Some of our greatest leaders, innovators, and sources of societal strength have been women and…
What Women’s Representation in Office Means to Women Voters
On the heels of the historic 2020 election—which brought our first ever woman and woman of color Vice President as well as a record number of Congresswomen to office—I’m looking ahead to a number of federal, state, and local elections over the next eight months. From the Virginia Governor’s race to the special election for the House seat representing Texas’s 6th Congressional district, there are many women candidates on the ballot for roles that have historically been held only by men.
Our founder Barbara Lee began this Foundation because she believes strongly that representation matters—you can’t be what you can’t see—and that diverse voices strengthen our democracy. Our latest research, just conducted by Benenson strategies this year, sheds even more light on the power and significance of women’s representation. For one, She Votes found that the presence of Kamala Harris on the 2020 presidential ballot was a game-changer for women of both parties. Over 60% of American women expressed excitement about having a woman as Vice President for the first time. That excitement was even present among close to one in three Republican women. And Vice President Harris made an impact on voters’ decisions at the ballot box: 55% of all women said that Vice President Harris was a factor in their vote—and that number increases to 68% among Biden voters.
Importantly, 77% of women polled agreed that they like the idea of having more women in political office, but that gender alone isn’t a stronger factor than political affiliation. But, a vast majority (89%) said that when women succeed, it “opens up doors and provides more opportunities for women and girls everywhere.” There is further personal value in having women as prominent leaders, too: 81% indicated that when they see a woman succeed, they feel society will value the contributions of achievements of women like themselves.
In terms of meeting the moment, our Founder and President Barbara Lee wrote early on in the Covid-19 pandemic about the women governors and mayors who are effectively leading their communities through this current unprecedented crisis. She Votes shows that women broadly agree: 60% indicated that they believe having more women in political office would help our country better handle problems like the pandemic. I expect crisis management to continue to be a factor in 2021’s races, especially since we know that voters have very clear ideas about how leaders demonstrate that they can deal with a crisis.
Our new survey also showed that having women in office can make women generally more optimistic about our government. Women overwhelmingly agreed, to the tune of 80% of those polled, that women politicians bring different perspectives to office—perspectives that will help move our country forward. Even more specifically, 58% of respondents said that the record number of women serving in Congress right now makes them hopeful that the legislative branch will work collaboratively to break through gridlock and get things done.
Even with the major steps forward for women in government over the last year and even since 2016, a majority of women (55%) still feel there are too few women in office. With important elections coming up this year, that is a real note of inspiration for those of us working toward gender parity in politics.