#WomenRun2014: Governors Outlook

Today we are focusing on the outlook for women running for governor. Despite 2014 being a “year of the governor” with 36 races across the nation,[1] we will not surpass any records for women running and winning states’ top executive posts this year. Candidates and Nominees Thirty (16D, 14R) women filed to run for governor in 20 states in 2014. No women filed for candidacy in 16 of the states with gubernatorial races. The record number of women filing for governor is 34, set in 1994 (18D, 15R, 1ACP).[2] This year, 9 (6D, 3R) women won their primaries, including the four (1D, 3R) incumbents running for re-election. The record for women gubernatorial nominees is 10, set in 1994 (6D, 3R, 1ACP) and reached again in 1998 (6D, 4R), 2002 (9D, 1R), 2006 (5D, 5R) and 2010 (5D, 5R). There are no woman-versus-woman gubernatorial contests this year. GovNomineesWinnersGovNomineesbyPartyIn addition to these women candidates and nominees, Delegate Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands) was successful in her primary bid to become governor of the Virgin Islands. Christensen is the only non-incumbent woman of color to make it to a general election ballot for governor this year. Two more female gubernatorial nominees in 2014 are women of color, incumbents Susana Martinez (R-NM) and Nikki Haley (R-SC). Both women were elected in 2010 as the first women of color to ever serve as governors in the United States.[3] Six more women of color filed in gubernatorial races this cycle, but did not make it to the general election, including two women in Florida and two women in Texas.[4] GovOpenSeatNominees All five of the non-incumbent female nominees for governor this year are Democrats. Three women candidates – Martha Coakley (MA), Gina Raimondo (RI), and Wendy Davis (TX) -- are running for open seats. Two women candidates – Susan Wismer (SD) and Mary Burke (WI) -- are running as challengers. Women have fallen short of making history as candidates, nominees, or open seat nominees in both major political parties this year. When compared to the most recent cycles with similar numbers of gubernatorial seats up for election, more women filed as candidates for governor this year, but fewer women made it through their primaries.

 GovComparable

Women Governors in 2015 Five (1D, 4R) women currently serve as governors. With Governor Jan Brewer leaving office in Arizona due to term limits, four (1D, 3R) incumbent women governors are running for re-election next week: Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Susana Martinez (R-NM), Mary Fallin (R-OK), and Nikki Haley (R-SC). All incumbent women are leading in their campaigns for re-election. Based on the most recent ratings, two non-incumbent nominees face uphill climbs to victory this year: Susan Wismer (D-SD) and Wendy Davis (D-TX). The Cook Political Report rates Rhode Island’s gubernatorial contest as “Lean Democrat,” giving Gina Raimondo (D) a slight edge in that contest. The remaining non-incumbent women, Martha Coakley (D-MA) and Mary Burke (D-WI), are contenders are in two of the most competitive gubernatorial races of this cycle, both rated as toss-ups by Cook. GovRatings In 2002, a record 4 (3D, 1R) new women were elected as governors. We are unlikely to exceed that number of new women winning this year. Moreover, based on these estimates, we may end up with the same number of women governors as in 2014 (5), changing only the partisan balance among women governors. The record number of women serving as governor simultaneously is nine, achieved in 2004 and 2007. What to Watch on Election Day In addition to tracking the numbers of women winning gubernatorial offices on Election Day and closely monitoring the most competitive races with women running (see table above), we will be watching these races where women have the potential to make history:
  • Rhode Island: Democrat Gina Raimondo, if elected, will be the first woman governor of Rhode Island and the first woman to hold two different statewide elected executive offices in that state. Raimondo currently serves as the state treasurer.
  • Massachusetts: Democrat Martha Coakley, if elected, will be the second woman governor of Massachusetts. However, she would be the first woman elected governor of the state. Former Lt. Governor Jane Swift (R) served as acting governor in 2001 after then-Governor Paul Cellucci’s resignation.
  • Virgin Islands: Democrat Donna Christensen, if elected, will be the first Black woman governor in the United States or territories. Christensen currently serves as one of two Black female delegates to the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • Wisconsin: Democrat Mary Burke, if elected, will be the first woman governor of Wisconsin.
To date, 35 women (20D, 15R) have served as governors in 26 states. In addition, one woman has served as governor in Puerto Rico. Based on current ratings, two more states (RI and WI) and one territory (VI) have the potential to break this gubernatorial glass ceiling in 2014. However, to put these numbers in context, the number of men who will serve as governors in 2015 is greater than the number of women who have ever held gubernatorial office. For the latest numbers and information about women running for office in 2014, visit CAWP’s Election Watch 2014 and check out our next post, reporting on the scary statistics on women in the 2014 elections. You can also follow the conversation on Facebook and Twitter by using the hashtag #WomenRun2014.


