Footnotes

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What role will women play in the legislative debate over gun control?

Earlier this week, a colleague was speaking to a community group about women in the 2012 elections and CAWP’s work to increase women’s political representation. The first question she was asked, in light of the tragedy that struck Newtown, Connecticut just days earlier, was what role women in office would play in the ensuing legislative debate over gun control. Where do the current female members of Congress stand on gun issues? And does the increased number of women in office make it more (or less) likely that anti-gun measures will pass? There are no concrete answers to these questions, as “gun control” encompasses myriad types of reforms and the women in congress do not represent a unified bloc on this or any issue.  But looking to history might be helpful to formulating hypotheses about what role women might play if gun control is, in fact, put on the legislative agenda. In 1994, Congress passed a ten-year assault weapons ban (AWB) under a title of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (HR 3355) by a vote of 235 to 195. At the time, there were 54 women in Congress – just 10% representation. Despite these numbers, women played a prominent role in the 1994 ban. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was the architect and chief sponsor of the AWB and worked tirelessly to get enough votes to attach it to the Senate version of the crime bill. In the House, women were disproportionately represented among the members whipping the vote to be sure that the bill included the ban. House Vote HR 3355

When it came to a vote, 83% of the women in the House, and all but one woman in the Senate, voted in favor of the assault weapons ban; men were more evenly split, with 50% of men in the House and 59% of men in the Senate voting for the ban. Partisanship plays an important role in votes on this issue, but women in both parties were more likely to vote for the ban than were their maleSenate Vote HR3355 counterparts (see charts). Much has changed since 1994. Women have nearly doubled their representation in Congress – when the 113th Congress begins on January 3rd, women will take 18% (or 98) of the House and Senate seats. With that increase comes greater regional, racial, and ideological diversity among the women who serve. Probably most different is the increased conservatism among the Republican women who now serve, which may make it harder than it was 18 years ago to find bipartisan support for new restrictions on gun ownership. Because there have been so few gun control votes in recent years, one of the only indicators we have of potential support for such legislation is  National Rifle Association (NRA) ratings. Based on grades given to members of the 113th Congress, women represent a disproportionate percentage of the House (34%) and Senate (37%) members labeled as anti-gun by the NRA. However, the NRA grades all 20 Republican women in the House and 3 of 4 female Republican senators as strongly pro-gun; one female House Democrat and one Democratic woman in the Senate are also given “A” grades by the gun lobby. The context (post-Newtown) and content (e.g. only targeting assault weapons) of any pending legislative debate matters and may yield votes that do not mirror these particular ratings, but only time will tell. What we do know for now is that Senator Feinstein has vowed to re-introduce an updated assault weapons ban when the congressional session opens in January and, if history is any guide, will fight furiously to garner support in both chambers. Some pro-gun members have already said they would be open to restrictions on military-grade weapons, and House Democrat Carolyn McCarthy (NY), a long-time anti-gun advocate, has vowed she will give “full force” to reform efforts and will “embarrass” President Obama if he does not stay true to his promise of policy change. It’s no surprise that these two women will be leading the charge to respond to recent gun tragedies. Both women know intimately the horrors of gun violence and have used personal tragedies to fuel policy priorities. Moreover, they represent constituencies beyond their geographic borders, speaking on behalf of women in the electorate who – based on yesterday’s Pew Poll - are significantly more likely than men to prioritize gun control over gun rights. It will take both men and women at all levels to change our nation’s policies around guns, and having more women in Congress does not guarantee movement in either direction – holding firm on rights or putting more restrictions in place. But, women – as politicians, advocates, and citizens - will be essential players in this national debate.

What’s the hold-up? Women’s Delayed Entry into Political Office

Just one week after 19 new women were elected to the United States House of Representatives, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held a press conference with the current caucus of Democratic women members to announce that she would once again put her name forward for the Democrat’s top spot in the House. Raising some eyebrows and eliciting heckles from the cadre of women on the stage, journalist Luke Russert suggested that her decision to stay on posed obstacles to leadership for younger members. After noting that the same question is never asked of men in leadership, the 72 year-old mother of five and grandmother of eight pointed to the gendered dimension of members’ ages:

"I knew that my male colleagues...had a jump on me because they didn't have children to stay home [with]. …You got to take off about 14 years from me because I was home raising a family."

