I urge you to add more women writers to your rotation of columnists.

Erin Hottenstein
Founder
Colorado 50-50

Encouraging Women To Run For Office

Colorado 50-50 presents a Friday, Oct. 4 event that will help demystify the process of running for office. Event organizers hope the panel discussion followed by networking will encourage more women to become candidates. The event – called Winning With Women – is being put on by Colorado 50-50, a nonpartisan group of concerned citizens that wants to promote gender parity in public life.

“When women run for office, they win just as often as men win,” said Colorado 50-50 Founder Erin Hottenstein. “So why aren’t more women in office? Because they don’t run.”

“Once women are in office, they’re good for the system,” she continued. “They seek more citizen input. They tend to facilitate and encourage cooperation.”

Joining the panel discussion will be Democratic Congresswoman Diana DeGette, former Republican State Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, and Democratic State Representative Leslie Herod. DeGette was elected to Congress in 1996, continues to serve, and is running again in 2020. She is one of only four women in Colorado history to have served in Congress. Coffman was elected in 2014 and served four years, during which time she ran for governor. She is only one of two women in Colorado history to have served as Attorney General. Herod was elected to the state house in 2016, where she continues to serve. She was the first LGBTQ African-American to be elected to the state legislature.

After speaking at a Winning With Women training, former Fort Collins Mayor Susan Kirkpatrick shared, “When women are elected to public office, they get things done. Research suggests that women perceive and use power differently than men do. There are benefits to communities when women participate in public policy making.”

The panel discussion will be followed by a networking session, which organizers hope will foster new connections among women who are curious about running and people who want to support women running for office.

Winning With Women takes place on Friday, Oct. 4, 6-9 p.m., at Lindsay Auditorium in Sturm Hall, University of Denver, 2000 E. Asbury, Denver, CO, 80208. Tickets are free for students with student ID, $15 regular admission, or higher amounts to cover students and support Colorado 50-50. Tickets can be purchased through EventBrite. Light refreshments will be served.

Childcare will be available for a small fee, provided that an RSVP is received by Oct.1. Scholarships are available. Please contact Erin Hottenstein at erin@colorado5050.org.

Paid parking is widely available at the DU campus. Lots 317 and 321 are closest to Sturm Hall; please see the campus parking map for more information. Guests can pay for parking in the visitor lots from their smart phones with the Park Mobile App. DU also has its own Light Rail stop located on the E-F-H lines.

Colorado 50-50 is grateful to the sponsors who are helping make this event possible: University of Denver, Electing Women PAC, League of Women Voters of Colorado, VoteRunLead, DU’s Dept. of Economics, DU’s Gender and Women’s Studies Dept., DU’s Dept. of Political Science, DU’s Center on American Politics, DU’s Media, Film, and Journalism Studies, DU’s College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences, and InvestHER.

Councilwoman Coming To Longmont on Sept. 22

Film poster for Councilwoman with photos of Carmen Castillo

We are showing Councilwoman at the Longmont Museum and Cultural Center! It is an inspiring new documentary about a Dominican-American hotel housekeeper who runs for city council in Providence, Rhode Island. The film will be followed with a panel and audience discussion about civic engagement and getting more women in leadership.

Do you know a woman who should take her next steps in leadership? Bring her with you!

Co-presented with the League of Women Voters of Boulder County and the Longmont Museum.

Sunday, September 22, 3 pm
$5 general admission, $3 students/seniors, free for museum members. Tickets here.

(Seguido en Español – Sinopsis de la película)

Film synopsis: Politicians aren’t often full-time hotel housekeepers, grandmothers, union members and immigrants working service jobs. But Carmen Castillo changes that when she wins a seat on the City Council in Providence, Rhode Island. Carmen Castillo is a Dominican City Councilwoman who maintains her job cleaning hotel rooms, as she takes on her new role in politics. She faces skeptics who say she doesn’t have the education to govern, the power of corporate interests who take a stand against her fight for a $15/hourly wage in the City, and a tough re-election against two contenders—all of this while balancing the challenges of managing a full-time job cleaning hotel rooms, and a personal relationship. It’s a journey behind the scenes of politics after the victory.