[1] Of the 36 gubernatorial contests in 2014, only 8 are for open seats (AZ, AR, HI, MD, MA, NE, RI, and TX).
[2] Women who are third party candidates are included if their parties have recently won statewide offices. ACP refers to “A Connecticut Party.”
[3] Sila Calerón was elected governor of Puerto Rico in 2000 and served until 2005.
[4] In addition to Yinka Adeshina (R-FL), Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder (R-FL), Lisa Fritsch (R-TX), and Miriam Martinez (R-TX), Lynette “Doc” Bryant (D) filed as a candidate for governor of Arkansas and Linda Lopez (D) filed as a candidate for governor of New Mexico.

#WomenRun2014: House Outlook

We’re launching our week-long countdown to the midterm elections with the outlook for women running for the U.S. House of Representatives. While we have not seen record numbers of women candidates or nominees this cycle, we may see a record number of women serving in the U.S. House come January 2015. Candidates and Nominees HouseCands3Two hundred and forty-nine (154D, 95R) women filed to run for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014. The record for women House candidates was set in 2012, with 298 (190D, 108R) women filing to run for seats in the lower chamber of Congress. This year, 158 (108D, 50R) women have won their primaries and 2 (1D, 1R) more women will be on the November 4th ballot in Louisiana’s same-day primary. The record for women House nominees was set in 2012, with 166 (118D, 48R) women making it through their party primaries.[1]

HouseNomsWinners2It’s important to look at the types of contests in which women are running to determine their likelihood of winning. In 2014, 18 (11D, 7R) women are nominees for open U.S. House seats, compared to the record high of 39 (26D, 13R) women running for open seats in 1992. As the charts below show, women have fallen short of making history as candidates, nominees, or open seat nominees in either major political party this year. However, while the number of female nominees dropped between 2012 and 2014 for Democratic women House candidates, there was a slight increase, from 48 to 50 nominees, among Republican women candidates, with the Louisiana race still pending.

