What Will It Take To Elect More Women of Color Executives?

Atima Omara | Oct 18, 2021


Women and especially women of color are stepping up to run for executive roles in public office like Mayor, Attorney General, Lt. Governor and Governor. But women aren’t always breaking those ceilings easily, especially for Governor. Of the 45 women who’ve ascended to Governor of a state, only three have been women of color and voters have never elected a Black or Indigenous woman as Governor.

According to the Center for American Women in Politics (CAWP), in 2021 women hold 30.3% of the 310 available statewide executive positions and 19.1% are women of color. Now going into the 2022 elections, when women are running for reelection as Governor, running for Governor for the first time, or running for other statewide executive roles, what are ways that we can ensure an increase in women’s representation, and especially more Black and other women of color being elected at the state-wide executive level?

One thing we know: women candidates, especially women of color, are always hit harder than men when it comes to being likeable and proving qualifications. The nuances of likeability can vary for women by race, but it’s still a universal issue for women leaders. If we accept that “likeability” is always going to be a factor with a broad spectrum of voters, what are the things that establish qualifications and this elusive likeability? A report recently produced by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, entitled Ready, Willing & Electable, notes that if a woman candidate draws from background experience that showcases her economic expertise, it can also double as showing qualifications and likeability. For example, working on private-public partnerships to create jobs and new businesses, writing an economic plan endorsed by businesses and labor, bringing state funding to the community, and being a business owner—all can boost voters’ perceptions.

Across the board, regardless of political party affiliation, race or sexual orientation, women also received high marks if they demonstrated the ability to handle a crisis and get results, both things that can easily show up in the aforementioned economic expertise. What does this all mean? We can break more barriers for more women, especially women of color, running for office as executives at the state and local level, if their campaigns pull from their backgrounds, demonstrating their leadership, ability to navigate a crisis, and get results by working across community and party lines.

With the ongoing Covid pandemic exposing a lot of structural flaws in the economy, the workplace, and America’s social safety nets, as people who had to navigate it in ways that men did not, women are primed to tell the story of why are they perfect to lead us in this moment, especially when a majority of women voters across the political spectrum see the problems and want solutions.

Women can overcome the barriers to executive office. Now, all we have to do is vote for them.






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