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Building Women's Political Power with Cynthia Richie Terrell

My name is Courtney Lamendola, and I’ve been working with Cynthia at RepresentWomen from the beginning. RepresentWomen began as a project of FairVote, “Representation2020.” Its original purpose was to highlight the often-overlooked structural barriers to women’s political representation in the U.S. and track progress towards parity in government through an annual Gender Parity Index (GPI) from 2013/2014 through the 2020 Suffrage Centennial. In 2018, Cynthia decided that Representation2020’s work had outgrown its original scope and separated from FairVote to create RepresentWomen, a nonpartisan, nonprofit, national organization working to increase the representation and leadership of women in elected and appointed offices through knowledge-building, agenda-setting, and engagement.

I was one of RepresentWomen’s first hires in 2018. I was drawn to RepresentWomen because it was the first women’s representation organization I’d come across that shifted the burden of change off the shoulders of individual women candidates and onto the systems that shape opportunities for women to enter and remain in political office. Over the past five and a half years, RepresentWomen has grown from a team of two to a team of twelve staff and counting. We have worked with interns and fellows from all over the country and different parts of the world, and all have shared in the vision that Cynthia set out with: building women’s political power by challenging gatekeepers and reforming our political system so that more women can
Run, Win, Serve, and Lead

While it was RepresentWomen’s mission that drew me in five years ago, it’s Cynthia who has motivated me to stay. Cynthia’s strength is seeing opportunities where others see barriers. When we worked together in person (pre-COVID), I learned to keep a pen and paper ready to jot down the five ideas she thought of during her morning walk to the office. In turn, Cynthia has always been ready to lend an ear to any question or idea I come up with and encourages every team member to think big and then try and work out the details together. She brings so much energy, perspective, and creativity to our work - and I find that inspiring. So happy birthday, Cynthia. I couldn’t have asked for a better first boss and colleague, and I look forward to seeing our work continue to grow in the future. 

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