HouseOpenSeatNoms2 HouseCandsParty HouseNomsPartyWomen in the 114th Congress
It is likely that we will see an increase in the total number of women serving in the U.S. House in the 114th Congress from our current class of 79 (60D, 19R) women members and 2 (2D) female delegates, but the size of that increase depends on how the most contentious races of this cycle break for women candidates. While we know that we will lose six (4D, 2R) current women members and one (1D) female delegate to retirements and bids for other offices, there are six (5D, 1R) women candidates and one (1D) female delegate very likely to become new members of the 114th Congress, based on the most recent ratings from Cook Political Report. Another 4 (1D, 3R) new women are rated as likely or leaning to win House seats this year. Finally, 4 (3D, 1R) possible new women members and 3 (3D) female incumbents are competing in contests rated as toss-ups by the Cook Political Report as of last week. NewHouseWomen2 Five of the eight new women most likely to win House seats, as well as delegate candidate Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), are women of color. If these new women win and all Black female incumbents are re-elected, a record 18 (17D, 1R) Black women members and 2 (2D) non-voting Black women delegates will serve in the 114th Congress. VulnHouseWomen2In 2012, 19 (16D, 3R) new women were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. We are very unlikely to meet or exceed that number of new women winning this year. NewHouseWomen3What to Watch on Election Day In addition to tracking the numbers of women winning U.S. House seats on Election Day and closely monitoring the most competitive races with women running (see table above), we will be watching these races where women have the potential to make history:
  • AZ-2: Republican Martha McSally, if elected, will be the first Republican woman ever elected to Congress from Arizona.
  • IA-3: Democrat Staci Appel, if elected, will be the first woman ever elected to the U.S. House from Iowa. Iowa is one of four states (DE, IA, MS, VT) that has never sent a woman to Congress.
  • NJ-12: Democrat Bonnie Watson Coleman, if elected, will be the first Black woman elected to Congress from New Jersey. She will also be the first woman in New Jersey’s congressional delegation since 2003.
  • NY-21: Republican Elise Stefanik, if elected, will be the youngest woman ever sworn in to Congress at age 30. The youngest women to be sworn in to date were 31 years old.
  • UT-4: Republican Mia Love, if elected, will be the first Black Republican woman to be elected to Congress. She will also be the first Black woman, and only the fourth woman, to ever serve in Utah’s congressional delegation.
  • VA-10: Republican Barbara Comstock, if elected, will be the first woman in Virginia’s congressional delegation since 2009.
Finally, while four states with no women currently serving in the U.S. House (Iowa, New Jersey, Utah, Virginia) have the potential to add women members to their 114th congressional delegations, Pennsylvania is very likely to have no women in its congressional delegation as of January 2015. For the latest numbers and information about women running for office in 2014, visit CAWP's Election Watch 2014 and check out tomorrow's post on women running for the U.S. Senate this year. You can also follow the conversation on Facebook and Twitter by using the hashtag #WomenRun2014.
[1] Three (2D, 1R) women won primaries but then dropped out in 2012, leaving 163 nominees running on Election Day.

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.  

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.  

Presidential Lists are Due for Disruption

Today, as we celebrate those individuals who have held our nation’s highest office, it is worth taking note the absence of women from the list of 44 male presidents who have served in U.S. history. While multiple trailblazing women have challenged the expectations of masculine leadership in the White House, too few have received the recognition they deserved or the votes they needed to be labeled as “viable” contenders.Presidents-Day-Graphic-2014-MS The words “woman president” today often cue “Hillary Clinton” among peers, colleagues, family, and friends. Too few people think of Margaret Chase Smith’s historic bid in 1964, as the first woman to have her name placed in nomination at a major party convention; or Shirley Chisholm in 1972, who was the first woman and the first African American to have her name placed in nomination for the presidency at a Democratic National Convention, winning 151.95 delegate votes; or even Victoria Woodhull in 1872, who campaigned for the presidency before women could even vote nationwide. It’s true the 18 million cracks Hillary Clinton made in the proverbial “marble ceiling” of presidential politics may have made it less remarkable for a woman to be taken seriously as a presidential contender, but, as Dr. Ruth Mandel has written, the women who ran before her were instrumental in “[making] the idea [of a woman president] less outrageous to conceive.”  Hillary Clinton is not only viewed as the most viable women who has run, but supporters and opponents alike view her as the most likely woman who will run in 2016. Consistent with all things Clinton, the attention paid to a possible Hillary Clinton candidacy in 2016 is already extreme. Thirty-three months before Election Day 2016, major news outlets like Time Magazine and the New York Times Magazine have made Clinton’s potential bid their cover stories, and few of Clinton’s public appearances go by without analysis over what they indicate about her campaign strategy. But as the assumptions of a Clinton candidacy grow stronger, the idea that she is the (cue: only) woman candidate in 2016 is not only unfair to the many qualified women who could be added to the Democratic and Republican short lists (see Kasie Hunt's commentary on this here), but also places a great deal of pressure on Clinton. While Democratic short lists for 2016 have included more women than in the past – floating Senators Warren, Gillibrand, and Klobuchar in addition to Secretary Clinton, men’s names outnumber women’s names, and few Republican short lists have included women amidst a very open, and arguably weak, Republican field. When women like Governor Susana Martinez are discussed, they are often considered as potential Vice Presidential nominees instead of among those likely to top the party ticket. These short lists are not only important in the horse race, but present cues to voters about who is qualified to run for president. And though women’s stables of elected officials remain smaller than men’s at all levels, there are just as many qualified women – Democrats and Republicans – as men to seek a home in the Oval Office.  So as we reflect on the absence of women on the list of U.S. presidents to date, let’s also question the dearth of women’s names floated as potential presidential contenders.

