If you have ever wondered why there aren't more women wielding political power, the documentary Raising Ms. President is the film for you.
Following the 2008 and 2010 election cycles, Lexington filmmaker Kiley Lane Parker wondered why, too.
"There were a record number of Republican women running for office in 2010 but ultimately women lost seats overall," she said. "I started to ask why."
And she was confronted with an uncomfortable self-awareness: Although she is deeply interested in politics and policy, she said, "I looked at myself and said I'd never run for office."
According to Rutgers University's Center for American Women and Politics, women hold only 18.5 percent of the seats in Congress, only 72 statewide executive positions nationally, only 24.2 percent of state legislative seats, and 18.4 percent of mayoral posts in cities of over 30,000.
To delve into why there aren't more female officeholders, she interviewed Richard Fox, co-author of two ground-breaking books on the topic, It Takes a Candidate: Why Women Don't Run for Office and It Still Takes a Candidate.
In a nutshell, there aren't many women in public office because relatively few run in the first place. Fox discovered that even very accomplished women are less likely than their male peers to stand for election.
"I asked him, 'Where does political ambition start?' Parker said. Fox said the desire starts early — and in girls often is extinguished early, too.
"So we don't have enough women in the pipeline to get more women to run and ultimately win office," Parker said.
To highlight this for her film, she interviewed girls in an Oakland, Calif., program called Ignite that trains young women about civic leadership. The young women were selected for the program because they were high achievers — class presidents, school leaders and the like.
Even these young women were reticent, she said.
"They felt they didn't have qualifications to lead, felt it would be difficult on family life," she said.
Men, on the other hand, don't seem to have the same perception, she said. Even if they don't have the qualifications, men say they could consider running, she said.
"Women constantly question their ability," she said. By the time women leave college, the gap is significant between men and women, Lane said.
And eventually that factors into public policies.
"Political gender parity is important. Fifty percent of our population's ideas and experiences aren't being tapped," she said. "Our governments will be better places because we have more women at the decision-making table. ... We do have different experiences as people, as females and as males."
She hopes the film, which is being shown around the country, will encourage younger women to stand up and lead, even as early as middle school, high school and college.
"I've seen this film hundreds of times. And each time I see it, I become inspired," said Parker, who has made several films for KET. "Four years ago, I said I'd never run for office. But now my new motto is never say never."
She has heard from women, young and old, who also were inspired. And from mothers and fathers who took their daughters to see it.
To encourage women to get involved in the political process, the one-hour film, which will be shown at the Kentucky Theatre on Sept. 25, will be accompanied by a panel discussion with Kentucky's female political movers and shakers including former Lexington Mayor Pam Miller; former Kentucky Republican Party chair Ellen Williams; Holly VonLuehrte, senior strategist for gubernatorial candidate James Comer; and Jennifer Coffman, retired U.S. District Judge.
Women often overlook both their political power and their prospects, Parker said.
"If women did mobilize as a voting mass, they could decide every election," she said. "And when women run for office, they typically do pretty well.
"It's getting them to run in the first place."