Cecile Richards, the former president of Planned Parenthood, spoke on the litany of women’s recent political and social accomplishments in a lecture on Wednesday, April 3.
“Right now, women are on fire in this country,” she said.
Richards held the position of president at Planned Parenthood and Planned Parenthood Action for 12 years. She also served as deputy chief of staff to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Though repeatedly professing that “women are not a monolith,” Richards emphasized the importance of the recent increases in women’s involvement in voting, campaigning, and running for office.
When asked to give advice for female candidates, Richards responded simply: “Run.”
This comment, Richards explained, came from her hope that women would no longer refrain from running for office because of the fear of being insufficiently qualified or unprepared.
In her experience, Richards said, men do not demonstrate the same lack of confidence. Richards believes that women are slowly but surely starting to move past this barrier.
Richards additionally highlighted the importance of women, particularly those of different backgrounds, being involved in government.
“Having women in the mix … it’s just different,” Richards said. “It’s not just women. We need people of color as representatives, because they have different lived experience. We need LGBTQ people for Representative … because that’s what real democracy means.”
Aside from diverse representation, Richards believes inviting men into the movement is important, feeling that “this new generation of fathers in this country” expects their daughters to have every opportunity their sons have.
“Men are doing the work too, but we need to invite them in,” said Richards.
Richards also discussed reproductive justice and cases in which women successfully fought to overturn restrictions on reproductive rights. Richards emphasized her respect for those working for women’s rights and reproductive justice, calling them her “personal heroes.”
Richards was named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in both 2011 and 2012.
The discussion was held at Friend 101 at 4:30 p.m. and was co-sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs and Planned Parenthood of Northern, Central, and Southern N.J. The lecture was followed by a sale and signing of Richards’ New York Times bestselling book “Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead.”