Woman vs. Woman Races: Gender Exclusivity for Gender Inclusivity?

Even before odd-year elections in states like NJ and VA are over, we’re looking ahead to the 2014 midterm elections for opportunities to increase women’s representation. In a year when 36 states will hold gubernatorial elections and another 32 states will elect (or re-elect) U.S. Senators, will women move forward on the path toward political parity? It’s too early to predict electoral outcomes, but CAWP is keeping track of women who have put their names forward as potential candidates for statewide or federal office. By looking at these early lists, we can get an initial sense of how many and where women are running, and how the pattern compares to candidate statistics at this point in previous cycles. Over the next year, we will report on trends we spot, interesting facts we find, or news you can use about women in the 2014 election in our news alerts and on this blog. This week, we’re looking at woman vs. woman races. How many have we had? Do we expect any women-exclusive races in 2014? And what’s the political significance of such races? Based on our latest counts, women are potential challengers to three of the four incumbent women senators up for re-election in 2014. Women are also running in both major party primaries for open Senate seats in Georgia (Democrat Michelle Nunn and former Republican Secretary of State Karen Handel) and West Virginia (Republican Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito and Democratic Secretary of State Natalie Tennant).  No women have yet emerged to challenge the four incumbent women governors up for re-election next year, but many women have put their names forward as potential gubernatorial contenders in Florida, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. Finally, as of today, women are running for both major party nominations in eight U.S. House districts, and another six districts have more than one woman running in either party’s primary. Historically, woman vs. woman races for federal and statewide offices have been very rare. Of all general election U.S. Senate races to date, only 12 have pitted a Democratic woman against a Republican woman, and three of those contests occurred in 2012 alone. Women have faced each other in only four gubernatorial races in U.S. history, with two of those races in 2010 (in Oklahoma and New Mexico). Finally, while there have been 134 woman vs. woman elections for U.S. House seats over time, these represent less than a third of House elections held in any single year. Some might argue that woman vs. woman races are not necessarily a sign of progress, that pitting women against women could actually be harmful to women’s representation, or that gender exclusivity for men or women is an unjust goal. Each of these arguments has merit and is worthy of greater debate. However, it is hard to say that increasing evidence of woman vs. woman races does not signal at least some progress.  At the least, woman vs. woman races reflect an increased willingness among women to run for the highest levels of elected office – and a willingness among parties and voters to elect them.

And for those who fear gender exclusivity of any stripe, let’s look at recent electoral history. Over 60% of general election U.S. House races in the past decade have been all-male contests, and 85% of uncontested candidates have been men.

About two-thirds of general election races for the U.S. Senate have been between two male candidates, and 80 of 106 gubernatorial races between 2004 and 2012 had no women. In contrast, about 2% of U.S. House races, 4% of U.S. Senate races, and less than 2% of gubernatorial contests in the past decade have been all-female.  And of course, men-only races at each of these levels of office only increase the further back we look.

Gender exclusivity in electoral contests should not be a goal, but it has been a reality for male candidates for far too long. For women to increase their political representation, they need to be more present as candidates. And if woman vs. woman races are a surefire way to get more women into office, then maybe an increase in gender exclusivity for women candidates actually means greater gender inclusivity in today’s politics.

On the Importance of Programs like Run Sister Run

Crystal DesVignes is a graduate student in political science at Rutgers University – Newark. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree and recently worked as a graduate intern at the Center for American Women and Politics. The views presented in this entry are her own.

            On March 22, 2013, the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) hosted approximately fifty African American women for its annual Run Sister Run program in conjunction with its Ready to Run™ program. As part of the diversity initiative along with Elección Latina, and Rising Stars, Run Sister Run offers campaign and political leadership training for those of the African Diaspora. The program is an opportunity to receive encouragement and valuable insight, and to interact first-hand with other African American women who have either run for elected office, are currently running for a position, plan to run in the future, or are contemplating running for an elected office.

 R2R_12The program is geared toward making sure that African American women who are politically-minded have a space to network and be directed to resources and people who will help them to meet their political aspirations. As a third time attendee of the program, I was already a believer in its importance. But, as the saying goes, the third time was the charm for me in solidifying my understanding of why we need to continue programs like this and expand them around the country.

            As I write this piece, I am painfully aware of the issues that women face in our country, even in 2013. We are underpaid for our work in the market place (hence the need for equal pay legislation like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act) and undervalued for our work in the home. We were reminded last year of the fragility of our right to reproductive healthcare, and there was even discussion around whether our bodies could “shut down” a pregnancy that resulted from a “legitimate rape.” We were reduced to being included in “binders full of women” in the last presidential election as one candidate sought to prove that he supported gender equality in his gubernatorial cabinet. Despite all of this, and in some cases because of this, we press on and continue to fight for our place in the decision-making process in our country and government.

            The road to political inclusion is hard for women, to say the least. But for women of color, and African American women it particular, it can mean being doubly excluded from the political arena due to racialization and gendering. Of 98 women serving in Congress (18.3 % of the 535 seats in the 113th Congress), 30 or 30.6% are women of color. Only 14 are African American women. African American women hold only 241 seats in state legislatures across 44 states, and although New Jersey has an African American woman currently serving as speaker of the State Assembly (the Honorable Shelia Y. Oliver), she is only the second African American woman to hold this office in a state legislature nationwide.

            The numbers don’t lie. The people who come to the table to make decisions in our cities, states, and capitals should not all look alike. They should represent the country as we know it. To have a more inclusive racial/ethnic and gendered make-up among our elected officials isn’t just good politics, it makes for better government. We need more representation from African American women. The Center for American Women and Politics provides just a forum for this endeavor in Run Sister Run.

 

The Smart Business of Women’s Public Leadership

Last night, I joined an expert group of women on HuffPost Live to talk about Warren Buffett’s Fortune article on the importance of women’s full inclusion into American business, politics, and leadership. Put simply, Buffett argues that women are essential to American growth and success, representing half of the population that has been underutilized (“relegated to the sidelines”) for too long. Stifling half of the country’s talent is not only unethical, he writes, but is also bad business. And, as we know at the Center for American Women and Politics, under-representation of women in political offices is bad for democracy and governance. Our research shows that women bring unique voices to government, as voters, advocates, and elected officials. When in office, women prioritize different issues, build upon unique experiences, and often take a more inclusive and collaborative approach to Women in Congress Pie_Webgoverning. In the current political environment, it’s women who have provided at least some hope of breaking the paralysis that has characterized our nation’s capital. And, with women still representing less than 20% of Congress and under a quarter of state legislative posts, we have significant “human capacity,” in Buffett’s terms, left to be tapped. How do we capitalize on women’s capacity to lead? Buffett calls on his male colleagues to “get on board” with gender parity, but also urges women not to doubt their abilities nor give in to structural or self-imposed barriers to advancement. There is a symbiotic relationship between structural barriers and self-doubt, however, where women’s experiences with (or within) male-dominated institutions make it hard for them to view themselves as equal players in what remains a man’s world. The change that fuels Buffett’s optimism for the future is reliant on disrupting masculine dominance in public life, and that means altering long-held images of and expectations for public leadership. Buffett describes how, as a young man in the 1940s and 1950s, his floor for professional success was the ceiling for his sisters. In other words, society’s expectations for boys were not only greater than those expectations for girls, but women faced structural barriers that halted their path to leadership before they could even dare to see themselves as heads of communities, companies, or countries. Buffett is right to note that those structural barriers are eroding, but societal expectations of how leaders look and act still fall heavily into a male mold. CAWP has recently launched Teach a Girl to Lead, a campaign meant to change those expectations among boys and girls so that the idea of women’s leadership is not extraordinary, but ordinary – and essential. If we are to be as optimistic as Warren Buffett is about America’s future, we know that it’s imperative that future generations of girls and women not only see themselves as public leaders, but help to shatter the glass ceilings that remain in politics and government. That’s not only good for democracy, but it's also best for our country’s bottom line.

Girls Want to Change the World...Their Way

A new report from political scientists Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox finds a gender gap in political ambition among young people, ages 18-25. More specifically, Lawless and Fox report that multiple factors in men and women’s socialization – parental encouragement, political exposure/engagement, participation in sports, and perceptions of personal qualifications – make it more likely that young men see a political future for themselves than do young women, particularly in elected office. Simplifying their argument in the report’s title, Lawless and Fox write that “girls just wanna not run.” policy reports_girls not run coverBut beyond the catchy title, the findings presented in their report are more nuanced and more important. The report suggests that young women see alternative avenues to making political and policy change, and running for office is not a path on which they can envision themselves. Girls want to change the world, but they have yet to see running for electoral office as the means to that end. Lawless and Fox find that young men and women share equitable rates of activism. However, while young men’s activism may more often lead to a political campaign, their findings show that women view charity work (over running for office) as the best route toward social change. Though the authors cite this as evidence that young women are less politically ambitious than young men, it may better demonstrate that women’s ambition simply differs from men’s in both what they seek to accomplish, and how. The fact that young women expect to make a difference from outside of formal government is not terribly surprising in light of both the current paralysis in Congress and state legislatures and women’s historical exclusion from formal institutions of governance. Forced to take another path toward social change, women have fought countless battles toward equality and justice from outside of our legislative halls – and won. And, if women feel under attack by those who are making laws, it is hard for them to envision seeking  positions alongside them. It’s also hard to knowingly seek entry into institutions where you are so obviously apart from the norm. Women make up less than one quarter of the nation’s legislators – whether at the state or congressional level, only five states have female governors, and no woman has ever sat in the oval office. The absence of women in both men and women’s perceptions of public leaders is further exacerbated by the dearth of women leaders highlighted in history books, portrayed on television or in film, and/or introduced to young people far before and throughout adolescence. Simply put, women are less likely to see themselves in the public leaders to which they are most exposed well before hitting age 18. And, as Marian Wright Edelman rightly states, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” In order to encourage women to see public leadership, and specifically elected office, as an effective means toward making the social change they seek, we must provide them with more inclusive images of political leaders. Lawless and Fox prescribe this in their report, calling on organizations on college campuses to “[expose] young women to female candidates and elected officials and [provide] examples of how pursuing electoral office can bring about social change.” We are proud to do this work through CAWP’s NEW LeadershipTM program, a leadership training program that demystifies politics for college women and connects them with female political leaders and mentors. However, this exposure – and challenge to masculine images of public leadership - must also begin much earlier. Our most recent initiative, Teach a Girl to LeadTM, will take on this challenge directly by providing the tools and resources to parents, teachers, and educators to integrate women leaders into the lessons they teach, stories they share, and images they provide to children at all ages. Introducing young people to political information at any age may catalyze political engagement and ambition as they grow up, but exposure is ineffective in encouraging women’s political involvement if that information only reinforces the message that politics and government is a “man’s world.” Instead, providing both girls and boys with more inclusive images of public leadership from an early age has the potential to alter – and expand - their ideas of both who can lead and how public leadership can be an effective path toward social change. This re-vision will go a long way to ensuring that when girls think about how they want to change the world, they see elective office as a way to do it.

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