Women Run

Women Run

Posted on Take Action on March 12, 2021

Women Run

Recruiting gender-diverse candidates to run for office is one of the central challenges to achieving a democracy which accurately reflects the diversity of its citizens. RepresentWomen challenges political parties, PACS, and individual donors to commit to intentional actions to ensure that more women are recruited to run. These voluntary targets mimic the quotas that are used in over 100 nations to fuel the election of women candidates.


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Incarcerated Women

Posted on Our Research on September 10, 2020

In the past few decades there has been heightened interest in and scholarship in incarceration and the incarcerated population in the United States. However, much of this research has surrounded male incarceration rates, often overlooking the growing number of incarcerated women. While male incarceration rates have steadily declined in the past decade with the help of public scrutiny, women have become the fastest-growing incarcerated population. Between 1980 and 2017, the population of incarcerated women has risen by 750% (The Sentencing Project, 2019). Along with the rapid growth, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women face unique challenges in re-entering society and regaining voting rights all of which impact their political representation. To learn more about incarcerated women and political representation read our 2020 brief below. 

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Incarceration impacts political representation by:

  • Requiring formerly incarcerated individuals to pay legal financial obligations (LFOs) before being re-enfranchised. This pay-to-vote system is particularly difficult for formerly incarcerated women who face higher rates of unemployment both before and after incarceration than men. 
  • Prison gerrymandering counts incarcerated individuals as residents of the prison's district rather than their home communities in the decennial census. This impacts both the funding and representation given to both the prison and home communities. 

Further research and resources on the topic can be found from allies in the field at: the Vera Institute of Justice, the Prison Policy Initiative, the Sentencing Project, and the following podcast with Michele Goodwin. 

Women and the U.S. Presidency

Posted on Our Research on August 03, 2020

As six women entered the field of Democratic presidential candidates in 2019, the political media rushed to declare 2020 a new "year of the woman." The excited tone projected by the media carried an air of inevitability: after Hillary Clinton lost in 2016, despite receiving 2.8 million more popular votes than her opponent, even more women were running for the presidency. 

There is a reason, however, why historical inevitability has not yet been fully realized. While many were excited to see more than one woman featured in the presidential debates this cycle, the media's focus on this "broken milestone" masks the structural inequalities in our political system that heavily favor men at every level of government. Overwhelming evidence suggests that women continue to face an uphill battle in U.S. political life, and until we fix the rules of the game, the outcome will not change. 

The following text, "Women and the Presidency," presents a complete history of women running for the highest executive offices, the structural barriers they faced, and our theory of change for rebalancing the equation. This text also appears in a new book, The Best Candidate: Presidential Nomination in Polarized Times (September 2020), which is now available for purchase



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Milestones and Candidate Firsts for the Presidency and Vice Presidency

  • 1848 - Lucretia Mott (LP) was the first woman to have her name placed in nomination for executive office (VP) by the Liberty Party
  • 1872 - Victoria Woodhull (ERP) was the first woman to run for President and receive a party nomination with the Equal Rights Party, though some dispute this, as she was only 33 at the time of her nomination, and the U.S. Constitution mandates that the president be at least 35 years old
  • 1884 - Belva Lockwood (ERP) was the next woman named as the presidential nominee for the Equal Rights Party. Her running mate, Marietta Stow, was also a woman
  • 1920 - Laura Clay (D) and Cora Wilson Stewart (D) were the first women to seek a major party's nomination, they were also the first women to run after the passage of the 19th Amendment 
  • *1956 - Eleanor Roosevelt (D) and Margaret Chase Smith (R) participated in the first televised presidential debate as surrogates for Adlai Stevenson (D) and Dwight Eisenhower (R)
  • 1964 - Margaret Chase Smith (R) was the first woman to run for the Republican presidential nomination, and was a sitting U.S. Senator at the time
  • 1968 - Charlene Mitchell (CP) was the first African American woman to run for president; she was nominated by the Communist Party
  • 1972 - Theodora "Tonie" Nathan (L) was the first woman to receive an electoral college vote as a VP candidate and Libertarian 
  • 1972 - Shirley Chisholm (D), Patsy Mink (D), and Bella Abzug (D) each vied for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination; by the time of the convention, only Chisholm and Mink remained. This event constitutes a milestone as it was the first time multiple women sought a major party's nomination at the same time. And a woman has sought a major party's nomination for the presidency or vice presidency in every election cycle since. 
    • Shirley Chisholm was also the first African-American woman to seek a major party's presidential nomination
    • Patsy Mink, who is perhaps best known for having a hand in Title IX, also holds the distinction of being the first Asian-American woman to seek a major party's presidential nomination
  • 1976 - Ellen McCormack (D) became the first woman presidential candidate to receive secret service protection during her campaign 
  • 1984 - Geraldine Ferraro (D) became the first woman to win the VP nomination of a major party; she received 13 electoral votes
  • 1988 - Lenora Fulani (NAP) became the first African-American woman and first woman presidential candidate to gain ballot access in all 50 states; she was backed by the New Alliance Party and her running mate was Joyce Dattner
  • 2008 - Sarah Palin (R) was the VP nominee for the Republican Party; she received 173 electoral votes and thus broke Ferraro's record 
  • 2012; 2016 - Jill Stein (G) received the second- and third-most votes of all women presidential candidates in a general election, in 2016 and 2012 respectively. Hillary Clinton received the highest number of votes in 2016
  • 2016 - Hillary Clinton (D) became the first woman presidential nominee of a major party and the first woman to win the popular vote in a presidential election. She received over 65 million popular votes and 227 electoral votes
  • 2020 - Tulsi Gabbard (D), Kristen Gillibrand (D), Kamala Harris (D), Amy Klobuchar (D), Elizabeth Warren (D), and Marianne Williamson (D); for the first time in history, six women declared their candidacies for the presidency in the same electoral cycle, and vied for the Democratic Party's nomination
  • 2020 - Kamala Harris (D) became the VP nominee for the Democratic Party; on November 7th, 2020, Harris addressed the nation as Vice President-Elect. Upon Inaguration Day 2021, Kamala Harris will become the nation's first woman Vice President, as well as the first African American and Asian American VP in the history of the United States. 