Pelosi’s comments raise important questions to consider for today’s class of women officeholders. As has been historically true, do women enter office at later ages than their male counterparts? Are they more likely to wait until their children are older to run and serve? And, finally, what does this mean for increasing women’s representation? Let’s take a look at the newly sworn-in 113th House of Representatives. The average age of all members is about 56 years old, but the key statistic of interest for these questions is the average age at which members took office. In the 113th, the average age of taking office is just over 47 years old, but there is a significant difference between male and female members: women’s average age of entering the House is 50.2 years old and men average 46.7 years old upon taking their congressional oath of office. While not the 14-year expanse cited by Pelosi, this data demonstrates that women continue to enter office – in this case, congressional office – later than their male colleagues, which has implications for institutional seniority and leadership posts. When we include all members into these calculations, some of the most gender-significant age divides – those tied to childbearing and childrearing – may be disguised. Another cut at the congressional membership shows that about 19% of female members in the 113th took office at age 40 or under, compared to 25% of male members. Of the 83 freshman members (64 male, 19 female), 32 men and only 1 woman currently have children under age 18. Put more clearly, half of the new male members come to Washington, DC while their children are still at home and all but one of the new female members either have no children or have adult children. In survey responses, female state legislators are significantly more likely than their male colleagues to say that their decision to run for office was influenced by their children being “old enough.” Not only does this finding have implications for women who start their political career in the state legislatures before heading to Congress, but it also echoes Leader Pelosi’s sentiment regarding the unique responsibilities and considerations that women confront in making the decision to enter public office. Children and families are not the sole source of delay for women. Women’s motivations for office are more likely to emerge from issue involvement over time rather than a long-time desire to hold office, which is more common among men. Moreover, women continue to need greater encouragement to run for office, and often feel the need to gather greater experience and/or training than their male peers. Regardless of the cause for delay, women’s later entry into office at both the state legislative and congressional levels can have real implications for women’s institutional power, political advancement, and ambition and/or ability to seek higher office. At her November press conference, Leader Pelosi expressed hope for the next generation of women leaders, saying, “I want women to be here in greater numbers at an earlier age so that their seniority would start to count much sooner.” To meet that desire, more will need to be done to both encourage and enable young women to run for office. A nudge from the first female Speaker of the House is probably not a bad place to start.

The Life of the Party? Women’s Representation in Congressional Party Caucuses

Earlier this week, I spoke to a group of 150 Republican women participating in the annual meeting of the National Coalition of Richard G. Lugar Excellence in Public Service Series (EIPSS). The EIPSS is one of the few national programs aimed at encouraging and preparing Republican women to run for office in multiple states. In preparation for my talk, I worked with CAWP data to examine gender differences in representation within both the Republican and Democratic parties. One of the most striking visuals that emerged was the chart below, showing women’s representation within their parties’ congressional caucuses since 1917. Women as Percentage of Party Caucuses 1917 to 2013As this line graph shows, Democratic women have seen a steady increase as a proportion of all Democratic members of the House and the Senate over time, with the steepest increases coming in the past two decades. This trend does not hold for Republican women, who have seen relative stagnation in their proportional representation to Republican men in the last ten years, and who hold fewer than 10% of Republican seats in the House or the Senate today. Democratic women, however, broke the 30% mark in both the House and Senate this year. While not reported here, this partisan difference is also evident at the state legislative level, where Democratic women hold 33% of all Democratically-held state legislative seats nationwide, while Republican women hold just 17% of all Republican seats. These statistics – and this visual – raise a number of questions: What’s holding women back within the Republican Party? What explains the relatively steep rise in women’s representation within the Democratic Party, at least at the federal level, since 1992? And, finally, how does this translate – if at all –  into legislative priorities, processes, and party relations? At CAWP, our research on women’s routes to office provides some insights into the different realities faced by Democratic and Republican women candidates. We find, for example, that Democratic women are more likely than Republican women to cite the support of women’s organizations as helpful to their electoral bids; with fewer such organizations to assist them, Republican women must rely on party support. And, with a Republican electorate that is majority male, perhaps the Republican Party leadership feels less pressure to recruit women candidates. Still, we know that reaching political parity between men and women won’t happen without women running and winning in both parties. If we want to reach 50%, we’re going to have to do better than holding 10% - or even 30% - of seats within the country’s major political parties.

