LOS ANGELES, Feb. 10, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – When Yvonne B. Burke earned election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1972, she became California’s first African-American female elected to Congress. One thing she learned from the experience: “You’re never truly ready to run – even when you think you are! So don’t let that be a determining factor in whether you decide to seek public office.”

California Assemblymember Autumn R. Burke (left) and her mother, Commissioner Yvonne B. Burke, lead a two-generation discussion on women in California politics. Their conversation was part of Ready to Run, a nonpartisan campaign training program hosted by Mount Saint Mary's University in Los Angeles.

Burke shared that advice to nearly 200 women on Saturday, Feb. 7, at Mount Saint Mary’s University, as part of Ready to Run, a nonpartisan campaign training created to prepare more women to enter public service.

In the most recent midterm elections, Americans voted more than 100 women into the U.S. Congress for the first time in the nation’s history. Still, that total accounts for less than 20 percent of the entire legislative body. And in California, the new state legislature includes the fewest number of women serving since 1998.

“As a women’s university, we are compelled to take action to address inequalities for women,” said Mount Saint Mary’s President Ann McElaney-Johnson. “Research shows that women make government more transparent, inclusive and accessible. Women bring priorities and perspectives that are often absent in public policymaking.”

Ready to Run featured more than 20 speakers and panelists, including: California Assemblymembers Autumn R. Burke and Melissa Melendez; State Sen. Carol Liu; General Manager Jan Perry, of the Los Angeles Economic and Workforce Development Department; Mona Pasquil, Appointments Secretary in the Office of Gov. Jerry Brown; and Loretta Weinberg, Senate Majority Leader in the New Jersey State Senate.

Participants also heard from experts in fundraising, public speaking, campaign operations and political appointments. Speakers repeatedly emphasized core messages: Be yourself. Be prepared. And don’t wait to be asked to run for office.

Autumn Burke said her best advice is to get involved in your community before running for office: “People have to know that you care, and they have to know that you’re real.”

“Don’t apologize for your successes or your ambitions,” Melendez added. “Women apologize too much. Don’t apologize for being a qualified, confident candidate.”

Dr. Jackie Filla, a professor of political science at Mount Saint Mary’s, moderated several of the day’s panels. “It’s important to remember that when women run for office, they tend to win at rates similar to men,” she said. “Research bears that out. The problem is simply that not enough women are running.”

Pasquil noted that the numbers are similar when it comes to political appointments. “We can’t change those numbers unless more women step forward,” she said. “That’s why it’s so important to see examples. Always have a mentor. If you don’t have a mentor, get one. If you’re in a position of power, be a mentor.”

For more info on the Ready to Run program, visit www.cawp.rutgers.edu. Mount Saint Mary’s University is the exclusive Southern California partner of Ready to Run® with the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

About Mount Saint Mary’s University
Mount Saint Mary’s is the only women’s university in Los Angeles. Since 1925, we’ve helped students discover what it takes to be unstoppable. We also offer year-round, flexible, and online programs for undergraduate and graduate students. The Mount experience extends beyond the classroom, empowering students to build leadership skills and develop a passion for service. Each day, our alums are using their knowledge and skills to better themselves, their communities and the world. So can you: www.msmu.edu.