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Engage Her was started in September of 2007. Mable Yee spent years as an executive and CEO surrounded by white male decision makers. When she volunteered in non-profits oftentimes decision makers and teams were primarily made up of non-minority females. There was always one question in the back of her mind. Where were the minority women decision makers? She felt there was an important problem, which has always persisted. There continues to be a vacuum of leadership in terms of the numbers of minority women in leadership and decision making roles.

Looking deeper into the problem, she learned that minority women still comprised a small percentage of the executive and board roles in corporations and non-profit organizations. She also discovered an interesting parallel fact: Minority women did not turn out to vote in significant numbers.

In the 2004 elections, over 26 million eligible minority women could have voted, yet 70% of Asian American Pacific Islanders, 69% of Latinas and 40% of African American failed to turn out to vote according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It was a stunning discovery. She decided to investigate the reasons why women don’t vote in large percentages and wondered if there were cultural, economic and social reasons that prevented their participation. She thought it would provide interesting research and a book to detail her findings. Her good friend Joan Blades, cofounder of Moveon.org and Momsrising.org a pioneer in online organizing, suggested that she produce a documentary first to tell these stories. Mable now had a mission, to make a documentary about minority women voters although she had never produced a film.

In November, she invited Maria Victoria Ponce, a Latina filmmaker, to help direct and produce a documentary called, Engage Her: Getting minority women to lead and vote. Mable already had a vision to interview minority women, leaders, immigrants, voters and non-voters and explore the reasons for the low voter turn out. Her goal was to understand reasons why minority women didn’t vote and also what we could do to motivate women to achieve leadership goals. She planned to interview people and organizations that were successful in engaging minority women to vote and lead using innovative technologies and creative marketing outreach. They discovered complex reasons that influenced their voting behavior such as: immigrant women coming from countries where there was no system of democracy, immigration from communist or dictatorial countries where there was no culture of civic engagement and responsibility, mistrust of the government, language barriers, voter intimidation, gender suppression from their husbands and cultural expectations. They wanted to get the film seen by as wide an audience possible to motivate them to vote in the upcoming 2008 elections.

They were told that it would take $200,000 and two years to complete the documentary. They forged ahead and the film will be completed in 8 months and initially was self-funded. Donations are now being raised to complete, market and distribute the film. In the process, an amazing thing happened. As the two women met and engaged with many women of the Latina, African American, Asian American Pacific Islander and other communities, women kept asking if they could join them. Over the months, more women told friends and family members and they wanted to join the “movement”. This message kept getting fed back to Mable and she came to the realization that an on-line organization was necessary to capture and leverage all the excitement, interest and energy that the documentary was generating. The power of Engage Her is in providing an efficient “road map” which allows minority women to stay engaged and motivated after the November 2008 elections. The need to create a platform for our collective voices and to demonstrate our strength in implementing real change in our society in a rapid and efficient manner was evident. She knew what had to be done: start an online organization, attract women who believed in the same objectives and launch it with the documentary to capture the enthusiasm and excitement. Victoria had made it clear that she was only interested in making the documentary and would not participate beyond that venture. So now Mable had to find other interested women who would help promote our film and create this online organization.

She called her friend, Mina Wilson. Mina is an African-American woman, Information Technology professional, educator and daughter of civil rights pioneers. Her father, the late Judge Charles E. Wilson, wrote and helped implement the California Fair Employment Practices Law that became the national model for Affirmative Action. Her mother Lucy Wilson also was engaged in civic affairs and was the founding member of the Black Caucus of California Librarians. Mina was interviewed for the documentary, clearly perceived the power of the Engage Her model and seized the opportunity to become a leader in the organization. Another friend, Susan Rosner, a professional photographer, lecturer, businesswoman and a committed supporter for the documentary agreed to join Mable & Mina to form the new online organization: EngageHer.org

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