Chronicles of a Leader: Student shares insights from NEW Leadership MS 2013

DSC_0566 2Rachael Luckett (University of Southern Mississippi) was a participant in this year’s inaugural NEW Leadership Mississippi program, held from May 20-25 at the Mississippi University for Women. Rachael chronicled her experiences, reactions, and memories from the program on her blog, luckettmenow.wordpress.com. Highlights from her blog entries are posted here, but please take a few minutes to check out all of her posts (and wisdom!). Be prepared to be impressed and inspired by our partner program and our new alumna! ****************************************************************************************************************** Day 1 and 2 of “NEW” Thirty-three women who attend college in MS assembled for our first introduction, and starting at that first hour I have been very excited and honored to be a part of the inaugural class of the NEW Leadership Program Mississippi. …. Just to sum it up: It’s not easy, breezy, or beautiful; girls need to break the barriers that we think exist and cover the country with our ideas, perspectives, and dedication. …. We have had several speakers over the past few days and these are merely a few things I’ve taken away from them:
  •  “Challenge yourselves.” - Kate Brown, Director of Center for Creative Learning at the Mississippi University for Women
  •  “You are the next generation of leaders.” – Heather McTeer Toney, former Mayor of Greenville, MS and Executive Director of the Women’s Institute for Excellence at Mississippi Valley State University
  •  “Self-awareness is always included in the definition of leadership.” – Carole Leland, International Leadership Consultant
  •  “Don’t let yourself think you can’t do something; let your heart tell you what you can do.” – Heather McTeer Toney, former Mayor of Greenville, MS and Executive Director of the Women’s Institute for Excellence at Mississippi Valley State University
  • “Remember three words: be, know, and do. Be who you are. Know who you are and what you stand for. Take action.” - Amy Tuck, former Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi
  • “Respect does not come with the job title; you have to earn it.” - Amy Tuck, former Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi
  • “People don’t care how much you know until they know you care” - John Maxwell
  • “Be willing to extend a helping hand even if they will advance beyond you.” – Amy Tuck, former Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi
  • “You can’t get to second base if you have a foot still on first.” – Amy Tuck, former Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi
  • Don’t be afraid to say “I was wrong.”
  • If someone tells you “Good Job”, make them tell you why so you will know what to continue or repeat.
  • You may need others’ help to achieve your goals, but don’t forget that others may need your help to succeed too.
  • The road to success is always under construction.
  • Team sports participation is important because it teaches you that you’ll lose sometimes, but you have to move on and try again.
  • God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen twice as much as you speak.
Day 3 of “NEW” My goals of this program are really to bring my leadership skills back and plug them into the leadership positions that I will be holding next semester, which includes my second semester as Director of Social Awareness in Delta Gamma as well as my new position as Vice President of the Southern Miss Activities Council (SMAC). I’m pumped to share all these leadership skills with my respective organizations and see how much we can grow this year! …. Slide1We crammed into a classroom to watch the documentary “Miss Representation” (2011) which focused on the portrayal of women by mainstream media. The focus on women was not on their causes, their intellect, or their successes; it was on their appearance. Many examples were used to show how, no matter when a woman in public service was mentioned, the focus always shifted to their beauty and sexual portrayal. I was shocked quite a few times throughout the film, and honestly… it made me want to be a feminist! Our priority should be to empower women and girls and not send mixed feelings about women portraying non-traditional roles. If you have not seen the film, I highly suggest that you see it. It brings to light so many issues that we see as common day activity, but truthfully no woman in any position should have to tolerate it. …. More advice or quotes of the day:
  • “If someone ever tells you something can’t be done, what they’re really telling you is ‘I don’t know how to do it’.” – Neely Carlton, former Mississippi state senator
  • “Never ever ever burn a bridge.” - Sherry Vance, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens, and Cannada, PLLC
  • “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” – Alice Walker
  • Challenge people if they say derogatory things about women.
  • More people should challenge the world and our traditions.
  • Your goal should be to be so good at what you do that others can’t ignore you.
Day 4 of “NEW” When we arrived in downtown Jackson, it was just the same as I remembered it. Busy streets. Beautiful architecture. Church bells ringing. And thank goodness for the clear blue skies. … DSC_0507 2We met Governor Phil Bryant and took a quick photo with him. We also met Cindy Hyde Smith, the Commissioner of Agriculture, who gave us great insight into her position when she addressed us later. … Well after three hours of driving away from the sunset, we made it back to the W safe and sound (no need to worry, mother). We ate greasy pizza for once this week inside the adorable Puckett House, and I must say… it has been such a phenomenal week. I know we still have half of a day left tomorrow, but when we were eating I couldn’t help but notice how sociable everyone was. From the loud or funny or deep conversations that were taking place, we all seemed like we had known each other much longer than just four days. Before I get sentimental too soon, I want to give you my daily advice/quotes:
  • “Women can do what they want; they are made of an indescribable fiber.” – MS Commissioner of Agriculture Cindy Hyde Smith
  •  “If you want a job talked about, get a man. If you want a job done, get a woman.” – Liz Welch, Secretary of the Mississippi State Senate
  • “Don’t tell someone no. Just accept the opportunity and become an expert in it.” – Ashley Buckman, Jones/Walker
  • Capitalize on the opportunities you are given. They may look small in front of you, but they are huge behind you.
  • You can’t put a dollar amount on experience.
  • Develop relationships with the people you work with and also those involved with the position you want.
  • You can’t be all things to all people. (Amen.)
  • Be flexible. Nothing is going to go as planned. Don’t over plan your life. Let life come to you.
  • Remember that a small change you make will make a large difference down the line. (Hello, butterfly effect.)
  • Never compromise your integrity.
  • Keep people’s confidences.
  • Always give back. (Hmmm this sounds familiar… http://luckettmenow.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/always-come-back/)
  • Always take chances to expand your knowledge.
Final Day of “NEW” All week our group has worked diligently to prepare ourselves to present in front of our “legislative panel”. When each group presented, I could tell how hard everyone had worked to make this day the best that we could. The legislative panel asked Senator Dotya few tough questions, but no one ever froze or became nervous. We worked on our toes and gave our best answers according to what we had learned, and at the end of the day that’s enough for me. There are a lot of times in your life when you should take the time to debrief. So that’s what we did. Some key points were:
  • Keep your main themes to remind the people why you are there.
  • Show your passion.
  • If you say you don’t like/agree with something, make sure to offer a solution or alternative.
  • Work together.
  • Do your homework.
  • Be focused and less vague when speaking on a point.
  • Uplift and support your colleagues during the presentation and behind the scenes.
  • Be aware of who you are around. Be formal especially when addressing those who have worked hard for the title they hold.
… Before the program began I stuck to my belief that I would never run for any government office. I want to thank Carole because she was determined that I would Slide2change my initial thoughts about running for office by the end of the program. I’m not saying that I’m running for President (ever), but I’m definitely not as closed off to the idea of working with government officials in the future. Thanks for not giving up on my stubborn self. In her closing remarks, she also reminded us that we matter to her, and she knows how much we are going to matter to many others in the near future. …. I have been given an incredible amount of advice about leadership this week, which I plan on transferring to my positions that I hold at school. It has also given me even more reassurance as I take my job as a leadership facilitator at the Mississippi Governor's School next month. This experience was priceless, and I feel like my recent posts tell it all. Even though today was the final day of Mississippi’s first NEW Leadership program, it will not be the last for many people. I know we will keep connected with the new relationships we have made this week and will find ways to continue to learn from each other. I also have so much hope in the future of this program at MUW. This program has proven to be an amazing and beneficial opportunity for college women across the state, and I know it will become even more successful year after year. This is not the end. It is a new beginning. ***************************************************************************************************************** For more photos and updates from this year's NEW Leadership MS program, visit the program's Facebook page, and for more information about all of CAWP's NEW Leadership programs, visit www.cawp.rutgers.edu/education_training/NEWLeadership/.  

