A group that encourages women to get involved in the political process is launching a program to recruit women for positions on boards and commissions that are appointed by the governor.
SC Women in Leadership, the nonpartisan group launched earlier this year in an effort to encourage women statewide to seek elected and appointed office at all levels, announced the SC Gubernatorial Appointment Project on Oct. 23.
Women in Leadership founder and president Barbara Rackes, a Columbia businesswoman, notes the governor is tasked with appointing scores of people to boards and commissions across the state, and the advocacy group will endeavor to put forward qualified women for consideration to many of those posts.
“Women make up 51.5 percent of the population but continue to be woefully underrepresented in state government,” Rackes says. “There are currently nearly 1,000 gubernatorially appointed board and commission positions with either expired terms or vacancies. With Gov. [Henry] McMaster’s support, we will recruit hundreds of qualified women to apply for these positions. These are women who will bring a different perspective and a wealth of experience to the table.”
The launch of the Gubernatorial Appointment Project formally came during an Oct. 23 news conference in which the Republican McMaster and Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette announced #ServeSC, a broader initiative in which they'll seek to raise awareness about various public service opportunities in the Palmetto State.
"Our system of government is set up to provide for volunteers, official and unofficial," McMaster said of #ServeSC. "This is a call to action by a variety of people and interests, established and new groups, to encourage the people of South Carolina to, as they say in athletics, get out of the stands and get down onto the field and let's go to work."
As for WIL's Gubernatorial Appointment Project specifically, Rackes said she approached McMaster about the initiative in June, and the governor was encouraged by the idea. That was on display in a July 31 letter from McMaster to Rackes.
"I enthusiastically support and applaud any initiative or entity that aims to promote civic engagement and increase the pool of qualified citizens interested in serving on boards and commissions, particularly those with diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives," McMaster wrote in the letter. "Accordingly, I look forward to following SC WIL's GAP initiative with great interest, and I hope your organization will recommend candidates that its members believe have the necessary qualifications and dedication to serve the people of South Carolina."
While there are no guarantees that women WIL recommends via the new initiative will get appointed to boards or commissions in the state, Rackes said she is hopeful the project will help bring more women to the government process statewide.
"The governor has made it very clear that he's not going to appoint every woman that comes through our project," Rackes said. "I probably wouldn't, either. But, at the same time, there will never be, as long as we are working on this, a reason to say, 'I did not have access to a qualified candidate for one of these boards.'"