NEW BRUNSWICK - About 200 New Jersey women will participate this Friday and Saturday in Ready to Run, an “electoral boot camp” for women on organizing political campaigns, raising funds and mobilizing voters.

Demand for the Rutgers University–New Brunswick program has surged over the past 15 months, reflecting a nationwide movement of women seeking to make a difference in public life, according to Debbie Walsh, director of the university’s Center for American Women and Politics.

“We’ve had an extraordinary year and a half” since the 2016 presidential election, Walsh said. “The women’s march and the #MeToo movement have inspired women to note that many men who serve in public office don’t understand the issues women care about and that women need to have a voice, a presence in the political system and an impact on public policy.” 

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Ready to Run is a two-day, non-partisan training event run by Walsh’s center, which is part of Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute of Politics. On Friday and Saturday it will include sessions on navigating the power dynamics of party organizations, working with news media and advocating for legislative change.

Since Ready to Run started 19 years ago, the program has helped to improve the representation of women in New Jersey government. Once ranked 43rd in the nation for the percentage of state legislators who were women, New Jersey now ranks 14th.

“We felt we had to do something in our home state, and so we launched Ready to Run,” she said. “We’re also really proud that 51 percent of the women in our legislature are women of color. It’s not just that we’re bringing more women in. We’re bringing more diversity among the women. About a third of the women who attend Ready to Run each year run for office and of those who run, about 70 percent get elected.”

Rutgers has helped to create similar initiatives based on the Ready to Run model in 21 states.

“Women are more likely to run for office if they’re recruited, (but) less likely to get recruited than men,” Walsh said. “This is an effort to do that recruiting and give women the tools necessary to run successful campaigns and to become more engaged in the political process.”