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  • Writer's pictureThe Ascend Fund

Women’s History Month: Celebrating Women Who Lift as They Climb



Every month is Women’s History Month at The Ascend Fund, but March provides an opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made and to celebrate the women who are leading the way and lifting as they climb. This year, we are grateful for the women who have dedicated their careers and time, whether as mentors, trainers, funders, or advisors, to paving the way for women to run for office—and helping them win. Meet just a few of the many women who continuously inspire us.

Julie Conway, Executive Director, Value in Electing Women (VIEW) PAC

Julie Conway is the Executive Director of VIEW PAC, a national organization that works to fund Republican women running for the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. Julie and VIEW PAC were instrumental in increasing the number of Republican women in Congress. When Julie joined VIEW PAC in 2011, there were just 21 Republican women in Congress. That number has since doubled, with a record 42 Republican women now serving. Speaking about the recent increases in the number of Republican women, Julie said,


“Success begets success and in the last few cycles especially, we’ve demonstrated that when women run, they win.” 1

Irene Godinez, Founder and Executive Director, Poder NC Action

Irene Godinez is the Founder and Executive Director of Poder NC Action, a Latinx voter outreach and power-building organization. Poder has mobilized more than 38,000 Latinx voters in North Carolina since launching in 2020. During the 2020 election, Irene served as New American Leaders’ first Vice President of Programs, where she spearheaded intersection programming to prepare first- and second-generation Americans to run for office.


Pakou Hang, Director, New American Majority Fund

Pakou Hang is the Director of the New American Majority Fund at the Democracy Alliance, which funds state-based organizing led by New Americans across the U.S. In addition to her work at the New American Majority Fund, Pakou trains women and New Americans to run for office with re:power, New American Leaders, and APIAVote. Most recently, Pakou served as the Chief Program Officer for Vote Run Lead, a national nonprofit she co-founded that trains women to run for public office and win. Speaking about her commitment to electing women, Pakou remarked,

“Women are the leaders we have been waiting for. Women’s lived experiences, the way they have been treated in the world, the way that they see the world, is exactly the healing balm that we need for our democracy.” 2

Christina Haswood, Kansas State Representative

Christina Haswood represents Kansas House District 10. Rep. Haswood was elected to the Kansas State House in 2020 and is serving her second term in office. In addition to her legislative role, Rep. Haswood is a Lead2030 Fellow at Advance Native Political Leadership and is working with them to increase Native American representation in elected office. Lead2030 is a program of Women’s Democracy Lab, which places part-time legislators in paid roles at values-aligned nonprofits to reduce the financial hardships imposed by part time legislatures. Rep. Haswood is committed to mentoring the next generation of young women in Kansas, much like Congresswoman Sharice David and State Rep. Dr. Ponka-We Victors-Cozad mentored her.

“I found my voice in Kansas thanks to mentors like IGNITE, and now I want more young women to realize they have the power to run for office. That their voices matter as do their experiences. We already have what it takes to lead — what we need are allies, funding and mentorship.” 3

Erin Knott, Executive Director, Equality Michigan

Erin Knott is the Executive Director of Equality Michigan, which works to elect LGBTQ+ leaders throughout the state, and one of The Ascend Fund’s 13 state partners. Erin previously served as the State Director of Enroll America, the Political Director of America Votes, and as the Deputy Director of Michigan Citizen Action. She also has also successfully run for office herself, serving six terms in the Kalamazoo City Commission and as the Vice Mayor from 2017-2019.

Sarah Pope, Director of U.S. Programs, LGBTQ+ Victory Institute

Sarah Pope is the Director of U.S. Programs at the LGBTQ+ Victory Institute, one of The Ascend Fund’s national partners and the only national organization dedicated to electing LGBTQ+ people to all levels or government. Sarah was instrumental in launching the Women Out to Win Mentorship Program, which provides LGBTQ+ women with support and mentorship to prepare them for the unique challenges LGBTQ+ women face when running for office.



Alicia Netterville, Principal, Acclivity Group and former Deputy Director and Policy Director, ACLU of Mississippi

Alicia Netterville is a Principal at the Acclivity Group and the former Deputy Director and Policy Director of the ACLU of Mississippi, one of The Ascend Fund’s four state partners in Mississippi. Alicia was instrumental in developing a cohort-based program run by the ACLU of Mississippi to recruit and train women of color to run for office in Mississippi. Alicia is committed to electing women not only because it is what’s right, but because it is what’s good for our democracy.

“When we have a legislature that is dominated by one race, one gender, then our policies look one-sided. But if we have more diversity, because we’re bringing more experience to the table, then we have better policies that impact the lives of more people in a more positive way.” 4

Kristine Reeves, Washington State Representative and former Ascend Advisory Board Member

Kristine Reeves represents Washington’s 30th House District and is the Founder of the Political Equity Project, which provides women and BIPOC candidates with the tools, resources, and skills to run for office. Rep. Reeves served in the House of Representatives from 2017-2019, until stepping down to run for Congress. In 2022, she ran for the House again and won by a margin of more than 10 points. Prior to founding the Political Equity Project, Rep. Reeves was an Open Society Foundations Leadership in Government Fellow, where she worked to create a positive environment for women running for office. Additionally, Rep. Reeves served on The Ascend Fund Advisory Board, where she leveraged her personal experience running for office to inform Ascend’s strategy.

Jocelyn Yow, Eastvale, CA Council Member and Legislative Advocacy Director, IGNITE

Jocelyn Yow is an Eastvale, CA City Council Member and the Legislative Advocacy Director for IGNITE, one of Ascend’s national partners that works to empower and train young women to run for office. Council Member Yow spearheads IGNITE’s work to empower young women to get involved in the legislative process through advocacy training and meeting with their state legislators. Council Member Yow was also the youngest women to serve as mayor in California’s history, when she was elected as Mayor of Eastvale in 2020 at 25.

“On City Council, I’m the only person of color. Whenever I see the photo of my colleagues and me, I am still in awe. I’m so proud to be setting an example for girls.” 5

Conclusion

More than 100 years after women won the right to vote, women still make up less than 30% of our elected officials, and without intervention, women won’t reach parity for 100 more years. The leadership and bravery of these women is accelerating the pace of change towards parity, so we can reach 50% representation, in all 50 states, by 2050. I hope you will join us in celebrating these incredible women this Women’s History Month and we encourage you to celebrate the women in your life who lift as they climb.


[4] Women’s Foundation of Mississippi - Why We Need More Women in Public Policy

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