Why Women?

Almost five times as many men hold elected office in the United States than women. The United States currently ranks 95th in the world in the number of women serving in their national legislatures. We are behind Mexico, China and Pakistan.  In Virginia;

  • Women hold only 6 of the 40 State Senate seats
  • 19 of the 100 seats in the House of Delegates are women, for a 17.9% rate of representation
  • Out of 11 seats, we have zero female members of Congress
  • Of the 18 cities in Virginia with populations over 30,000, only 3 are led by women mayors
  • In the 225 years since its statehood, Virginia has elected a total of three women to the U.S. House of Representatives, zero women to the U.S. Senate, and zero women as Governor of Virginia. Only one woman has ever been elected statewide.  Of 140 State Legislators, only 25 are women.

But perhaps even more significant than gender parity, women have a different understanding on needs in policy areas such as healthcare, transportation, education and jobs. Women in elected office bring new perspectives to issues, which increases the likelihood of conceiving and implementing effective and just solutions to social, economic, and environmental problems. After all, women represent over half of the world’s skills, knowledge, and talents.

Emerge America Advisory Board member Dr. Jennifer Lawless serves as the director of the Women & Politics Institute at American University. She is a nationally recognized expert on women's involvement in politics. She and Richard L. Fox co-wrote the book, It Still Takes a Candidate: Why Women Don't Run for Office, Men Rule: The Continued Under-Representation of Women in U.S. Politics, and the more recent report, Girls Just Wanna Not Run: The Gender Gap in Young Americans' Political Ambition. She has also published numerous articles in political science journals and has issued several policy reports on the barriers that impede women’s candidate emergence.

The only systematic, nationwide empirical account of the manner in which gender affects political ambition, Dr. Lawless’ research shows: 

  • women, even in the highest tiers of professional accomplishment, are substantially less likely than men to demonstrate ambition to seek elective office;
  • women are less likely than men to be recruited to run for office and are less likely than men to think they are qualified to run for office;
  • women are less likely than men to express a willingness to run for office in the future;
  • this gender gap in political ambition persists across generations and over time;
  • despite cultural evolution and society's changing attitudes toward women in politics, running for public office remains a much less attractive and feasible endeavor for women than for men; and
  • even with the emergence over the past ten years of high-profile women in politics, the gap between women and men's interest in running for office is the same today as it was a decade ago.

Emerge Virginia is working with the entire Emerge network to actively tackle the monumental problems exhibited by the under-representation of women. You don’t have to look any further than the headlines to see that we need more women at the decision making table. Not only does this under-representation present a contradiction to the principles of democracy, but women in elected office continue to demonstrate their ability to find effective solutions to the multitude of problems currently facing our country.

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