There are now 20,000 more cracks (and counting) in the glass ceiling. Emily’s List announced at the Women’s Convention in Detroit on Saturday that more than 20,000 women across the country have thrown their hat into the ring to run for public office. “It was this convention that pushed us over,” Emily’s List president Stephanie Schriock tells Refinery29. “We were at 19,000 last week and basically the past few days we shot up.”
There is a continuing wave of interest in running among progressive women that started almost immediately after Secretary Hillary Clinton’s loss in November. “Over 1,000 women hit the link on our website [to learning how to run] within four weeks of the election,” Schriock says. For the entire 2016 election cycle, which had been the group’s biggest to date before last November, Emily’s List heard from a grand total of 920 women.
Roughly half of the women who’ve reached out to Emily’s List, which was founded in 1985 to elect pro-choice women to office, are under age 45. All 50 states are represented. Schriock estimates that around 40% are looking to run in local races, such as city council and school board in their communities. Others are eyeing congressional races, some as soon as 2018.
“They’re not all running right now, but what they’re saying is I want to run. I want to serve. I want to make sure the voices of my community are heard. And I believe I can win,” Schriock says. “And they can! These are the voices that have been missing.”
Right now, the numbers reflect a dismal picture for gender parity in American politics. Women hold just 19.6% of seats in Congress, only 25% of the seats in state legislatures, and 24% of statewide executive positions, such as governor and lieutenant governor, according to the Center for American Women in Politics.
Research shows that while women candidates have an equal likelihood as their male counterparts at winning elections, far fewer women run. The reasons for this are myriad, ranging from women being more likely to be the sole caregiver for their families to women (especially women of color) being “systematically” underfunded by political action committees, according to a report from the Center for American Progress released earlier this year.
Earlier this week, Politico reported that the GOP has been working on building a copycat of Emily’s List. Their effort, named Winning For Women, will work to funnel dollars to Republican women candidates as a way to address another gap: the number of Republican women serving versus the number of Democratic women.
Schriock is not convinced that strategy will work, saying, “As long as the Republican Party continues to push for policies that hurt women, they will have trouble recruiting and electing women candidates for office.”
Sen. Gillibrand, who also runs a PAC for women candidates called Off the Sidelines, says she’s unfamiliar with Winning For Women or any GOP effort, but added, “When women are at the table, regardless of party, there is more consensus building and more work getting done.”