Hillary Clinton’s historic presidential campaign made many realize the disproportionate representation of men in U.S. politics. The Nation recently reported these depressing statistics:
- The United States ranks ninety-eighth in the world in the number of women serving in their national legislatures. This puts us behind Kenya, Indonesia, and the United Arab Emirates.
- Women make up less than 20% of the U.S. Congress, even though they make up more than 50% of the U.S. population.
- Only five of our fifty governors are women. Almost half of our states have never had a female governor.
- Only 12 of our country’s 100 largest cities have female mayors.
Why don’t women run? Some say it’s because they don’t have enough role models. Some say it’s because we don’t recruit young women to politics the way we should. Others say women lack encouragement once they enter the field. Some studies show that women have a harder time fundraising and gaining support from their political party and their colleagues. Persistent double standards and blatant sexism applied towards women in television news can also dissuade women from running. As former Texas state senator Wendy Davis said, female politicians today are “micro-examined” in a way that male politicians aren’t.
Meanwhile, studies keep telling us that female representation makes countries better. Columbia Business School found that when women are in a charge, countries receive an average of 6.8 percent greater increase in GDP growth. Other studies have found that in the U.S. House of representatives, women sponsored more bills in total than men, and those bills garnered more press attention and survived longer than the bills sponsored by male politicians.
Thankfully, several organizations in the U.S. have already begun to provide support for women considering running for office. The organization Emerge America offers a training program for women seeking higher office. Since 2002, they have already trained almost 2000 Democratic women to run for office. 52% of their alumni eventually ran for office and 70% won. 39% of their alumni are women of color.
Emerge America currently works across the country in 16 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Another organization, She Should Run, organizes the “Ask a Woman to Run” program, which helps connect women with “resources, people and organizations who can help start their path towards public service”. They also organize a “She Should Run Incubator” which provides online resources to guide and support women considering entering an election.
For millennial women in particular, running for office could substantially influence our government. Though the minimum age for entering the House of Representatives is 25 and the minimum age for entering the Senate is 30, Congress has remained mostly dominated by people older than forty: the Washington Post reported that in 2015, only 2% of Congress members were in their 30’s, a percentage that has stayed pretty much consistent since 1987. If millennials began showing up in our political system, the entire system could change.
An article in Bloomberg argued that millennials already “have more power in the electorate than Baby Boomers.” It’s simply up to us whether we use that power or not.
For more information, check out these other organizations helping women become politically engaged: