Skip navigation

Brief: Breaking Barriers for Black Women Candidates

RepresentWomen is committed to researching, understanding, and championing evidence-based solutions that support a healthy democracy with gender-balanced representation in elected and appointed positions at every level of government. This brief is the first installment in a new series that outlines the systems-level and candidate-level factors impacting Black women's political participation and representation in U.S. politics. 

This brief does not aim to be comprehensive; future research will further address the barriers Black women face when running for office and the hurdles Black women face when in elected office. This research will also uplift what needs to be done to level the playing field and allow Black women to run, win, serve, and lead equitably. 


Black women have historically been, and continue to be, underrepresented at every level of government in the United States for cultural and structural reasons. Among these are biases, misogynoir, and flawed political practices. Increasing Black women’s political power and representation must enable equitable access to political and financial resources and reform our antiquated voting system. 

This brief surveys three key barriers Black women face when running for office: the current criterion of political party recruitment, traditional funding practices, and plurality voting. We then propose actionable avenues for change, which would not just expand opportunities for Black women in politics but ameliorate our democracy.

Our key takeaways are as follows: 

  • Early investment by political parties advances Black women in politics. This involves setting candidate recruitment targets and quotas and implementing networking and mentorship initiatives in partnership with candidate organizations. 
  • Donors should adopt gender and race-balanced funding measures to fund Black women’s campaigns. PACs and donors can model these initiatives after those already existing in other industries. 
  • Public financing programs (PFPs) empower Black women candidates to run competitive campaigns by amplifying small-dollar donations and limiting the impact of big money.
  • RCV creates opportunities for Black women candidates by eliminating split votes and enabling non-status quo candidates to lead viable campaigns. 
  • PRCV enhances these opportunities by allowing communities to elect candidates in proportion to their percentage of the population.

Download the Brief 


Missed this powerful event? Check out the recording here.