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  • Writer's pictureThe Ascend Fund

Michigan - Parity Has Progressed

The Ascend Fund is a collaborative fund dedicated to accelerating the pace of change toward gender parity in U.S. politics. As part of our "Start with the States” strategy, we’re investing in three pilot states – Washington, Michigan, and Mississippi. By testing strategies in these very different states The Ascend Fund will gain valuable insight before expanding to all 50 states. Learn more about this project and the RFP process for this round of funding.

Propelled by the largest voter turnout in 50 years, women’s representation in the Michigan State Legislature skyrocketed from 25% to almost 36%, as a result of the 2018 election. [1] This increase pushed the state, which was previously ranked 27th in the nation for women’s representation, to 12th. Additionally, in 2018 voters elected women to three statewide offices (governor, attorney general, and secretary of state) and sent six women to Congress. [2]

Percentage Women in the Michigan State Legislature

Data: Center for American Women in Politics

In 2020, women sustained the progress they made in 2018, but unfortunately did not build upon it. Today, 42 women (27 Democrats and 15 Republicans) serve in the Michigan State House, representing 38% of members. [3] In the State Senate, 11 women (8 Democrats and 3 Republicans) account for 29% of members. [4]

Data: Center for American Women in Politics

Barriers to Parity in Michigan

Progress made to date means Michigan must only elect an additional 21 women to reach gender parity in the state’s legislature. However, progress to parity in Michigan is further complicated by the fact that it is one of 15 states with term limits for state legislators. State legislators can serve in the House for just three two-year terms (a total of six years) and in the Senate for two four-year terms (a total of eight years). Not only are these the shortest term limits in the nation, but Michigan’s term limits are lifetime bans.

Term limits pose both positives and negatives for electing women. For instance, women typically prefer to run for open seats, as opposed to challenging an incumbent, and with term limits seats come open much more often. However, it can be hard to maintain progress when women are forced to give up their seats after just a few terms. With this constant turnover, organizations need to continually recruit and train new women to run for the state legislature.


“Politics weren’t really on my radar. I was working as an organizer on a number of different issues — affirmative action, immigrant rights, voting rights, criminal justice reforms — then Rashida Tlaib and other friends asked me to consider running for office when Rashida reached her term limit. I was reluctant at first, but I ultimately realized it was a great opportunity to make a difference in a bigger way.” [5]

- State Senator & Minority Floor Leader Stephanie Chang


Investing in Michigan to Maintain and Accelerate the Pace of Parity

At the current rate of change, women are projected to reach political parity in the Michigan Legislature by 2042. To increase the number of women running and winning, and accelerate the rate of change, The Ascend Fund will invest an initial $180,000 in nonprofit, nonpartisan, state-based organizations in Michigan. We will build broad, creative coalitions of organizations that support gender and racial equity and electing women from other underrepresented and marginalized communities. And we will work with our state partners to identify common barriers to elected office that are unique to the political environment in Michigan and design strategies to remove, reduce, or circumvent them, allowing more women to run.

Percentage Women in the Michigan State Legislature

Data: Center for American Women in Politics

Our partners will also analyze legislative districts and identify seats with the greatest opportunity, and then leverage the coalition members’ grassroots networks to recruit diverse candidates for targeted legislative seats on both sides of the aisle. To increase the likelihood that women win, the coalition will provide candidates with the training, tools, resources, and support to successfully run for office. Combined we believe these efforts will result in women achieving parity by 2028.

Why States & Why Women

A lot of attention is paid to the 535 members of Congress who represent Americans in Washington, D.C., but given the partisan gridlock plaguing politics in our nation’s capital, critical policy decisions are increasingly made by the 148 members of the Michigan Legislature. The bills passed at the state level have a cascading influence across our communities and government, directly impacting the everyday lives of constituents in both positive and negative ways.


“We’re finally getting to a point where we see the conversation changing... and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’re seeing more and more women getting into office and starting to lead that conversation.” [6]

- State Senator Mallory McMorrow


Electing more women and ensuring the composition of the Michigan State Legislature reflects the state’s diverse population isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s what’s good for democracy. [7] When elected, women are more effective lawmakers, working not just harder but also more collaboratively than their male peers. [8] Not only do women introduce and pass more bills, but they also prioritize legislation that benefits women, children, and families. [9] Women are also more likely to co-sponsor bills with other woman and reach across the aisle to find a bipartisan compromise. The bottom line: the more women in office, the more that gets accomplished. [10]

To learn more about our efforts or to apply for funding, visit

[1] Center for American Women and Politics. (2020). State Fact Sheet - Michigan. [2] Bridge Michigan. (2018, Nov. 7). Overnight, it’s a new Michigan. Women sweep to power in change election.

[3] Center for American Women and Politics. (2020). State Fact Sheet - Michigan. [4] Center for American Women and Politics. (2020). State Fact Sheet - Michigan.

[6] Kivel. (2021, May 26). This State Senator Gave Birth While in Office, During COVID. Here’s What She Learned. The Gander, Michigan’s Newsroom.

[7] Moscatello. (2019). Vote for the Woman Because She’s a Woman. Time. [8]Miller. (2016, Nov. 10). Women Actually Do Govern Differently. New York Times. Eagly & Johannesen-Schmidt. (2001). The Leadership Styles of Women and Men. Journal of Social Issues. [9] National Women’s Law Center. (2020). Women’s Political Representation and Legislative Achievements: How Women Are Changing State Legislatures. Volden, Wiseman, & Wittmer. (2018). Women’s Issues & Their Fate in the U.S. Congress. Political Science Research & Methods. [10] Eagle & Johnson. (1990). Gender and Leadership Style: A Meta-Analysis. Psychological Bulletin. Anzia & Berry. (2011). The Jackie (and Jill) Robinson Effect: Why Do Congresswomen Outperform Congressmen? American Journal of Political Science.


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