In 2017, Erin Hottenstein watched in pure awe as Women’s Marches took place in Denver, Washington DC, and around the world. “Their peaceful demonstrations were awe-inspiring, and I couldn’t help but feel the incredible shift in energy. Women were ready to step up in ways they hadn’t before,” she said.
Known as a leader and dedicated volunteer, Erin has always been committed to the prosperity of her community. Inspired by what she saw at the Women’s March, she knew she wanted to do more. Erin took to the phone and called her friends. She convinced them that they had to do something to get more women in office. Soon after, this circle of women formed Colorado 50-50.
Colorado 50-50 is a nonpartisan, educational group that believes office-holders – whether elected or appointed – should more closely reflect the population. The organization aims to strengthen civic engagement by facilitating discussions, so people feel empowered to participate in politics through exercising their right to vote, running for office, or supporting a candidate. To date, more than 600 people have participated in 15 events in eight locations.
According to the Center for Women and Politics1, the number of women in municipal office hovers around 30%. “This data motivates me to inspire women to get on a path to leadership, to apply for boards and commissions, and to run for office,” said Erin. “Colorado and the world need the voices of women of all political stripes, women of color, and all those who are underrepresented in government and other positions of power. As a society, we make better policy decisions when there are diverse voices at the table.”
Erin says that there’s a myth about the electability of women. “Studies keep showing us that women win just as often – or more often – than men do. The reason we don’t have more women in office is that they don’t run.” Erin added, “We have to confront our own biases and stereotypes – about stay-at-home moms, moms who work outside the home, women with children, women without children, and about what politicians ‘should’ look like.”
In addition to educating and empowering women to run for office, Colorado 50-50 works to impact voter turnout by introducing their social media following to women candidates and running the Get Out the Vote campaigns for nearly every election for the past four years.
When Colorado 50-50 began in Fort Collins in 2017, there was one woman on city council and zero women on the county commission. In 2019, the number of women on the city council increased to four. Now, there are six women on the city council, and two of three county commissioners are women. Though Colorado 50-50 says they cannot claim to be responsible for all those gains, they did highlight the campaigns of each candidate, provided indirect support to several, and sparked a continuing community conversation about the importance of having women in office.
When there is not an upcoming election, Erin and the social media volunteers share uplifting stories about girls who have achieved great things, women who have become the first in their field, and women leaders around the country and the globe.
Erin Hottenstein, founder of Colorado 50-50, Fort Collins, CO, was presented with one of ten Nation of Neighbors℠ empowerment awards and grants presented nationwide. In addition to the award, she received a $10,000 grant for her organization.
Colorado 50-50 will use their grant to hire an attorney and nonprofit consultant and fund more trainings, marketing, and internship stipends. “I want to express my gratitude to all the people who have helped us,” stated Erin. “It’s a community effort to inspire the next wave of women leaders!”