WOMEN TRANSFORMING POLITICS
Andrea Dew Steele
By Elena Townsend Lerdo
November 2, 2020
Andrea Dew Steele is the founder of Emerge, an organization that arms aspiring women leaders with the tools and training they need to win elections. Since its founding in 2002, Emerge has trained more than 4,000 Democratic women to run for office. Earlier in her career, Andrea worked on Capitol Hill as a policy analyst and also helped raise money for Democratic candidates.
"If I wanted to impact the world, working in politics would enable me to have the biggest impact."
How did you first get involved in politics?
I started volunteering for a campaign while I was in high school and was bit by the political bug. I decided that if I wanted to impact the world, working in politics would enable me to have the biggest impact. I loved being involved in campaigns right from the beginning. Making calls and knocking on doors may seem like low level work, but I enjoyed feeling like I was part of a team that was working to elect someone who could dramatically impact people's lives.
What inspired you to create Emerge?
Why should gender matter when it comes to politics?
A friend of mine came to me and asked for help when she decided to run for office. She had no idea where to start. I decided that this is one of the main barriers to entry into the political process. We make every woman be an entrepreneur. This friend of mine, Kamala Harris, went on to win her race for District Attorney of San Francisco. I still am motivated to make sure the Kamala Harrises of the world have an easy way to enter the political process because we need their voices at the table. I wanted to start Emerge because I believe that having more women at the table will help us change our communities and in turn the world. Women have a valuable perspective and need to be sitting at decision making tables in equal numbers to men. We are effective in office – we sponsor, co-sponsor and pass more legislation than our male counterparts. We [women] go into politics to do something not to be something.
"I still am motivated to make sure the Kamala Harrises of the world have an easy way to enter the political process because we need their voices at the table."
"I believe that having more women at the table will help us change our communities and in turn the world."
In an essay you wrote for The Hill, you described the wave of female Democratic candidates as the silver lining of Trump's election in 2016. Can you elaborate?
We had so many great female candidates for president in 2020. Why didn’t any of them gain the traction needed? Unfortunately, we learned from this election that name recognition is the most important factor. Bernie and Biden were household names. That is why they won. It is that simple. I am hopeful that when we have a woman Vice President, she will have high name recognition and when she runs for President, she will win.
What are the kinds of entry level elected positions that women interested in politics should consider for their first run for office?
School board, city council, district attorney, city attorney, state legislature – those are just a few!
Who are the female politicians to watch right now?
Jennifer Carroll Foy is currently running for Governor of Virginia in 2021. If elected, she would be the first ever African American woman governor in the history of the United States. Sara Gideon is also a great woman candidate who ran for the U.S. Senate in Maine against Susan Collins. She is fantastic. I have to mention the fantastic mayors of Oakland and San Francisco, Libby Schaaf and London Breed. They are doing such great jobs right now during the pandemic and showing us what good leadership looks like.
If you could travel back in time, what advice would you give to your teenage self?
I would tell myself to take up meditation. The longest relationship you will have in life is with yourself and learning to understand and regulate your feelings and emotions will help you be more successful in life and focus on the important things – like changing the world.