Numbers Matter: Black Women in American Politics

This week, the Center for American Women and Politics and Higher Heights released The Status of Black Women in American Politics, a report that takes a snapshot of Black women’s current political representation and participation and reflects back on the historical advancement of Black women as voters, candidates, and elected and appointed officials. This report identifies and outlines the problem of Black women’s underrepresentation and serves as a call to action for citizens, advocates, potential candidates, and those in political power. I wrote this report over multiple HHAReportCover(1)months, poring through CAWP’s databases of women candidates and elected officials and gathering new data on Black women and men in politics to provide the most comprehensive possible analysis. . Throughout these months, I – a scholar of women and politics accustomed to the significant gender disparities in political power – was continually surprised by the dearth of Black women in elected office at all levels and throughout our states and cities. I was shocked when I realized that Black women have represented fewer than 30 different congressional districts in only 13 states in all of U.S. history and disturbed that I could count the number of Black women who have ever served in statewide elected executive offices on two hands. I was even more taken aback upon noting that 77% of the Black women who have served in Congress and 9 of the 10 Black women who have been elected to statewide executive offices have entered office since 1993. While these data make evident the delay in Black women’s political advancement, this recent history of representational growth demonstrates enormous opportunities for continued progress and power. To ensure that progress, organizations like Higher Heights are working to build a stronger infrastructure of support for Black women candidates and urging Black women to harness their power at the ballot box --  not only to amplify their own political voices, but also to support (and become) the much-needed Black women officeholders. The research proves that advancing Black women’s representation is not only a matter of democratic fairness, but influences policy agendas and debates, as well as the political engagement of underrepresented constituencies. There is much more work to do to in harnessing Black women’s political power, but this report provides an important foundation upon which to foster dialogue and identify opportunities for growth. Why? Because numbers matter. Numbers validate perceptions of inequality. Numbers illuminate the sites for and extent of those disparities. Numbers demonstrate how much work we have left to do. Finally, numbers are power in making the case for change. Take a few minutes to arm yourself with the numbers that resonate most for you from our report. Then please share them with your networks to help us continue the conversation that we began Thursday on harnessing the political power of Black women. On social media, use the hashtag #BlackWomenLead.  

A Women’s Political Committee Celebrates 25 Years

The following is a guest blog is the final post in a series of three pieces written by Susan Rose. Susan Rose served for eight years on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and is the former executive director of the Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women. She is a member of the board of trustees of Antioch University Santa Barbara. In the following piece, Susan highlights the important work done by the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee as it celebrates its 25th anniversary. This piece spotlights the type of work that is integral to advancing women's political power and influence, the focus of part 1 and part 2 of this series. By Susan Rose The years 2012 and 2013 were times for celebrations and political victories for the feminist movement. Ms magazine celebrated its 40th year of publication and  Jan. 22, 2013 was the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that established the fundamental right to abortion. On the central coast of California, the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee (SBWPC) celebrated its 25th anniversary and years of political victories. This PAC began in the late 1980’s, when a small group of women in Santa Barbara met for several months to discuss the lack of women in public office.  Over time, the group expanded and included a list of who’s who among female activists in the community.  (In full disclosure, the author was also a founding mother.) SBWPC asked the question, "can women have a significant impact at the local level?" Reflecting on 25 years of political activities, the answer was an unqualified yes.  Using an activist model, these feminists created a pipeline to elective office and demonstrated that change can occur on the local level. The SBWPC was born in January of 1988 with a  reception that brought out 250 women and men.  Betty Friedan was the keynote speaker. They quickly built a membership base that today includes both women and men.The time was right to organize! From the beginning, the SBWPC defined itself as a feminist organization.  Its mission states: “The Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee is dedicated to furthering gender equality and other feminist values through political and social action, and educational activities.  As a political action committee, we endorse the candidacies of women and men who actively support our goals and promote a feminist agenda.” During these last 25 years, the SBWPC has pursued the goal of gender equality and social change by electing women to public office. In 1988, the SBWPC endorsed the candidacies of  Dianne Owens and Gloria Ochoa, the first women to serve on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.  The smell of victory was sweet and led to more women entering the political realm to run for office. Since SBWPC’s founding, women have comprised as much as 80% of the County Board of Supervisors, served as mayors and District Attorney, and held seats in both houses of the state legislature. They also hold many positions on school boards and local commissions.  Not to mention, since 1999 Santa Barbara County has been represented by a woman in Congress. During its 25 years, the SBWPC has endorsed and contributed financial support to 95 candidates.  A total of fifty-six of those were women (59%).  Only four of the women lost. All candidates supported the feminist agenda. The SBWPC’s success is best demonstrated by its impact on public policy. Legislation and programs introduced by women elected to office in Santa Barbara has covered a broad range of issues including breast cancer, children, domestic violence, education, the environment, healthcare, housing, homelessness, human services, living wage, rape kits and reproductive rights. In its early days, the SBWPC board of directors created a set of tools that enabled them to elect feminist women to office.  These tools included: position papers, recruitment strategies, campaign skills workshops, candidate assessment teams, endorsements, state and federal PAC money, and media support. The position papers formed the basis for the organization’s feminist agenda and the criteria by which candidates received endorsements.  The  issues covered in the papers range from childcare to the ERA to immigration and reproductive rights.These tools are still in place today and guide the board in their process of endorsing candidates. Many of the first candidates to be endorsed by the PAC were founding board members, creating an early pipeline to elected office. In the current political climate, there is not only unfinished business for the feminist agenda but an imperative need to secure the gains that have been made.  To do that, more women must run for national office starting with local and statewide candidacies. Today, the SBWPC has a standing pipeline committee that focuses on recruiting women for future elections.  This committee is key to the continuing success of the organization.  Due to term limits in many local and state offices, more women need to be ready to run when vacancies occur.  As part of their function, this committee actively reaches out to prospective candidates. While other feminist organizations have declined or disbanded, the SBWPC has been able to sustain itself over 25 years because of a diverse board of women and a membership committed to addressing issues that are current and compelling. With the help of the 24 women on the board of directors, the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee has created a culture where women in public office are the norm not the exception. These women have achieved political and electoral success by grass roots organizing, marching, mentoring, advocating and campaigning both through community activism and social media.  They are dedicated and committed to making a difference in the lives of women. The organizational model developed by the SBWPC has been tried and tested locally over the years and can be replicated in other communities. “All politics are local” said former speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O’Neill.  He was right.

