I recently learned about Emerge America, an organization which is changing the face of American politics by identifying, training and encouraging women to run for office, get elected and to seek higher office. I had an opportunity to meet the Emerge America founder Andrea Dew Steele, who in addition to her work to grow Emerge groups in more and more states, serves as the director of the California Committee North at Human Rights Watch. Prior to moving to the west coast, she worked for many years learning the Washington D.C. landscape in fundraising and doing policy work for Democratic candidates. The organization offers an intensive, cohort-based seven-month training program for women interested in getting into politics. As the number of elected Democratic women remains flat or even declines, the need for their work is growing across the country. Emerge America currently works in 14 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Emerge America’s role is to serve the states where they work, open new state programs and to build capacity to train more women in each of their current states. I attended their Trailblazers luncheon with U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in San Francisco, where they honored Emerge women and talked about the program. In addition to Gillibrand, Susie Tompkins Buell also took the stage, a leader in advancing women’s representation in politics and Trailblazer awardee Darcie Green. While the event was predominantly women, not only did men attend, but there were men in attendance who are behind Emerge’s efforts, from mentoring to funding. MSNBC’s Richard Wolffe was a special guest emcee who spoke to the audience about the importance of grassroots efforts. He said, “Grassroots is vital – it’s important that people engage directly but we also need people on the ground and behind the scenes who can feel the pressure of that change in real time.” Darcie addressed the issue around women and minorities, particularly in the Latino community. From East San Jose and proud of it, she asserts that social inequalities can be corrected. “The power of the people is more powerful than people in power,” she said. I was impressed with Darcie’s wit, style, confidence and resilience as she took the stage. Nancy Pelosi‘s daughter showed up to read a letter she wrote to the Emerge community, which included a strong message around being committed to diversity, since it is diversity that can get us as women to win. I was thrilled to learn about the organization and their efforts to help women get to the next level in politics and beyond. Since the first Emerge state was launched in 2002, Emerge has trained more than 1,200 Democratic women to run for office to-date. The proof of their success is in the numbers: 43% of Emerge alumnae have run for office or been appointed to local boards or commissions. Of those who have run for office, 60% have won. In addition, they have a strong record of diversity – 40% of their alumnae are women of color. Kudos to Andrea and her growing team for their efforts so far and if you want to help or contribute financially or otherwise, have a look at the various ways you can help or get involved. All photos by the photographer at the event Tim Williamson.