Ten Questions For: A'shanti Gholar
The visionary political leader on why it matters to put power in women's hands.
The United States has never had a female president. We have had exactly one female vice president. Of 116 Supreme Court justices, just six have been women. Right now, women make up just 25% of senators, 29% of members of congress, and 24% of governors — and this is huge progress from just a decade ago.
Emerge president A’shanti Gholar spoke with the newsletter about why representation and parity both matter, why we need more Black women in leadership roles, and why you — yes you — should consider running for office.
Jill: Tell us a little bit about what you do, and about Emerge in particular. How did Emerge come to be? What need does it fill?
A’shanti: I’m A’shanti Gholar, President of Emerge, the nation's premier organization that recruits, trains and provides a powerful network to Democratic women who want to run for office, and Founder of The Brown Girls Guide to Politics.
Emerge was founded in San Francisco in the early 2000s by a group of women who saw a serious gap while their friend was running her first race: there was no training program for women who wanted to run for office. This friend went on to win her race for district attorney, then attorney general, U.S. Senate and then Vice President. By now, you know I'm talking about Kamala Harris, but from her experience, Emerge was born.
Since 2002, Emerge has trained over 5,500 Democratic women to run for office, and currently more than 1,200 Emerge alums serve in elected office. We are doing this by centering the women of the New American Majority (NAM): Black, Brown and Indigenous women and women of color, as well as LGBTQ+, young, and unmarried women. Emerge celebrates our NAM alums, who had a 73% win rate in the last general election.
Jill: Why is your work, and Emerge, important in the world? (Yes, it’s ok to brag about yourself -- tell us about your organization's impact and successes).
A’shanti: Emerge is galvanizing and training women who can make a real difference in our Democracy. In 2022 alone, we had a 71% success rate in our candidates winning their elections. Whether out of fury from a court ruling or out of passion for a cause, women are inspired to run for office every day and we give them the tools and support they need to win.
We know that we cannot have a full-fledged democracy without representation. So, here at Emerge, we are working to make our Democracy stronger by building a reflective and inclusive government with our new training programs: Gavel In, which trains women to run for judge; Seated Together, an advanced leadership program for Black women elected officials seeking higher office; and our ongoing work electing Democratic women to school boards, which is often the first office our alums seek on their ascent toward the top of the ticket.
Building Democratic majorities and transforming the demographics of our elected leaders is a long-game that requires years of strategic building - that’s why Emerge has a 15-year plan:
By 2035, Emerge is committed to reaching 100,000 women of the New American Majority – Black, Brown and Indigenous women and women of color, as well as LGBTQ+, young, and unmarried women – from all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. territories;
We will expand and nurture a lift as you climb culture so that women are pulling each other up to higher office;
We will increase our recruitment strategy from state legislatures and key state and local offices to include influential appointed positions and expand our reach and repower political structures to ensure women are front and center of our country’s leadership.
Jill: Walk us down your career path. How did you get here? Which choices / jobs / people helped you to get to where you are? How did this trajectory eventually bring you to the place of leading Emerge?