Preparing Women to Run and Win Elected Office

The following is a guest blog re-posted from Women's eNews as the second in a series of three pieces written by Susan Rose. Susan Rose served for eight years on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and is the former executive director of the Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women. She is a member of the board of trustees of Antioch University Santa Barbara. In the following piece, Susan discusses  efforts to encourage and support women's candidacies nationwide. The first piece in the series chronicled the difference women have made in California. The final piece, which will be posted next week, will highlight the role that women's PACs can play in these efforts. By Susan Rose On the sidelines of all the primary campaigns going on right now we also have a less-visible but important nationwide effort focused on gender equality in political office. It is aimed at women who have not considered running for political office as well as those who have been thinking about it and need encouragement to declare. Recruitment is the key to achieving this goal. "If women run, women win," says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Emerge America is the fastest-growing national political organization recruiting women to run for office. Founded in 2005, it is currently working in 14 states to recruit and train Democratic women to run for office. (Emerge California was founded earlier in 2002.) Each December, Emerge begins an intensive seven-month, 70-hour training model that to date has trained 1,275 women. Since 2002, 47 percent of its graduates have run for office or been appointed to a board or commission. This year, it has 179 women running for office. Six are running for Congress in the states of California, Kentucky, Maine, Nevada and Wisconsin. Emerge success stories include Oregon's Val Hoyle, who won a seat in the state legislature in 2009 and is now the Oregon house majority leader, and Wisconsin's JoCasta Zamarripa, who became the first Latina elected to the Wisconsin legislature in 2010 and is now the Democratic caucus vice-chair. In 2014 women have continued to lose ground in elected office across the country, finds a data analysis by the Center for American Women and Politics. The number of women running has decreased and too few are waiting in the pipeline to run when openings occur. In their 2005 book "It Takes a Candidate," Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox explain why women don't run for office as frequently as men. Their research shows that:
  • Women put families and careers first, entering politics would be a "third job;"
  • Women believe they are not qualified;
  • Women are not recruited to be candidates by their political parties.
Lawless and Fox argue that the gender gap in political ambition is derived from "traditional gender socialization." The proliferation and evolution of women's political organizations have the potential to turn this around.

New and Old Groups

Traditional women's groups have stepped up their game and new ones are appearing on the political horizon. These organizations have created a national political infrastructure to recruit, support and train women to run for office. The American Association of University Women, founded in 1881, has a program Elect Her that trains college women to run for student government on campuses with the goal of developing a future interest in political office. This academic year 50 campuses will host Elect Her trainings. The National Organization for Women, founded in 1966, established a political action committee in 1977 to endorse feminist candidates in federal elections. With hundreds of state and local chapters throughout the United States, NOW's PAC currently supports feminist candidates at all political levels. The NOW Foundation, a nonprofit arm of the national organization, has a voter mobilization effort to "raise awareness of the importance of women's participation in the political process." The Center for American Women and Politics, founded in 1971 and the preeminent academic institution conducting research on issues affecting women running for and holding office, has a variety of booster initiatives. New Leadership, a six-day summer program, "educates college women about the political process and teaches them to become effective leaders." Ready to Run is a nonpartisan program that encourages women to run for office, apply for appointments and work on campaigns. Currently, Ready to Run has programs in 14 states. It has been particularly successful in training and electing women of color. As of 2012, the state legislature of New Jersey has 15 women of color, five of whom participated in the Ready to Run training.

