CLIENT: The Women’s Fund of Rhode Island
ISSUE: Using election season as an opportunity to influence change should be a tool in every organization’s tool box. For example, in early 2010 the Cambridge, Mass.-based Hunt Alternatives Fund decided to use the gubernatorial election cycle in twelve states as a catalyst for increasing gender parity in political appointments. The Fund recruited non-profit or government entities in each of the twelve states to launch political parity projects aimed at locating women to apply for cabinet level positions, boards, and commissions, and asking candidates for governor to support the project by pledging to appoint more women to high-level positions. The Women’s Fund of Rhode Island (WFRI) was chosen by the Hunt Alternatives Fund to lead the charge here in the Ocean State and in turn WFRI launched RI-GAP, the Rhode Island Government Appointments Project.
CAMPAIGN: As WFRI’s public affairs consultant Advocacy Solutions worked with Women’s Fund staff and board members to:
- Recruit and staff the RI-GAP steering committee, whose co-chairs and members are all recognizable women from the halls of government, politics, industry, and the non-profit sector;
- Plan and execute a 90th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage event to launch and publicize the RI-GAP initiative, featuring a performance by the Rhode Island Raging Grannies, a speaking program, and the engagement of political and opinion leaders;
- Manage all media relations functions to assist with RI-GAP’s agenda items, securing articles in the Providence Journal and other media outlets;
- Plan, promote, and execute a networking event at the State House for women interested in holding Governor-appointed positions;
- Plan and execute a formal pledge signing with the four candidates for Governor just days before the state’s general election, where each candidate pledged – in writing – to appoint at least 30 percent of women to governor-appointed positions, an effort to double the number of women in appointed positions under then-Governor Carcieri.
RESULT: The RI-GAP initiative is not yet complete and will continue to recruit women to serve in Governor-appointed positions, and to track Governor Lincoln Chafee’s commitment to significantly increase the number of women in appointed positions. However, a mid-year status report shows that in his first six months in office the Governor has honored his pledge and has successfully increased the percentage of women serving in cabinet and senior-level positions, and on boards and commissions to just over 30%.