New research by Jennifer Lawless of American University shows that – finally – women running for state and Congressional office are as likely to win as men. Lawless speculates that party trumps gender now, with voters more likely to vote for a woman than cross party lines. When women throw their support behind women candidates, they have a very good chance of winning at the state and federal levels. And the result matters to us: when women executives and business owners support and elect women candidates, we can get our issues on the public policy table. We need people who reflect us sitting at that table. Here are 5 steps you can take right now that will propel our progress as women:
- Find women to run. Ask someone you know to run, and ask at least three times. Research shows that women need to be asked to run -- and then encouraged. Research by Lawless also shows that candidates for local and Congressional office don’t face the level of sexism they once did or that Hillary faced during the presidential run, and that unless the candidate makes her gender central to her run, sexism doesn’t gain traction.
- Discuss policies with women candidates that you want to see enacted. They will be writing legislation, so push for what matters to working women and working mothers: paid family leave, equal pay, affordable child care, the Equal Rights Amendment.
- Support a woman candidate with your time. Join her campaign, talk her up with your network and recruit others to work for her. Women listen to their friends when it comes to choosing for whom they will vote, so take the initiative and get out the word about women candidates who will support what you need to succeed and thrive.
- Support a woman candidate with a contribution. Women write smaller checks to candidates than men, so make it a generous one!
- Get out and knock on doors for women candidates. Canvassing is actually fun and a lot easier than you think. So if you are remotely a people-person, volunteer for a local or state race now, and for Congressional races in 2018. Volunteer to make calls for her. Remember that get-out-the-vote matters because elections in some districts have been won by as few as five votes. Every vote matters!
With women currently at under 20% of our Congress and under a quarter of state house seats, it’s up to us as women to step up and fight for an equal voice. Betty Spence, Ph.D. Co-founder, EW4Her