Oldest Bipartisan Organization

The National Women's Political Caucus, founded in 1971, is the oldest bipartisan national organization dedicated to increasing women's involvement in political and public life. They recruit and train pro-choice candidates for all levels of government. This includes endorsements, financing and training. The Women's Campaign Fund, founded in 1974, is bipartisan and dedicated to increasing women in public office who support reproductive rights. Through their PAC and She Should Run programs, the fund provides early financial support to endorsed candidates from school boards to Congress and conducts research to help women gain office. Through its Game Changers program it is announcing new batches of candidates for this year on a rolling basis, with six new names released earlier this week. Emily's List (Early Money is Like Yeast) supports pro-choice Democratic female congressional candidates with early funding and training. Since its founding in 1985, the group has raised over $385 million. In the 2011-2012 election cycle, its donors contributed an historic $52 million for candidates. Emily's List has helped elect 10 female governors, 102 to the House of Representatives (25 from California) and 19 women to the U.S. Senate. In the Senate, the roster of endorsed women includes such well-known names as Barbara Boxer, Carol Moseley Braun, Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Mikulski, Patty Murray and Elizabeth Warren. In 2013, Emily's List began placing more staff representatives in local communities to scout for prospective candidates. Emily's List Southern California Regional Director Heidi Lee points out that "by collaborating with local organizations we foster a greater environment for women to run." The Feminist Majority Foundation, founded in 1987, engages in policy development, educational conferences and grass roots organizing. It is affiliated with hundreds of student groups nationwide and has created feminist chapters on college campuses "to foster activism on campuses and to provide tools for leadership development." The Republican Majority for Choice, previously known as the Republican Pro-Choice Coalition, joined with Wish List (Women in the Senate and House) in 2010 to recruit, train and support Republican pro-choice female candidates at all levels of government. The group is considered the Republican version of Emily's List.

California Groups

Some efforts in my home state, California, must also get special mention. Close the gap Ca was established in 2013 and aims to recruit women for the California state legislature in 2014 and 2016. It identifies candidates and then recruits and connects them to resources needed to run and win elections. By filing time in California (Feb. 12), 76 women had submitted their papers. This stops the "slide" that began in 2012, but is a long way from the high of 97 women who ran in 2010. Hispanas Organized for Political Equality, HOPE, founded in 1989, works to advance Latinas through education, advocacy and youth leadership training. Through its PAC, the group endorses and contributes to Latina candidates at all levels who "work toward creating public policies that empower Latinas, their families and their communities." California Women Lead was founded 40 years ago as an association for elected and appointed women. It provides leadership and campaign trainings throughout California with a focus on women interested in state and local boards and commissions. "Appointments are an opportunity for women who are trying to balance work and family and to build a resume while preparing to run," says the group's executive director, Rachel Michelin. To achieve gender equality in public office, we need to work harder to recruit more women to run now and to build a pipeline of women who will be future candidates. Gloria Steinem said it best in the spring edition of Ms. Magazine: "People often ask me if I am passing the torch. I explain that I am keeping my torch, and I'm using it to light the torches of others. Because only if each of us has a torch will there be enough light." For more examples of organizations working to support and train women candidates, see CAWP's Political Resource Map.

Women Make a Difference for Women

The following is a guest blog re-posted from Women's eNews as the first in a series of three pieces written by Susan Rose. Susan Rose served for eight years on the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and is the former executive director of the Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women. She is a member of the board of trustees of Antioch University Santa Barbara. In the following piece, Susan discusses the difference women have made in elected office in her home state of California. The next two pieces, which will be posted over the next two weeks, will focus on efforts to encourage and support women's candidacies and the role that women's PACs can play in these efforts. By Susan Rose California boasts two female senators. We are the only state to advance women's reproductive rights in the last few years. The state is rapidly moving forward on the Affordable Health Care Act and there has been paid family leave in California since 2002, though it is underused. But don't be misled. Even here we have a political gender gap that is actually widening, not closing. The California state legislature has 120 members with 32 seats held by women, around 27 percent, down from 30 percent a decade ago. Close the Gap CA was founded to counter these losses and is conducting a four-city "Stop the Slide" tour during March to coincide with Women's History Month. Women's rights activists and elected officials will be speaking about the "slide" in female representation and encourage women to run for office. Close the Gap will also be recruiting progressive women to run in 2014 and 2016. Nine women will be termed out of the state legislature in 2014 and fewer women are running for office than in 2010, says Betsy Cotton, director of the initiative. Does it really matter if women are in public office in equal numbers to men? Yes it does, just check the research that has been piling on for more than 20 years. In 1991, The Center for Women and American Politics published a series of findings about the impact of women on state legislatures. Women were more likely than men to support feminist and liberal policy positions such as passage of the ERA and support for abortion rights. It found that women were more likely than men to have worked on "women's right legislation," including issues affecting children, families and health care. Michele Swers followed in 2002 with her book on women in Congress, "The Difference Women Make: The Policy Impact of Women in Congress." She studied the legislative process from bill initiation to the concluding vote and affirmed that women are more likely to "champion women's issues."

