RepresentWomen’s mission is to strengthen our democracy by advancing reforms that break down barriers to ensure more women can run, win, serve, and lead. Even following several "record"-breaking election cycles for women candidates, women continue to be underrepresented at every level of elected office.
More women in elected and appointed positions at every level of government will strengthen our democracy by making it more representative, reviving bi-partisanship and collaboration, improving the deliberative process, encouraging a new style of leadership, and building greater trust in our elected bodies.
RepresentWomen accomplishes its mission in these 4 ways:
RepresentWomen started as Representation2020, a program of the non-partisan reform group FairVote, that worked to build a solid intellectual foundation from which future work could grow. The team engages in research to track the status of women’s representation in the US and abroad, understand the underlying reasons women are underrepresented, and find evidence-based solutions to mitigate the problem. This inquiry resulted in a suite of reports, studies, and tracking tools that follow trends in women’s representation in the US and internationally.
This slideshow gives some additional background information on who we are, our research, and our ongoing projects.
The United States is founded on the ideal of representative democracy - of the people, by the people, and for the people - yet the overwhelming majority of elected and appointed positions in government, in the US, are held by cis-men.
Women make up half the population, but make up less than 30% of all elected officials in the United States; to learn more about the number of women at all levels of elected office visit our By the Numbers Page. Despite many "record"-breaking election cycles for women candidates, the United States continues to rank below much of the world for gender parity.
Women in the nations ranked above the United States in women’s representation are no more ambitious or skilled or ‘trained’ to run than American women but those nations have employed a variety of institutional reforms and intentional actions to level the playing field for women to advance in representation and leadership. Here in the United States, current strategies focus on preparing the individual woman to run, rather than change the systems that unfairly hold her back.
Research and experience confirms that female candidates face institutional barriers including recruitment practices that perpetuate status quo candidates, voting systems that protect incumbents and limit competition, and legislative norms that make it difficult for women to serve and lead effectively once elected.
The solution is clear: We must advance institutional reforms to win parity in our lifetimes. It’s time to move from short-term strategies focused solely on preparing individual women to navigate a system that holds them back, toward complementary medium-term strategies that dismantle the unfair barriers of that system. The United States has a rich history of mitigating unfair advantage through institutional reforms. Suffrage, Title IX, the Voting Rights Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act are all examples of successful civil rights advances that have changed institutions - not the individuals marginalized by those institutions.
RepresentWomen’s programs are focused on addressing the root of the problem and breaking down the barriers that hinder women’s full participation at every stage of their political career cycle. Our programs employ innovative strategies designed for maximum impact and sustained progress toward parity for all women.
Leveling the political playing field clearly benefits women candidates, but what does this do for all women? And what about the other half of the population? As it turns out, improving women’s descriptive representation not only empowers women, but also strengthens our democracy and serves the entire nation.
There has long been anecdotal evidence of women in political office working together and problem solving, but there is also new quantitative data to support those claims. Success stories, in combination with research, show that women improve productivity.
The research also shows that the advantages of women and their leadership styles are not dependent on women being a minority group in elected office; the benefits will continue as long as women continue serving. This is supported by studies in the business world, which show that having women in leadership roles helps increase profits. If productivity is the legislative equivalent of business profits, then electing women is the key to success for government efficacy.
Representation of the people is a fundamental pillar of a functioning democracy; yet, cis white men are overrepresented at every level of government.
To fulfill our country’s commitment to true democracy and to the values of liberty and equality, we must close this gap. Better representation will ensure women’s voices are heard and their issues fairly recognized, as studies show that women legislators are more likely than men to address women’s interests.
Representation in government affects more than just policy - it’s a tool for social empowerment.
The current underrepresentation of women in office is robbing future generations of women leaders and pioneers and preventing progress in our communities.
Studies show that “the presence of highly visible female politicians" inspires political engagement and aspirations amongst young girls and women, and that men also increase their involvement when more women candidates are on the ballot.
For a better government and society for all Americans, women’s representation is key.
Today’s political climate is a source of frustration for many Americans, as polarized beliefs and vindictive rhetoric engulf the nation. But women’s representation can help revive the declining bipartisan relationships that are absolutely necessary for our democracy to function.
Studies show women in elected office:
The heightened bipartisan collaboration that comes with women’s representation would create more respectful dialogue and keep politics focused on policy, not party.
The challenges and life experiences unique to women inform their policies and leadership styles, meaning they tackle issues from different angles than men do. By better representing women’s perspectives, we can revitalize and diversify policymaking.
The election of women has been shown to result in policies that:
Furthermore, an American University report finds that women legislators “work harder for their constituents,” and a study on city councils confirms that females “spend more time doing constituency service.”
While women’s leadership techniques are not inherently superior to men’s, the distinct priorities and traits they bring to the table may resonate better with some groups.
Today, Americans’ trust in their government is exceptionally frail - only 4% believe they can rely on Washington to do the right thing “just about always.”
The representation of women is a formidable solution to this distrust.
For example, the presence of women in government makes women voters feel that their issues are understood by their elected bodies, thus increasing confidence.
This is reinforced by the tendency of female politicians to make personal connections with their constituents, reassuring both men and women that their opinions have real impact on policymakers’ decisions.
Despite the gender diversity which exists in our country, our elected officials continue to be overwhelmingly, cis, white and male; leaving huge swathes of our population underrepresented at every level of government.
To have a truly representative democracy women must be fairly and proportionally represented lending their unique perspectives and legislative skills to the decision making process.
Improving the representation of only cis-women will not solve our current representation crisis, in fact it will only compound representational problems rife within American democracy.
Gender does not exist in a binary and neither should representation, and everyone across the spectrum deserves fair representation at every level of politics. Right now our elected officials are overwhelmingly cis-men. Political gatekeepers and electoral structures must be changed to improve the representation of cis-women, transgender folk and nonbinary individuals alike.