We are in a unique position this year. It has been 100 years since…
Part II: Addressing the Gap and Ensuring Equitable Representation
So, how do we achieve equitable representation? In our last article, we laid out how mothers are underrepresented and overlooked in politics, and now we’ll take a look at how we can provide a more inclusive space and why we need mothers for equitable representation.
What is not talked about enough is that moms know the challenges that women, children, and working families face at a visceral level. In fact, moms write more bills than other lawmakers and tend to focus on healthcare, childcare, education, reproductive rights, and affordable housing for families. However, mothers are often unheard because we are systemically kept out of the conversation, out of office, and out of power.
American policies were not designed to support mothers because our policies were not crafted by them.
In fact, this May, we released Politics of Parenthood: Representation in the 118th Congress and discovered that just 6.8% of federal legislators are moms with minor children. For moms with children under the age of 6, that number dropped to just 1.1%. Despite breaking records for representation, the 118th Congress still does not reflect the diversity of our nation. There are only 16 moms of color with minor kids in Congress. There is just one LGBTQ+ parent with minor children serving in Congress. There are over 10 million single parents in America, but only 9 single parents serving in Congress.
The path to achieving equitable representation is not a simple one. It involves a myriad of changes, each aimed at dismantling the entrenched barriers that have kept so many mothers out of political office. The question we must ask ourselves is: how do we get there?
We need predictable hours, virtual voting and committee hearings, and reasonable voting schedules. We need paid family leave for legislators, changing tables and pumping rooms in all legislative buildings, and affordable, on-site childcare. We need to make state legislatures full-time, and pay legislators a livable wage. We also need to provide funds for state legislators to hire staff, and allow state and local candidates to use Campaign Funds for Childcare. Legislators legislate based on their lived experience, and our nation suffers without the voices of a diverse group of legislators in office. If we want more representatives who understand at a visceral level how our policies affect most Americans—working people, women, people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ people, young people—we have to change the system.
The data presented in Politics of Parenthood report is long overdue, but it is just the beginning of our collective understanding of what it means to be both a legislator and a mother. Moms have an underrepresented perspective that comes with unique challenges. In subsequent Politics of Parenthood reports, we will examine the barriers that keep mothers out of office at all levels of government in more detail. Vote Mama Foundation will continue to seek out solutions to dismantle what keeps moms out of office and out of power.
Improved representation for caregivers, especially mothers of young children, can help change our policy priorities. Just as lived experience affects how policy is approached, it also affects how we assess and solve problems — it’s time we elect more problem-solving mamas.
To learn more about Vote Mama Foundation and the Politics of Parenthood research series, visit votemamafoundation.org.