Jasmine Sessoms: Changing the game by helping women win

Cherri Gregg
February 17, 2020 - 4:30 am
Jasmine Sessoms, founder of She Can Win

Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

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Jasmine Sessoms has a talent for placing crowns.

"I am a queen maker. That is literally my term," she said, with a smile.

The Philadelphia native is founder of She Can Win, a non-partisan nonprofit organization that trains women to run for office and work on political campaigns.

"We will train you if you are Republican, Independent, Green Party, Tea Party, Democrat," said Sessoms. "We've trained women from every single party for the last four years. That is our mission."

She Can Win also has a political action committee, which endorses and provides resources to help women of color get elected. The money allows women to build a campaign, hire staff and better compete in an election. But Sessoms didn't start in politics. Her career began in philanthropy. When she decided to help a friend get elected, she got bitten by the bug. After that, she got on a roll and helped six people run for office.  They were all men. But when a qualified Black woman asked her for help, she hit a brick wall.

"I could not raise money for her, and I was like, 'What is going on?'" she said.

The woman was not surprised, but it blew Sessoms' mind.

Training session for She Can Win women
Courtesy She Can Win

"So I did some research," she said.

While getting her master's degree, she learned that women are less likely to run for office. Studies show women have to be asked nine times before they'll step forward to run. In addition, fewer women had campaign experience and/or training and support to run for office. The result: few women in office.

"There was no one that looked like me, and I thought this was a problem," says Sessoms, "so I started a training session in my basement."

That first session had 12 women. Four of them ran for office. One woman was elected. Fast forward and She Can Win has held boot camps, workshops and training sessions. And over the past several years, Sessoms said they have trained 603 women, 47 have run for office and 28 have won. The 60% success rate does not surprise her.

"It makes me really happy," she said. "Statistically, when women run, they do win. I think it is providing a lane and a safe environment for the women and giving them a resource that they can go back on and say, 'I'm stuck on this.'"

She Can Win
Courtesy She Can Win

Sessoms and her team wrap the women candidates in support. They bring in experienced campaign operatives to train both the candidates and their staff. She believes it makes a big difference.

"We are here from the beginning of the campaign to the very end," said Sessoms.

The organization helps with fundraisers and other activities. Plus, the PAC provides support.

"We most certainly write checks," she said.

Sessoms noted that the nonprofit side of She Can Win has raised a million dollars for training, and the PAC raised $55,000. The roster of women winners is quite impressive and includes Pennsylvania Rep. Morgan Cephas and Philadelphia City Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson.

"When she won, I could barely speak," Sessoms said of Richardson. "She is the embodiment of She Can Win."

Sessoms said she cries every time a She Can Win woman wins.

"It gets me right in my heart." 

Jasmine Sessoms and family
Courtesy She Can Win

Sessoms says raising her two daughters drives her.

"At 3 and 5, they kind of get that Mom and Mom's board members are changing Philadelphia," she said.

She Can Win is Sessoms' passion. By day, she oversees government relations for Community College of Philadelphia. Sessoms said her parents, who were educators, raised her to work hard, be kind and to unapologetically be her Black self. The lessons have helped her excel and do the things she believes matters, like getting the right people elected.

"You have to be okay doing things whether people notice you or not," she said. "It's a big responsibility. These people are making laws."

A self-proclaimed student of politics, who is constantly learning and growing, Sessoms' work behind the scenes is being seen and felt across the region. She is changing the game by getting women elected.

"I like to help those who feel this is their calling," she says, "and I like to help them realize their calling."

To support She Can Win, check out their swag at their online store.

Gamechangers is led by KYW Newsradio's community affairs reporter Cherri Gregg. It recognizes 10 individuals or organizations that are making a positive impact on communities of color. 

For a full list of 2020’s Gamechangers, check back here. One honoree will be announced each weekday between Feb. 10 and 21. The awards ceremony takes place on Feb. 27 at The Met Philadelphia.