The new online hub allows users to enter questions about the nuts and bolts of entering politics, such as queries about ethics requirements, and receive an answer within 48 hours. If the exchange has broader relevance, it will be posted on the institute’s frequently-asked-questions page.
“This is a way for them to get online in the comfort of their own homes, and they don’t have to worry about how they look or where the kids are. The kids are fine. They’re at home with them,” said Christy Cox, a board member for the bi-partisan institute.
“We just know through our training that there are whole lot of women out there, and they just don’t know how to make it fit. They don’t know who to ask, ‘How do I get involved?’ Hopefully this opens the door for them.”
The new training tool is being offered in conjunction with IT-oLogy, a self-described non-profit collaboration of business and academic organizations that fosters IT talent and advances the field.
While the technology is new, the situation it aims to address is stubborn and long-standing.
Despite some high-profile leadership slots filled by women -- the state’s governor is Nikki Haley and the chief justice of the S.C. Supreme Court is Jean Toal -- South Carolina ranks last in the number of women holding elected office.
There are 16 women in the 124-member S.C. House and no female state senators among the 46-member body. That equates to women holding only 9.4 percent of the state legislature and occupying last place in female representation. The Palmetto State has been dead-last since 2003, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
Georgia does better, ranking 26th, with nearly 24 percent of legislature made up of women,according to the center.
Barbara Rackes, who serves on the institute board, said recruiting women candidates for public office is only part of the mission.
“We need more women who are in consulting roles, not just in the role of candidate, but also training other people to run, because women take a different approach to the election strategy,” she said.
The institute’s initiative received funding and IT capability from BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, Palmetto Computer Labs and Period-Three.
“This is high-tech targeting directed right at the women of South Carolina,” Mary Anne Jacobs, president of the institute, said in a statement. “What we are about is providing easy, accessible, tangible support and education to as many women as we can.”