Here at GAIN Power, we are always looking to spotlight different political progressives and changemakers. If you or someone you know would like to be nominated, please fill out this form!
We are proud to spotlight Sharon Stout, a fundraiser and event designer, having worked in the political field on local, state, and national races. She is active on many boards within Massachusetts, which includes being co-chair of Emerge Massachusetts.
Could you give a brief background and introduction about yourself?
SS: My name is Sharon Stout and I have been living in Newton, MA for the past 20 years. I have enjoyed spending the last 30 years working in the political world. I get to fundraise and do events for nonprofits and politicians at the local, state levels and even the National level up to the White House.
What does your day-to-day work look like?
SS: My day-to-day is either starting my day at my desk reviewing my to-do list, setting up call time, planning for an event, or cleaning up after the event, or doing the necessary evils of budgets. There are also quite a few boards that I sit on or chair as well, so my evening is either an event or board meetings.
What is specifically unique about your position?
SS: I love the purpose of what I get to do; I love the hopeful and eventual outcome that you see from our work. But also, it’s about helping people. When I started, it was on the local level, helping constituents get what they needed. It’s always about serving and helping the community.
How does your work specifically impact the political climate we live in?
SS: I would say where I feel I have the better impact is with Emerge Massachusetts. Emerge MA has been around for 16 years and I’ve watched it grow and strengthen. When I finally joined the board, I chose to sit in on almost 90% of the interviews. We do have three times as many people for one slot. We strategize who’s the best fit and why, and their commitment to the program ( it’s intense) to attend the classes. While we are blessed to have the most wonderful trainers that are leading the classes, I sit in about 95% of the classes chime in about “Massachusetts” politics. During our past 16 years, we have graduated almost 600 women, and out of the women that chose to run for office, 73% have won and are serving in office. We have women in all levels of offices across the state; it’s amazing to see these women who are “ceiling breakers” being the first women in those offices, specifically for women of color.
What has been the best part or best memory of your career thus far?
SS: I have been honored to have worked and managed quite a few events at the last couple of national conventions, so one of the most touching memories I have is when we nominated President Barack Obama in Denver. I literally felt tears of joy; Standing there reflecting all of the things my family, my parents, my grandparents and especially great-grandparents fought for, especially being from the south, That day and moment in time was the most fulfilling thing that I never thought I would feel or see coming, from my perspective being a Black woman.
Is there anything you think candidates or campaigns should do or should stop? Why?
SS: I always try to promote it in our Emerge classes to learn the office that you’re running for, learn the people that you want to serve, and to understand and know your true “why” you are running. At Emerge, we can’t tell you what office to run for, we only give the tools and then hopefully candidates find their niche. If you’re a policy or an advocacy person for one issue that is our passion, sometimes running for office may not be your best track, but you want to find the space where you can do the most good.
What advice do you have for young professionals, particularly young women of color, looking to get into politics?
SS: First, take Emerge. Second, when you’re running for office, a lot is going to take up your time, so be very careful and diligent on what you want to do, what you want to accomplish, and why you want to do this, the timing of the race, and if it is truly feasible. Then, you take the steps to surround yourself with people who aren’t always going to tell you “yes” all the time. Lastly, be very careful and deliberate of what seat you chose because we, as women but especially Black or any WOC women–we don’t have the pleasure of tapping into our network of people, time, talent, and money running for something multiple times.
Lastly, for fun, if you could do another job for just one day, what would it be?
SS: A few years back, when I thought I was going to retire from all this, I bought a spa and loved it. I love the spa industry because I am still serving people and making people happy. Now I am just focusing on expanding my business and adding the physical equipment rental aspect to my company as a one stop shop. I am lucky enough to love what I do and hope to continue for many years to come.