Jeni’s and She Should Run: When Ice Cream and Women’s Leadership Intersect

Artwork by Sydney Crawford

Artwork by Sydney Crawford

By Andy Weir

Nine o’clock on a chilly Saturday morning may not seem like prime time for a scoop of ice cream, but on an early February morning at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in Wicker Park, Chicagoans were lining up for more than just ice cream.

It was Ice Cream for Breakfast Day, a de facto holiday celebrated on the first Saturday of February each year. Though many use the holiday as an excuse to swap out their cereal with a scoop of ice cream for a day, Jeni’s used the holiday to encourage and empower women across the country to run for elected office. The nationwide chain partnered with the nonpartisan, nonprofit She Should Run. From nine o’clock through noon, storefronts donated half of all proceeds to the organization.

She Should Run calls itself an “incubator,” aiming to not only encourage women to run for elected office but also to give them the tools and guidance necessary to run an effective and successful campaign. Since its founding two years ago, She Should Run touts that more than 26,000 women so far have considered running for office as a result of the organization’s efforts. The organization hopes to inspire 250,000 women to run for office by 2030, an ambitious challenge it has dubbed #250KBY2030.

Image Courtesy of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Image Courtesy of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

For Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, the effort isn’t about politics or policy. “We believe the work they do is bigger than politics,” the chain said in a statement. According to She Should Run, more women in office helps to “build a more effective and representative government that can meet the challenges of the 21st century.” Perhaps more importantly, those elected women “become role models to girls and young women; normalize women’s leadership, changing the culture of women in politics; and amplify the need for gender parity in office.”

The partnership between the two organizations came just months after November’s midterm elections, which saw a record-breaking amount of women running for office across the country. Prior to that election, women made up less than a fifth of congress and only a fourth of all state lawmaker positions across the United States. Making up half of the population, women are now stepping up to heal that divide. In 2018, the number of women on the ballot shot up nearly 70 percent. She Should Run alone helped get 130 women on ballots across the country.

Image Courtesy of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Image Courtesy of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

But Ice Cream for Breakfast Day was more than just a fundraiser for She Should Run; both She Should Run and Jeni’s hoped it might serve as a catalyst for more women to seek elected office. Jeni’s itself holds female empowerment close to its routes. Founded by young ice cream enthusiast Jeni Britton Bauer, the chain struggled early on to be taken seriously by potential vendors. Throughout its climb to success, Jeni’s has stood behind its commitment to a number of social responsibility efforts, including empowering young women.

For Jeni’s Chicago locations, that empowerment is particularly important. In fact, all of Jeni’s Chicago locations are headed by women. Some longtime employees of the chain’s Chicago storefronts are known to joke about worrying whenever only men are on duty. The Wicker Park location even saw a line out its door on Ice Cream for Breakfast Day.

“As more women are elected into office they become role models to young girls and women,” the chain added in a statement. “They show what’s doable by example. Meaning the next generation of women can actually envision the possibilities of leadership, not just dream about it. Which is a pretty amazing thing,” they concluded.