Party Rules

Posted on Our Research on June 23, 2020

Since women earned the right to vote 100 years ago, political parties have been looking for ways to engage women in the political process. Both the Democratic and Republican national parties have enacted gender balance rules to attempt to achieve gender parity amongst their state delegates to national conventions. Following these national policies, some state parties have established guidelines for choosing who to send to their state conventions, requiring gender balance at local levels. The team at RepresentWomen has worked with the pro-bono team at Hogan Lovells to research each state party’s rules. The visuals are based on that research. The brief below explores the history and the constitutionality of these rules

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Download Data Further Reading 

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PACs and Donors

Posted on Our Research on November 17, 2019

PACs and Donors have a pivotal role to play in improving women's elected representation. During the 2020 Congressional elections PACs continued to give more money to men than women because men continue to make up the majority of candidates and incumbents. 

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Evergreen Recommendations for PACs and Donors

  • PACs should fund women in open-seat races at the same rate as men. This is true for both Membership PACs and Leadership PACs, both of which overfund incumbent men at the cost of women and people color running in open-seat races. 
  • PACs should become active agents for change by setting funding targets for women candidates. These funding targets for women candidates should increase with every election cycle until gender parity is reached in Congress.
  • PACs, like political parties, should consult with organizations that recruit and train women candidates. Building with these organizations PACs can use their role as political gatekeepers to build a pool of candidates and design enforcement mechanisms for reaching legislative gender parity.
  • Donors should set targets for the number of women candidates they support - high impact donors should work in concert to publicize their commitment to women candidates.
  • The public should hold PACs & donors accountable for meeting their targets through withholding gifts to PACs that don't meet their target and by rewarding those that do. Members of membership PACs should call on their leadership to commit to funding more women and call them out when they fail.

PACs and Donors: Agents of Change for Women's Representation

Our 2020 PAC report shows that PACs and donors have an active role to play in leveling the playing field for women in politics. Even as some political scientists dispute the impact campaign spending has on electoral outcomes, anyone following the 2020 primaries knows that the viability of a candidate is often evaluated in part by her fundraising ability. Our 2020 PAC report on the 2018 election cycle, analyzes the data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics with a gender lens. PACs and donors have a vital role to play as changemakers in 2020 and beyond and helping to increase women's representation. 

Scroll further for the key highlights from this report, as well as a list of actions PACs and donors can take to be changemakers and help advance women's representation and leadership in the United States. 


Download PAC Case Studies Handouts and Presentations Data Center What are PACs?

Key Findings

  • Overall, individual donors are less likely to be women, and women who do donate on average donate less than men. This can have a gendered outcome for candidates and campaigns.
  • It takes more money to win as a woman. Although success rates between men and women are roughly equal when in the same race type, to win as a woman requires more money. Specifically women who won in challenger and open seat races significantly outraised those who lost. 
  • Republican women are particularly underfunded. Republican women received the least amount of funding from both PACs and individual donors. Additionally, while the number of women elected to Congress in 2018 arched a record high, the number of Republican women declined. 
  • Intentional action must be taken to level the electoral playing field. Due to the structural imbalance of power and systemic barriers women face to increasing their representation, intentional actions, such as committing to recruiting and funding more women candidates, will have a profound impact on women's representation.


We would like to thank the Center of Responsive Politics for their ongoing work in tracking campaign contributions by PACs and donations to PACs, broken down by sector and industry. 

Our Mission

Posted on About Us on July 25, 2019

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:

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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.

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