Total Running Time: 56:53 – Spanish/English with English subtitles

Sinopsis de la película: los políticos no suelen ser camareras de hotel, abuelas, miembros del sindicato e inmigrantes que trabajan a tiempo completo en el sector del trabajo. Pero Carmen Castillo cambia eso cuando gana un asiento en el Concejo Municipal en Providence, Rhode Island. Carmen Castillo es una concejala Dominicana que mantiene su trabajo de limpieza de habitaciones de hotel, mientras asume su nuevo papel en la política. Se enfrenta a escépticos que dicen que no tiene la educación para gobernar, el poder de los intereses corporativos que se oponen a su lucha por un salario de $15 por hora en la ciudad y una reelección difícil contra dos contendientes: todo esto a la vez que se equilibran los desafíos de administrar un trabajo a tiempo completo limpiando habitaciones de hotel y una relación personal. Es un viaje tras bambalinas de la política después de la victoria.

Tiempo total del documental: 56:53 – en español / inglés con subtítulos en inglés

Fun in Dillon!

Photos of attendees of summer social

Thanks to everyone who attended our Summer Social in Dillon on August 15! It was a great turnout for our first event in the mountains and we were happy to meet so many people.

Our special thanks go out the elected women officials who helped make the social a success by encouraging the next wave of women leaders. Thank you State Senator Kerry Donovan, State Representative Julie McCluskie, State Senator and U.S. Senate Candidate Angela Williams, former State House Majority Leader and U.S. Senate Candidate Alice Madden, Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence, Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier, Dillon Mayor Carolyn Skowyra, Breckenridge Town Councilwoman Erin Gigliello, and former Dillon Town Councilwoman Lucinda Burns!

Good luck to attendees Amy Padden and Heidi McCollum, who are running for District Attorney in different districts!

Join us on Aug. 15 for our Summer Social in Dillon

event details and photos of three elected women officials

Join us for our summer social in Dillon! Meet women candidates & elected officials, like State Senator Kerry Donovan, State Representative Julie McCluskie & Elisabeth Lawrence, Summit County Commissioner. Learn what it’s like to run & hold office.

All are welcome! Thursday, August 15, 5-6:30 PM, at Pug Ryan’s Brewery, 104 Village Pl., Dillon. (Note: we will be at the brewery, not the tiki bar.)

Suggested $5 donation to Colorado 50-50. No admission fee. Cash bar at Pug Ryan’s Brewing Company. More info and RSVP here.

50 Phenomenal Women Coming To A Ballot Near You

Group photo at #RunAsYouAre Denver training
Photo credit: Alisa May Geiser

Colorado 50-50 was thrilled that 50 women attended the #RunAsYouAre2019 training in Denver on May 18, 2019. We partnered again with Vote Run Lead – and this year we were one of 20 locations offering the training on the same day.

It was a powerful full-day campaign training. The women learned that they are qualified to run for office and explored how their life experiences will make them effective elected officials. They learned how to kickstart their campaigns with concrete actions that will make them successful on the campaign trail. They also had time to connect and network with other Colorado women who were on the same path.

“I appreciated that the event brought together women from both sides of the political world with a common goal to inspire and empower more women to run,” said participant Tara Eveland. “It isn’t often in today’s political climate that we come together to support and uplift one another.” 

Another participant, Princess Mack, said she welcomed “the space to run for a political position being authentically yourself.”

You can see more wonderful photos taken at the event by Alisa May Geiser in this online gallery.

Also, we were happy that MSNBC did a broader feature story, “Black Women Candidates Could Shake Up The 2020 Election,” and interviewed some of our participants.

We want to express our appreciation to those who generously donated to make #RunAsYouAre2019 possible. The donors who supported the training, including scholarships and stipends, are the Soeurs de Coeur Fund and the Geri Brown Memorial Fund, both of which are donor-advised funds held at The Women’s Foundation of Colorado