Panorama Global, a nonprofit group, is sponsoring recruitment and training programs for women running for elected office across the country.
The Ascend Fund, announced on Tuesday, is the latest venture for Panorama Global to get involved in gender parity in elected offices. The group received its seed money from Melinda Gates’ investment and incubation company Pivotal Ventures.
Chief executive officer and founder Gabrielle Fitzgerald told NBC News that the fund is one of their “biggest and most prominent” grants yet, and is actively looking to work with nonpartisan and nonprofit organizations that recruit and train women to run for office.
“There are barriers that exist that make it hard for women to run for office,” Fitzgerald said. “It requires you to be away from home, and oftentimes today, women are still the primary caregivers.”
Fitzgerald continued that aside from systematic barriers that preclude women from running, the lack of female candidates creates a pipeline problem for possible recruits.
“It’s not just training that women need to declare candidacy for office, it’s also encouragement,” Fitzgerald said.
Two groups have already received three-year grants: New American Leaders and Vote Run Lead. New American Leaders focuses on recruiting and training people of color, immigrants and refugees to run for state legislatures. While they work with both men and women, they will only use money from The Ascend Fund on programming for women.
“Our programs start at the point of entry, recruitment and training,” founder and president of New American Leaders Sayu Bhojwani said.
According to Bhojwani, because of New American Leaders’ designation as a 501(c)(3), the group cannot provide support once someone has formally entered a race.
Bhojwani clarified that the Ascend Fund and partners at Panorama Global “will not be involved in designing the programs” at New American Leaders, the partnership “is an opportunity to identify ongoing problems” in recruiting and training women for office.
Vote Run Lead works with women across the country and also specializes in recruiting and training women to run for state legislatures.
Vote Run Lead founder and CEO Erin Vilardi said that the Ascend Fund will act as an “accelerator” for programs the group had already been planning to enact.
“We are going as fast as we can to keep up with demand for women raising their hand [to run],” Vilardi said.
Vilardi continued that this grant will help push against assumptions that ventures supporting “women in politics is fully funded,” or that it’s “a demand problem.”
“Gender equity is really possible,” Vilardi said. “Really at this point, it’s about the resources.”
Vilardi said the additional funding will allow Vote Run Lead to work more to support women who have already won office, and not just help get them there.
According to Fitzgerald, because the groups being selected, and the fund money, are coming from nonpartisan actors, it allows the focus to be going state-by-state to achieve gender parity in state legislatures.
“Obviously different parties have different priorities and quotas for how they think about their recruitment,” Fitzgerald said. “But they don’t have an overall strategy for what we’re describing.”