Having been in existence for 36 years, The Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC)has focused on helping women grow and scale their businesses through various programs and one-on-one business training. This year, on August 26th, the WBDC launched its newest initiative, Raising Up the Vote, to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment. Beginning with a three-part virtual event, sponsored by Target, which discussed the intersection of gender and equality, the campaign will continue facilitating conversations with virtual events, interactive discussions, and a weekly podcast set to debut on Monday, September 21st.
Sarah Arnold, regional director at the WBDC Twin Cities and the initiator and lead driver for Raising Up the Vote, said, “What we know based on research is that, when communities vote, they are more likely to be engaged civically. When they engage civically, they are more active from a political participation perspective. And when that happens, you increase political representation. The impact of increased political representation is dramatic and drives economic development within those communities.” She then added, “While we hope that through Raising Up the Vote, we can educate, invigorate, and commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, we don’t want it just to be a moment in time. But rather, have a campaign that creates momentum for this election and in many elections to come.”
In preparation for the Raising Up the Vote initiative, the WBDC examined non-voters from the 2016 election and saw that the majority of them came from diverse groups, Millennials, and Gen Z. Using this information, they focused the campaign on how to leverage experiences that would resonate with these groups. “What we tried to do was create awareness and drive activation around the power and importance of voting. And what that means in terms of equality from both a gender and race perspective. We know that you can’t have one without the other and that voting creates a long-lasting impact on not only the present day but for future generations”, Sarah stated.
During their virtual kick-off event, the WBDC highlighted the challenges that have been created and continue to persist for women and minorities based on how they have been able to access the right to vote. Sarah says, “Knowing this, we wanted to be very intentional about tying it back to the economic impact that voting has, and the fact that it creates engagement from a civic perspective. But ultimately, it helps to enable economic self-sufficiency by leveling the playing field.” Each of the conversations focused on how to meaningfully connect those points that resonated with both women and minority-owned businesses and their broader network of supporters.
Make Your Mark, the WBDC’s upcoming podcast will focus on critical issues that women and minorities continue to face and leverage voting and civic leadership to help drive change. Starting with U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, guests include Arne Duncan, Former Secretary of Education, Janis Bowdler, President, JPMorgan Chase & Co. Foundation, Laura Bloomberg, Dean, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of MN, Wendy Doyle, President & CEO Women’s Foundation, as well as an array of influential women and men in business and government. The weekly, seven-episode series will also cover topics such as Corner Office: Catalyst for Change, Owning Your Seat at the Table: Trailblazing a Path to Leadership, Why Equity in Education Matters, and Women & Wealth Creation: Hurdles & Challenges.
Overall, Sarah hopes the Raising Up the Vote campaign will make people “Pause and think because it creates curiosity. And curiosity creates conversation. And conversation drives action.” She then ended by saying, “One of the quotes that I have loved during this process is, ‘Social movements happen when ordinary people come together in an organized manner to do remarkable things.’ We know that this is possible because we’ve seen it happen with the women leaders before the Civil Rights Movement and us. So we need to build upon that for our children’s children at this moment in time with the current state of the world and the communities that we live in.”
For more information on the Raising Up the Vote movement and Make Your Mark podcast, visit https://www.wbdc.org/raising-up-the-vote-movement/ and https://www.wbdc.org/make-your-mark-podcast-series/.
Contributing Writer, Racquel Coral is a lifestyle writer based in Chicago. Find her on social media @withloveracquel.