Nobody knows why there aren't more women in elected office in South Carolina, and there's clearly no one-size-fits-all answer.

But a partnership between the Southeastern Institute for Women in Politics and the League of Women Voters is focused on finding a solution instead of dwelling on the problem.

As Yvonne Wenger wrote in Monday's paper, the institute is hosting four day-long training sessions in different areas of the state -- the group says every woman in the state will be within 50 miles of one of the four sessions. "Take Your Seat" comes to the Charleston School of Law this Saturday.

Barbara Zia, president of the state League of Women Voters, said the goal is simply to have more women run for office statewide.

"Organizations like the League of Women Voters provide a leadership ladder for women to make their voices heard," Zia said, "for women to gain leadership roles, to gain self-confidence, and to realize that they can run for office and serve very well."

One step up ...

Nikki Haley obviously has shown that a woman can reach the highest office in the state. After that, it gets a little thin. We have no women in the state Senate, and only 16 of the 124 members of the state's House of Representatives are women.

On the local level, Charleston currently has one woman out of 12 City Council members, or 8 percent; Mount Pleasant has a 25 percent showing of women, or two of eight council members; and in North Charleston, three of 10 council members are women, but that includes a retiring member, so it's really more like 20 percent.

In a state with 51.3 percent female population, there's more than a little room for improvement. "The real problem is that you have to have an appreciation for diversity and democracy, and value that. We've been so polarized in our viewpoints, nationally," said Joan Dehn, co-chair for voters service with the League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area. "I'm not certain we currently truly value diversity."

That means valuing diverse viewpoints from women candidates too.

"It doesn't mean you have to agree with the women that are there, (but) once you have more women there, when you're listening to someone who's your same sex, you hear it differently," said Julie Hussey, president of the League of Women Voters of the Charleston Area.

Get involved

So, interested women should enroll in Saturday's training session.

Or, if running for office isn't in the cards, maybe helping somebody else run is. Getting that campaign experience is important, said Hussey, because it pushes women over that threshold of getting involved.

Usually someone has to get mad enough or frustrated enough to run for office, Hussey said. In that respect, running for office is not unlike writing a letter to the editor, or a metro column, for that matter.

"I think that the biggest thing is that men or women, the more people get involved in democracy ... the more we do that, the better the democracy is," Hussey said.

Reach Digital Editor Melanie Balog at or 937-5565.