How To Level The Playing Field For Women In Politics

Women running for office and even president has become less surprising over the years, but with high profile candidate Hillary Clinton making waves — despite a lack of women representation on Capitol Hill — advocacy groups are looking to seize on her success.

“Some women may feel like their vote doesn’t matter, or ‘I just want to vote but not get involved,’” said Deidre Malone, VP of communications for the National Women’s Political Caucus. “But I want them to know every legislative body impacts your life, so you need to make sure the interests that are important to you are heard.”

Despite only making up 20% of Congress and an even smaller number of governors, women actually vote more often than men. The problem, experts say, is they simply don’t have women to vote into office.

“Thirty years from now, we’ll look back and be in a different place, but it will take time to reach parity in office because we need to reach parity in running,” said Kathleen Dolan, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “We have made significant progress; it’s been a pretty steadily slow increase. Is it too slow? Yes. Will we get there eventually? Hopefully.”

Men typically run as a political ambition, it’s just the next step in their career. Women run because they see a problem, they say ‘This is why I want to run and how do I accomplish it.'

Jess McIntosh, EMILY's List
Advertisement
Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina both have hopes of becoming the next president, and if groups like EMILY's List and others can bring more women into politics, Fiorina and Clinton will be the norm, not the exception.

Why aren’t more women running for office? The problem is multi-faceted, but a major reason boils down to simply not having enough confidence in their abilities.

“Women are very slow to advance through the government, so it’s important to encourage women,” said Michele Swers, a political science professor at Georgetown University. “They also need to help women raise the money. They need good resources to help the women.”

Enter organizations that have made it their mission to help empower and educate women to vote, get involved in advocacy groups, and even run for office.

“As we went along, we had a lot of women who were political leaders but just didn’t realize it,” said Kimberly Mitchem-Rasmussen, founder of the Political Institute for Women. “They wanted to do it but weren’t always trained well. We have a group of courses and help them with how to raise money, put together a campaign, how to navigate a legislative session, and so much more. “

Jess McIntosh, the VP of communications for EMILY’s List said what caused her to get involved in the organization is also what leads other women to run for office: seeing a problem and wanting to fix it.

“Women tend to run to get something done,” McIntosh said. “Men typically run as a political ambition, it’s just the next step in their career. Women run because they see a problem, they say, ‘This is why I want to run and how do I accomplish it.’”

As we went along, we had a lot of women who were political leaders but just didn’t realize it.

Kimberly Mitchem-Rasmussen, Political Institute for Women
One factor that isn’t keeping women out of politics? The fear of being “held back” by a family. Jennifer Lawless, a professor at American University, interviewed potential women candidates in 2014 and few of them listed family as their reason for possibly not running.

Educating women at an early age is something Mitchem-Rasmussen believes is crucial in order to get more women in office eventually. In addition to founding the Political Institute for Women, she also started the “Girls in Politics” Initiative.

“I’ve had parents say ‘My daughter wants to be a president,’” she said. “When they get surrounded by other girls who don’t want to become pop stars it’s amazing; they just light up. My daughter has a list of friends she can call up and talk about Russian foreign policy with.”

As women make more strides, many are optimistic about equal representation — and 2016 could be the first major step in making it happen.

“We have to make sure to capitalize on years like these,” McIntosh said. “We have to seize it as a moment and hopefully make it a movement.”
Advertisement

More from US News

Throughout history, Americans have used activism as a tool to seek positive change in communities and in government. That's no different today. With ...
Election Day lasts just one day — a 24-hour culmination of the seemingly never-ending campaign season. But we’ll spend the next two, four, six years ...
1. Here At Home: A teenager killed his father before opening fire at a school in South Carolina where he wounded two students and a teacher. ...
If the chaotic party politics of the 2016 election have left you feeling completely birdbrained, this video is for you. The Founding Fathers (presented ...
California passed a law Wednesday removing the state's 10-year statute of limitations for filing of child molestation and rape charges. Governor Jerry ...
Monday night was the personification of media bias and rigged politics
If you had to describe the current political climate in America, what word would you choose: volatile, toxic, or divisive? Perhaps all of the above. ...
Hillary Clinton has been a role model for our generation for years, and now she’s laying out a master class in taking on workplace sexism
1. Major News: A bill to prevent the government from shutting down and to fund the fight against Zika was stalled in the Senate. With a 45-55 vote, the...
But take heart. There won’t be a President Trump. Not if I and millions of other women in this country have anything to say about it
A young girl delivered a powerful message of peace speaking at the first Charlotte City Council meeting since violence threatened to rip the city apart ...
Hillary Clinton long ago learned to let the insults roll off her back. And in doing so, she’s uncovered Trump's Achilles' heel
Donald Trump believes that climate change is a hoax. Sorry, Donald Trump does not believe that climate change is a hoax. Are you confused yet? I don't ...
Less than 12 hours after being criticized for calling out a former Miss Universe about her weight, Donald Trump is doubling down on his body-shaming ...