Rachelle Suissa on Increasing Women in Public Office

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Rachelle Suissa, Founder and President of Dare to Run. Dare to Run is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate and empower women with the skills necessary to run for public office at the local, state and national level of government. The organization offers female college graduates the chance to participate in a one-year certificate program in pursuit of a career path in public service. Dare to Run gives women the opportunity to be a voice for their communities by committing to run campaigns in search of elected office within two years of graduation from the program.

Rachelle Suissa is the Founder and CEO of Dare to Run, an organization that provides women the leadership skills and training they need to run for office in New York State. (Image Credit: Dare to Run/Rachelle Suisa)

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

I wish I had known more about forming a board of a nonprofit organization and what credentials and qualifications to look for. When I started Dare to Run, I had recruited individuals with a very partisan agenda, and unfortunately that didn’t work well for a nonprofit organization. That was a lesson I had to learn.

2. What is your current greatest professional challenge?

Currently, my greatest professional challenge is fundraising large amounts from new and existing donors. Dare to Run has over 300 donors, but in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, retaining those donors and encouraging them to contribute monthly is a challenge at the moment.

3. What inspires you most about your work?

The idea of gender parity in government is what inspires me. The thought of waking up one day and contacting a member of my City Council or State Legislature and knowing there’s a 50% chance that that person will be a woman is what keeps me pioneering for change.

4. How does your gender identity inform your work?

I am a heterosexual white woman from a Jewish family. While I did grow up with the benefits of white privilege, I must say that I experienced more discrimination in the workplace as a Jew than I did as a woman. That’s sad, to be honest. To know that there are so many stereotypes about Jewish people that inform our culture is quite repressive. But as a woman, I watched my mother endure the trials and tribulations of single motherhood. She worked hard when I was a kid to make sure I would have the opportunities she didn’t get to fulfill. She made sure I went to college and graduate school and always encouraged me to pursue my dreams, even in my father’s absence. She’s a heroine in my book and will always be my guiding light in everything I pursue.

5. How can philanthropy support gender equity?

Philanthropy can support gender equality by funding initiatives, such as Dare to Run, that train women in underrepresented states around the country how to run for public office. Dare to Run is launching its Virtual Women’s Leadership Program this August for women in NY and in states outlined in our strategic plan, including Alabama, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and West Virginia.

We want to reach women in states with less than 20% of women currently serving in their state legislatures. We also have a scholarship fund for female essential workers – hospital workers, EMTs, and first Responders, who want to complete the program. Funding programs put forth by organizations like Dare to Run serve to ensure that women will continue to run for office and represent their communities to effect positive change.

6. In the next 10 years, where do you see gender equity movements taking us?

I see them taking us in the direction of having at least 40% of state and federal government officials being women. Local governing bodies typically do better with Female representation; it’s the federal and state governments that need to increase their representation of women overall.

To learn more about Rachelle Suissa, Dare to Run, and the upcoming Virtual Women’s Leadership Program, visit their website at www.daretorun.org. Applications are now open for the fall Leadership Program, and close on July 31st, 2020. Click here to apply!


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Author: Maggie May

Maggie May is a small business owner, author, and story-centric content strategist. A Maryland transplant by way of Florida, DC, Ireland, Philadelphia, and -- most recently -- Salt Lake City, she has a passion for finding stories and telling them the way they're meant to be told.

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