Benefiting All Constituents

Having more women in office benefits all constituents, U.C. Berkeley and University of Chicago researchers found in their 2011 study "The Jackie and Jill Robinson Effect." Women bring 9 percent more spending to their districts from federal programs, they found. This translates to about $49 million more income for each district represented by a woman. In their 2005 book, "It Still Takes a Candidate," Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox argue that women have different political agendas from those of men. Women emphasize education, the environment, consumer protection, gay rights, health care and helping the poor. Men are more likely to carry bills on agriculture, business and the economy, crime, foreign policy and the military. Elected women prioritize the social infrastructure. Having served eight years as a California county supervisor, I learned daily that women consider public health to be as much a budget priority as public safety. On the local level, supporting mental health programs and social services becomes as important as fixing streets and patrol cars. Reviewing the work of women in the California State Legislature during a period from1993 to 2008 revealed that women make a difference for women. Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis are from Southern California. They served 14 and 10 years respectively in the state legislature. During their years in Sacramento, Kuehl and Solis carried a series of bills that focused on children, civil rights, domestic violence, education, employment, health care and reproductive rights. Congresswoman Jackie Speier comes from Northern California and served 18 years in both state houses. Her successful track record of bills passed in California includes issues affecting children, consumer services, domestic violence, education, health care and reproductive rights. Hannah-Beth Jackson represents the central coast of California. She served six years in the state Assembly and in 2012 was elected to the state Senate. Jackson's successful legislative record includes numerous bills focused on children, consumer services, domestic violence, education, the environment, health care and reproductive rights. Last year, the governor signed Jackson's legislation expanding the definition of family for California's paid Family Medical Leave Act. (California was the first state in the country to enact paid family leave.) Today, the definition of family in California for paid leave includes seriously ill grandparents, grandchildren, siblings and in-laws.

'All Is Still Not Well'

Progress for women has been made in California because of dedicated legislators such as Kuehl, Solis, Speier and Jackson. But all is still not well for women in California. A recent meeting in Sacramento sponsored by the California Center for Research on Women and Families focused on the unmet needs of women in child care, economic empowerment, health care, poverty relief and Title IX implementation. The California Center's executive director, Kate Karpilow, hopes to "push women's issues to the forefront of the legislative agenda." In the last several cycles the state has balanced its budget on the backs of women and children. Today 1-in-4 children and 1-in-3 single mothers in California live in poverty, according to the Women's Foundation of California. The most recent Shriver Report, "A Woman's Nation Pushed Back from the Brink," found that nationally 42 million American women and 28 million children are living in poverty. To rise out of poverty, women need job training and job programs; an increased minimum wage; equal pay for equal work; and family justice programs including child care, paid family leave, paid sick leave and flexible work schedules. Data from the Center for American Women in Politics show that women still have a long way to go to reach gender balance in office. In the U.S. Senate there are 20 of 100 seats held by women and in the House of Representatives, only 79 of the 535 seats are held by women. The average for both houses combined is about 19 percent. Across the United States, women hold five of the 50 governorships and about 24 percent of state legislature elected offices. This is an increase of only 2 percent in the last 10 years. If we are to succeed as a nation, there must be equal representation of women in elected office. "When women succeed, America succeeds," said President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address on Jan. 28, 2014. Taking political power to gain equality becomes an imperative for American women.

Sometimes the Best Political Role Model is your Mom

Often when we talk about political role models, we think of the most visible politicians: the President, a prominent historical figure or a current newsmaker. We assume we can learn most about politics by emulating those who hold the greatest political power. But this Mother’s Day, I’d like to make the case that some of our best political role models in life are our moms – whether they identify as political or not. Moms play an essential role in shaping their daughters’ (and sons’) perceptions of service, politics, and leadership. According to research done by Dove, 66% of girls say their primary role model is their mom. At a pivotal age for developing confidence and character, girls look to their mothers for guidance and watch carefully the behaviors they espouse and the values they prescribe. My mom – relatively apolitical by traditional standards – has been my political role model. First, she embodies the ideal of service to others above herself. Whether caring for her children, her parents, or her clients, my mom reminds me that making someone else’s world a bit better brightens yours. Second, my mom has always been a leader. Both in and out of the household, my mom has never stepped down from a challenge, has been a source of support and stability for her family and her community, and has paired independence of thought and action with recognition of the interconnectedness among all of us. Third, my mom embodies retail politics. While she might just call it “being friendly,” my mom’s ability to empathize with nearly everyone she meets is a skill for which many politicians (and their staffs) strive. As Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD) recently said about her own mother at CAWP’s Lipman lecture, “I’ll tell you who I’m glad I never had to run against: my mother.” Same here, Congresswoman. Finally, my mom instilled in me the values that inspire me today to engage in politics and to encourage others to do the same. My mom lives her life based on a very simple motto: “do good things.” Watching her work to make the world just a little better than she found it compels me to do the same. For her, that means making a difference in the daily lives of the elderly by providing direct care. For me, it means getting more women in political leadership and taking an active role in policy debates and discussions.
U.S. Presidential candidate, Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) speaks on stage with her mother Dorothy Rodham, during a rally in Des Moines Hillary Clinton with mother Dorothy Rodham in 2008

I’m in good company in crediting my mom for my political drive. Hillary Clinton frequently credits her mother – Dorothy Rodham – for her intellectual drive, curiosity, strength, and perseverance. The late Geraldine Ferraro often cited her widowed mother, Antonetta, as both her inspiration and most solid source of support. She said, “Nobody had greater confidence in me than my mother,” and that confidence was essential when Ferraro became the first woman to run on a major party presidential ticket. At the recent 100th birthday celebration for her mother, Luisa, , Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) shared a similar admiration for the longest-serving alderman in New Haven history: “My mother has been my greatest inspiration. She taught me the most valuable of lessons. My mother knew the importance of helping people – she understood that politics was an avenue for change.” Congresswoman Susan Brooks (R-IN) also credits her mother and father for instilling in her a commitment to helping others: “We didn’t grow up with a lot of wealth,” she’s said, “but I watched (my parents) make significant contributions to the lives of a lot of people.” She added, “That’s what I’ve strived to do –– work hard, be ethical, be very grateful for all that I have, and help those less fortunate. It’s something that drives me.”
YvetteClarkeC20101129BE Representative Yvette Clarke (D-NY) with mother Una

