In 1997, The United States ranked 52nd in the world for representation of women in national legislature. By 2017, we had fallen to 104th, falling behind nearly all developed nations.
Women are drastically underrepresented at all levels of our government, holding only 19% of U.S. Congress and 24% of state legislatures positions. There have only been 39 women governors in the history of the United States, with 23 states that have never had a woman governor. Unsurprisingly, representation for women of color is even worse, chalking up to roughly 5% of all state legislators.
So, why don’t more women seek office? And who is working to get them there?
Recruitment is critical for women. Nationally, only 26% of women state legislators report they sought office of their own accord, whereas nearly half of their male counterparts had done so. Women experience structural barriers to their candidacy; public office is painted as financially inaccessible, socially foolish, and a “man’s profession” from a young age. Consequently, by adulthood, men are twice as likely to feel prepared for office as similarly qualified women.
Women are far less likely to be recruited. Only 1 in 3 American women have been encouraged to run, compared to over half of all men. About 1 in 3 women in state legislatures recall discouragement from candidacy, as often from an elected official as a member of the woman’s immediate social circles.
Women can be recruited nationally!
Currently the Republican Party controls 56% of the state legislature positions, holding 67 of the country's 98 positions. Many local offices are held by Republicans who continually run unopposed. However, in 2018 Democrats are challenging those seats for the first time with unprecedented numbers. With these next three years focused on capitalizing on the desire for more progressives in local office, why shouldn’t these candidates be women?
That's where we come in!
Our core vision at First Ask is to involve self identifying women who are qualified candidates for these positions in both the local and statewide level by providing them with support, networking and guidance through their journey to further advance their possibilities of obtaining a political position to create change. We are founded by women and supported by women who are, first and foremost, community organizers. We’ve spent countless hours getting to know people and their communities and being inspired by them every step of the way. Time after time, we’ve seen strong, hardworking, progressive women decline to run for office because it seemed too hard, too time-consuming, or because no one they care about ever thought to ask them.