Can a new program get more women on the ballot in 2012?

(CBS News) Former Republican Congresswoman Connie Morella and Maryland Secretary of Aging Gloria Lawlah are trying to get more women elected into public office by promoting a new program called The 2012 Project.

"The year of the women was 1992 and during that year 24 new women were elected and everybody got very excited," Morella told Hotsheet's Christine Delargy this week. "Countries like Cambodia and Rwanda have like 30 percent women in their legislature. It plateaued for a long time after that and in 2010 we actually lost in terms of the number. We are hoping there will be a difference in 2012."

According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, which is sponsoring The 2012 Project, women represent only 17 percent of members in Congress and 25 percent of state legislators. The U.S. ranks 71st in the world for percentage of women in office. The 2012 Project aims to change that by a public education campaign and also by direct outreach to potential women candidates for both state and federal office.

"Women are more issue driven than the concept that they want the power and the influence, and so they tend to be more independent when they are in office," said Morella.

Morella also referenced Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe, who recently announced her retirement from the Senate, saying she felt she could affect more change outside of the congressional infrastructure.

"[Olympia Snowe] showed that independence, and she found that the environment now in Congress was no fun to be an independent and do what she truly believed in," Morella said.

"We have a lot of women that need to be asked to really run," said Lawlah. "You can be a dentist, doctor, teacher, lawyer - you can still run for office."

Check out the interview in the video above to learn more about The 2012 Project.