Webmaster’s Note — The following is a guest piece by Milly Doolan of the 2012 Project. It is especially timely given this piece in today’s Los Angeles Times about the proportion of women officeholders flat-lining and slipping. The Times Reports:
“The number of women sworn in to Congress this year fell for the first time in 30 years, leaving women with just 16% of congressional seats.
And the number of female lawmakers in state capitals decreased by 81 this year, the largest percentage drop in decades.”
By Milly Doolan
The United States has a poor track record of electing women to public office. According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s world average of women in politics, the U.S. ranks 67th in the number of women in elected office and is tied with Turkmenistan. In fact the number of women in Congress as well as state legislatures is at its lowest point in several decades.
The problem is not that women aren’t winning elections, it’s that they aren’t running. Research has shown that women need to be asked and recruited to run for office. Moreover, women are more likely to come up with reasons why not to run – family constraints, concerns about privacy – than reasons to do so.
The 2012 Project, a national non-partisan campaign in partnership with Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics, aims to inspire record numbers of women to break barriers and run for public office in 2012. The election of 2012 presents a once-a-decade opportunity. Following the 2010 census, every congressional and state legislative district in the country is being redrawn, and new and open seats will be created. Previous elections have shown that women have more success winning open seats.
One such example is Representative Nydia Velazquez who was the first Puerto Rican woman elected to Congress. She was also the first to represent the newly redrawn 12th District of the state of New York. This was in 1992 when 24 additional women were elected to Congress.
But 1992 was no accident. The so-called “Year of the Woman” was the product of a national coordinated effort by women’s groups aimed at reaching out to women to run for office. There was no similar effort in 2002 … and no gain for women.
The election of 2012 represents another year of opportunity for women, especially Hispanic women. As reapportionment maps show, states with a significant rise in the Hispanic population, such as Texas and Florida, are gaining 4 and 2 seats respectively.
The 2012 Project has assembled a faculty of former elected women legislators to share the facts about women’s under representation and the many benefits of public service. Women interested in taking the next step toward candidacy are connected to leadership institutes, think tanks, campaign training programs and fundraising networks designed to help them succeed in their own states. So far, 90 bipartisan allies, including MANA and the National Hispana Leadership Institute, and more than 50 former elected officials and consultants are helping The 2012 Project reach out to potential candidates.
Women make up 51 percent of the U.S. population yet only 16 percent of the U.S. Congress. The 2012 Project understands the urgency and the opportunity of the post-redistricting election cycle. Consider yourself invited to help find great women, or step forward yourself. It’s time. Ya es tiempo.