Too many men. In the 2022 election, women gained just two seats in Congress and now account for only 27.9% of the 535 members.
Photo source: Business Insider
The 2022 midterm election was a staunch reminder that progress towards gender parity in politics is neither linear nor guaranteed, and that we need to keep working to remove systemic barriers so women can achieve 50% representation, in all 50 states, by 2050. Following the 2022 election, women make up just 32.7% of state legislators, a moderate increase from 31.1% in 2022, but women lost seats in 11 states, and the number of women in Congress remained virtually stagnant.
While we celebrate the successes (women now hold a record 12 governor’s office) and grapple with the losses, at The Ascend Fund we are more committed than ever to gender parity in politics, not only because it is what is right, but also because it is what is good for our democracy. When women lead, our nation is transformed. There’s power in political representation and our elected officials should reflect the diversity of our communities. In other words, it’s past time to elect a woman president!
To do so, we must expand our collective imagination of what a leader looks like. We must fight to reduce the electability bias against women in executive positions and women of color. And we must commit to doing the hard work to sustain gains once achieved. Here are our key takeaways from the 2022 midterm election to take forward as we prepare for 2024:
1. Encourage Women to Run
Until women are 50% of candidates, it’s unlikely they will be 50% of elected officials. Reach out to women you know and encourage them to run. It’s also helpful to connect them to a training program or support network, like those offered by our partners.
2. Elevate Diverse Women
In very few places are Indigenous women, women of color, and LGBTQ women adequately represented. Support organizations that serve as political homes for underrepresented communities. And remember: she is electable if you vote for her.
3. Build the Bench
We need women at all levels of office. Political gatekeepers should look to women already in the pipeline and slate them into winnable seats, and incumbent women should create succession plans and mentor up and coming women.
4. Invest in Women Candidates
It’s estimated the 2022 election cost over $15 billion, yet women are underrepresented as donors and women candidates must work harder to raise more. Financially supporting women, particularly women of color, early in a campaign can make all the difference.
5. Dismantle Systemic Barriers
From low legislative pay to childcare responsibilities, there are numerous challenges women must overcome to run for and serve in elected office. Transformational change is going to require transformation leaders who commit to removing these types of barriers.
6. Tone Down the Rhetoric
Increasing threats and political violence discourage women from running for office, and from those already in office from seeking reelection. For example, the brutal attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband, of which she was the target, was a factor in her decision to step down as the House Democratic Leader.
7. Support Women in Office
Getting more women in office starts with keeping those who are already elected. We must also ensure women are in key leadership positions, including powerful committee chairs, where they can influence what bills move forward. In the words of the first woman Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro in 1984,
“We’ve chosen the path to equality, please don’t let them turn us around.”
Achieving gender parity in politics is an ambitious goal that we cannot achieve alone. Our 12 national partners and 13 state partners in Michigan, Mississippi, and Washington are doing the transformational work to break down systemic barriers and prepare women to run for office – and win. But to truly accelerate the pace of parity, we must also redefine what a leader looks like and overcome archaic ideas of electability. We encourage you to learn more about our partners, support women running for office, challenges ideas of electability, and run for office yourself! Progress toward parity will only be possible when we all work together.