The mothers of some women leaders not only taught them the values that inspired their service, but also showed them women could serve in elected office. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D-NY) succeeded her mother Una on the New York City Council before running for Congress. Former Maine legislator, Hannah Pingree, took on her role as Speaker of the State House in the same year that her mother, Chellie Pingree (D-ME), was elected to Congress. Senator Susan Collins’ (R-ME) mother was Mayor of Caribou, Maine and preceded her daughter as an inductee into the Maine Women’s Hall of Fame. In Michigan, State Representative Barb Byrum succeeded her mother Dianne in the state’s 67th District seat. Byrum writes of her mother, “It is my mother who knew early on that I would run for public office, even though I was not interested in politics at the time. It is my mother who guided me through life's challenges. My mother did so much more than give me life. She gave me the world.”
269620.JPG A FEA USA Dist. of Columbia Cokie Roberts with mother Lindy Boggs

Some prominent political mothers have pointed their daughters toward other forms of public service. Cokie Roberts, author and political contributor to ABC and NPR, has called her mother, former Congresswoman Lindy Boggs (D-LA), “a trailblazer for women and the disadvantaged.” Her trailblazing no doubt influenced Roberts’ own pathbreaking career, including her work honoring America’s Founding Mothers. Roberts’ sister, Barbara Boggs Sigmund, followed more directly in her mother’s footsteps, serving as a county freeholder and then as mayor of Princeton, NJ from 1983 to 1990. Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, frequently talks about channeling her mother, Ann Richards, in her leadership of one of the country’s largest women’s advocacy organizations. Calling the former Governor of Texas her “touchstone for pretty much everything,” Richards has said, “She always said to me, ‘If a new opportunity comes, you just have to take it.’ I think in my day-to-day life I try to channel a little bit of Ann in that.” Whether we channel our mothers in running for office, advocacy, or everyday forms of leadership, they play spark our desire and give us the tools to change the world in our own ways. The personal is indeed political, and the promise of a new generation of women leaders relies on the trailblazing women who have preceded them. So this Mother’s Day, take a minute to give thanks to the moms in your life who have helped you grow, and consider how the seemingly apolitical lessons they’ve taught you can translate into political action and leadership. In considering your run for political office, channel mom.

Leadership in Action: NEW LeadershipTM Alum Raises Consciousness about Women in Politics

The following blog is a guest post from Felise Ortiz, a senior at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, double majoring in Political Science and Women's and Gender Studies with a minor in Spanish. She is an alumna of the NEW Leadership NJ Class of 2011. Felise is the Founder and President of Douglass D.I.V.A.S., a female empowerment student organization at Rutgers University. She is also an Institute for Women's Leadership Scholar as well as an Eagleton Institute of Politics Undergraduate Associate.
jenfelise Jennifer Osolinski (L) and Felise Ortiz (R)

The underrepresentation of women in politics in the United States is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately and with urgency. With the help of the Institute of Women’s Leadership, my partner Jennifer Osolinski and I were able to facilitate a conversation addressing this issue. Our social action project was not only an opportunity to hone our feminist leadership skills but it also served as testament to the fact that the personal is indeed political. As former Eagleton and CAWP interns, Jennifer and I wanted our event to make at least one young woman consider a first step in the direction of politics. We were inspired by programs such as NEW LeadershipTM and Ready to RunTM because they inform women about the current political climate and encourage them to become involved in public service. While strategizing on how to reach a youthful audience, we were approached with the possibility of doing a film “Raising Ms. President” a new documentary about getting girls politically active. Once we watched the trailer, we agreed that it would be a great foundation for our project and our overall message. I learned a lesson in patience and professionalism from this portion of the experience. I also learned that is apart of the feminist model of leadership to use your network. Our networks ultimately resulted in three amazing panelists and the film arriving on time. We had an audience of about twenty-five people who were enthusiastic about the film and project as a whole. I had a list of prepared remarks and questions for the panelist. However, I learned the most from the audience’s engagement with the panelists. There were many though-provoking questions asked and answered. The key moment of the event for me occurred after most of the attendees departed and two panelists were left talking passionately about campaigns. One woman was a Caucasian Republican representative from a suburban town and the other was a Black Democrat from an urban city, and they were networking. I watched politics (how it should work) happen organically with two women who shared a love for public service. This project has taught me three key lessons: 1. The message is worth the madness. We were able to spread our message that women’s political involvement is important and can be transformational when it is made a priority. Any of the difficultly that we may have faced along the way was well worth it. 2. Not only is the personal, political but also the political is often better executed when it is personal. The research and our panelists attested to the fact that there is a dire need for more women in office in order for issues that affect women to be adequately advocated for. Another example would be my personal connection to this project, made me invested enough to see it through to the end. 3. Social justice based women’s leadership has been and will continue to be a force to be reckoned with. During this process I have been inspired by the social action projects of my classmates and how we have rallied together to support one another. The bond we created through this experience has strengthened me and I am truly grateful to have had this opportunity.  

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