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After Trump Won, Chicago Women Started Group To Find More Female Candidates

By Justin Breen | December 15, 2016 5:40am | Updated on December 16, 2016 10:16am
 Chicago's Kate Le Furgy (from left), Anne Szkatulski and Sarah Cottrell are the three founders of Rodham Consulting.
Chicago's Kate Le Furgy (from left), Anne Szkatulski and Sarah Cottrell are the three founders of Rodham Consulting.
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DOWNTOWN — Hours after Donald Trump won the presidential election, three Chicago women decided to form a volunteer-based group to encourage Illinois women to run for political office.

A few days later, Rodham Consulting — the name is a hat tip to Hillary Rodham Clinton — was born. In a little more than a month, almost 100 women — including more than 50 from dozens of Chicago neighborhoods — have reached out to the three founders.

"I had a fear immediately following the election results that women would be discouraged from running for office, and I'm glad I was wrong," said founder Anne Szkatulski, an attorney and Kent College of Law graduate who lives in the West Loop.

Szkatulski created Rodham Consulting with two longtime colleagues — Kate Le Furgy, a University of Chicago graduate and strategic communications consultant who lives in Wicker Park, and Sarah Cottrell, a political consultant and DePaul adjunct professor who lives in the West Loop. The three founders began their friendship as part of the "PowerPump Salon" social network of Chicago-based professional women.

"We want to reach women who want to be involved in their community and break it down on a neighborhood level," Le Furgy said. "It's for women who want to step up but don’t even know where to start."

Rodham Consulting provides an hour of free consulting for any interested woman who's seeking a political office, from local school council and neighborhood watch group to Congress. The all-volunteer group has about 35 mostly Chicago-based advisers who have worked on all levels of politics, from fundraising to public policymaking. Women can volunteer to be advisers and "connectors" — women who know key figures in their communities.

Studies, including the 2004 Brown Policy Report, have shown women are far less likely than men to run for office and less likely to receive encouragement to run for office. A study from American University said women are also less likely than men to think they're qualified to run for office.

"I'm a firm believer that no successful person got there completely on their own — and the consulting work we're doing at [Rodham Consulting] is oftentimes that first step, first encouragement, first belief that you're not alone, and yes, you can do it," Cottrell said.

"It's been our experience that many women in Illinois need additional validation behind them with full support and encouragement to answer the call for public service. Running for office and then serving in government are both hard jobs, but we know more women are up for the task and should earn their seat at the table to represent our state at all levels of government."

Szkatulski said the "Rodham" name has become an "inspiration to multiple generations of women to step up and get into the political arena and say 'I can do this.'"

She said Rodham Consulting's early success is proof there is a desire to following Hillary Clinton's example.

"I find myself energized by women wanting to get involved," Szkatulski said. "We really struck a nerve and filled a gap."

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