Our mission is to reform the institutions and structures that hold women back from running for office rather than forcing women to change. Increasing the recruitment, training, and funding of women candidates will be more effective in getting women elected at every level of government.
Below are suggestions on how to dismantle these barriers for women who want to run for office.
Recruiting women to run for office is one of the central challenges to achieving gender parity in the United States. RepresentWomen challenges political parties, PACS, and 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.
Political parties in many states and localities play a significant role in deciding who runs for office - they must be challenged to be deliberate about the number of women candidates they recruit.
Local, state, and national political parties should establish Gender Parity Committees to assess the status of women’s representation and determine targets for the recruitment of women candidates. Pressure from party members may also work to make parties recruit more women candidates and to hold them accountable for their action - or lack of action as the case may be.
An annual report should be prepared by the local or state party on the status of women’s representation in its own leadership, in the number of women candidates, nominees, and general election winners in the most recent election, and its plans to recruit women for upcoming elections.
Political Action Committees (PACs) play decisive roles in recruiting, endorsing and funding candidates - they must be challenged to be intentional in the number of women candidates they recruit, support, and fund.
Many PACs underfund women candidates overall, because they focus their funding on incumbents, most of whom are men. While women-oriented PACs like EMILY’s List and VIEW PAC already are committed to supporting female candidates, other PACs should intentionally and deliberately commit to contributing a certain share of their funds to female candidates. You can find some of our PAC case studies below.
PACs should set funding targets for women candidates, and increase those targets every election cycle until parity is reached. With public pressure, equal funding for male and female candidates may become a value proposition for PACs. The PAC environment is highly competitive and they are always looking for new ways to look different from other PACs to appeal to donors.
Read more about the breakdown of PAC giving in 2018 and our recommendations for PACs and donors in our latest report PACs and Donors: Agents of Change for Women's Representation.
Individual donor contributions are crucial to the success of women candidates for every level of office. Money is not only required to run a campaign, but often times, fundraising is the first test of a candidate’s viability. Overall, individual donors are less likely to be women, and women who do donate on average give less than men. This can have a gendered outcome for candidates and campaigns.
Donors must also be challenged to set targets for the number of women candidates they support or the proportion of their total donations that go to women candidates. Donors may choose to set their own targets for support of women candidates or work in concert with others to make their pledge public. Influential donor pledges to support women candidates will help to build public pressure for increased support of women candidates.
RepresentWomen teamed up with the Center for Responsive Politics, to analyze the data collected on PAC and individual donations during the 2018 election with a gender lens. Our analysis can be found in our report, "PACs and Donors: Agents of Change for Women's Representation" the follow up to our 2016 report "Individual and PAC Giving to Women Candidates." Our data center can be found here.
Our findings include:
Often when we discuss the underrepresentation of women in politics our conversations focus on the legislative and executive branch. In order to have true gender parity for women in government, we need to remember to talk about the judiciary.
Despite women attending law school at equal rates as men, they continue to be underrepresented in both elected and appointed judicial positions. As a result, RepresentWomen created the Balanced Bench Project, an exploration of women’s representation in judicial positions.
Women’s Underrepresentation in the Judiciary by Grace Knobler
Women are Underrepresented on the Courts by Evelien van Gelderen
Introducing the Balanced Bench Project by Katie Pruitt
Women and Law Review: A Stepping Stone to Leadership? by Maura Reilly