MISSOULA – Eighteen undergraduate women from across Montana will convene Sunday through Friday, June 4-9, at the University of Montana for the inaugural Montana NEW Leadership Program.
The nonpartisan program offers female students training and networking opportunities to help them become more engaged in public policymaking and community leadership. The first cohort of participants includes women from UM’s Missoula, Western and Helena campuses; Montana Tech; Montana State University; and Salish Kootenai College.
“This program provides a unique educational enhancement focused on educating, empowering and encouraging college women to become politically active and to take on leadership roles,” said Deena Mansour, the program’s administrative director. “We are honored that Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics selected UM and the Mansfield Center to host the Montana NEW Leadership Program.”
Women are widely underrepresented in political offices at both the state and national levels. Only 28.7 percent of Montana’s state legislators are women and none of its national congressional delegation are female. Nationally, women hold only 24.9 percent of state legislative seats and 19.4 percent of congressional seats.
Despite these numbers, women demonstrate a great interest in politics. According to the Center for American Women and Politics 2015 Fact Sheet, women cast between 4 million and 7 million more votes than men, and a higher percentage of eligible women vote in presidential elections than eligible men. Leadership skills training like the Montana NEW Leadership Program may help women bridge the gap between political interest and political leadership.
“Our program includes meetings with distinguished political, academic and business leaders; workshops on teambuilding, networking, professionalism and communication; a visit to Helena for a perspective on state leadership; and an action project to give participants firsthand experience at political activism,” said Sara Rinfret, academic director of the Montana NEW Leadership Program.
In addition to Mansour and Rinfret, Rep. Kimberly Dudik of Montana House District 94 serves as political director of the Montana NEW Leadership Program.
The Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University is recognized nationally as the leading source of scholarly research and current data about American women’s political participation. Its mission is to promote greater knowledge and understanding about women’s participation in politics and government and to enhance women’s influence and leadership in public life.
UM’s Mansfield Center promotes better understanding of Asia, U.S. relations with Asia and ethics in public affairs in the spirit of Sen. Mike Mansfield (1903-2001) and his wife, Maureen Hayes Mansfield. The center houses programs that focus on the peoples and cultures of modern Asia and ethics in public affairs – the core interests and hallmarks of Sen. Mansfield’s career.
More information on the program is available at http://www.umt.edu/mansfield/academics/newleadership/default.php.