Is it a “Happy 4th of July” for Women’s Political Leadership?

There have been a total of 237 4th of Julys… and still I find myself asking the same question: Where are the women?

As Gloria Feldt points out in a previous post there are many organizations that exist purely to train women to run for office and assist women by funding their campaigns. While this is a tremendous idea and increasing the number of women in the US political system is clearly an issue that needs to be addressed, Gloria points out that “these organizations are scarcely moving the dial. At the rate we’re going, it will take another 70 years for women to reach parity in elected office.” That’s 70 more 4th of Julys. That puts the United States at our 307th 4th of July before we see gender parity in the U.S. political system.

recent report of 10 countries – Australia, Canada, Colombia, Greece, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Norway, the U.K. and the United States – demonstrates the horrifying reality that “women around the world know less about politics than do men, regardless of how progressive a country is in terms of gender equality.”  This is one of the many reasons women are not running for office.

Another prime reason is the ambition gap between men and women. And according to Represent! women are less likely to be recruited to run for office, women are less likely than men to think they are qualified to serve (even when they are more qualified!), and women are less likely to have the networks in place to support them as they run. Running Start has also found that “women often handicap themselves by not considering a run for office until much later in life than their male counterparts, fewer women put themselves forward as candidates, women are not understanding the process of running for office, and generally women need to be asked to run repeatedly before they seriously consider launching a campaign.”

As someone who has personally done a lot of work around the issue of advocating gender parity in the U.S. political system, I would add another reason as to why we are far from having gender balance when it comes to political representation: when it comes to women in leadership, 20-30% is seen as acceptable and “good enough”. Why do we settle for these percentages when it comes to women? Why have we settled for 20-30%? Would society accept the same low percentages if it were men who only held 20-30% of the seats? I don’t think so.

Looking at the figures can be a depressing process. So on a more positive note, what haschanged? Well, people are paying attention. Wendy Davis, a Texas State Senator, has been a major topic of mainstream conversation for an 11 hour filibuster she conducted to stop restrictive abortion bills. For the most part, only her district and people extremely in-tuned with politics knew who she was before this filibuster. Now the whole country knows who she is. 200,000 people watched her on Livestream until an official decision to drop the bill was made. Wendy Davis now has 127,060 followers on Twitter, which is a MASSIVE amount for a State Senator.

Even the GOP is jumping on board. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said, “We recognize that getting more women into politics means offering support and training for women of all ages from staff to those seeking elected office and simply asking more women to run.” And so the National Republican Congressional Committee announced “Project GROW” (Growing Republican Opportunities for Women), focusing on recruitment and campaigns for women. And that’s not all. The Republican State Leadership Committee launched “Right Women, Right Now,” which pledges to recruit 300 new candidates, with the goal of electing 150 women at the state level.

So, what can YOU do? I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: online action. Use social media outlets such as Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc. to promote civic engagement and increase the amount of interest in the political process. As Gloria mentioned in the Take The Lead Women Webinar – 3 Power Tools for Women  60% of social media users are women. And thus far social media has proven to be a great resource for women to use in order to take political action.

You may be wondering how you will be able to celebrate this Independence Day and not get depressed looking at the figures. Here is what I suggest:

  1. Get informed! Find out how well your state is doing when it comes to the proportion of women representation. You might even be pleasantly surprised at how many female politicians there in your state that you were not even aware of!

  2. Follow some politically active women’s organizations on Twitter who frequently provide opportunities to take online action and advertise information and event opportunities. A few of my personal favorites are: @PPact, @msfoundation, and @SheShouldRun

  3. Call your city council’s office and ask if there are any volunteer, intern, or career opportunities to get more involved in the political process within your community.

  4. And finally, sign up for the 9 Practical Leadership “Power Tools” For Women To Accelerate Your Career two-part webinar series

Happy 4th of July everyone!

About the Author

Kaitlin Rattigan is a recent graduate with an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution with a concentration in Gender and Peacebuilding. She is a firm believer in social media as an effective and meaningful tool to promote positive societal change. Never underestimate the power of 140 characters. Kaitlin is a voice for the Millennials, a constructive disruptionist, an advocate for women’s leadership, and is a believer in challenging and expanding the definitions of what it means to be a feminist. For gender-analytical fem-tastic commentary on current events, follow Kaitlin @KaitlinRattigan. Do you have an issue you want highlighted on The Movement Blog? Is there an area within women’s leadership that you feel passionate about and want to share with a wide audience? Feel free to send Kaitlin a DM or Tweet to @KaitlinRattigan with the hashtag #Women2025 and let’s keep the conversation going and work together to propel women into their equal share of leadership positions by 2025.