Prep women to run for office for good of all
Rima Shahid, Guest Writer
With the campaigns of 2020 barely behind us, it might seem too soon to think about the next round of elections, but it’s not. A handful of candidates and incumbents for everything from county sheriff to U.S. Congress already have announced plans to run in 2022, and you can be sure countless others are drafting announcements.
And that means it’s the perfect time to prepare more women to step into the political arena. After all, is a representative democracy truly representative if half the population can claim only about 20% to 30% representation?
The nation has definitely made progress on gender equity in politics, with 2020 seeing record numbers of women in all 50 states running for a variety of offices. But, progress is not success, and improvement is not parity. We have a long way to go, not just for the good of women, but for the good of the nation.
Granted, more women from both major parties are participating in politics, but gaps remain. For example, data from the Center for American Women and Politics shows us that women made up only 29% of candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020 and 24% of candidates running for the U.S. Senate.
As for women who have been elected, the numbers look even worse: Women hold only 27% of U.S. House seats and 24% of U.S. Senate seats. Only 31% of all state legislators are women and only 23% of mayors of cities with populations of more than 30,000 people. Here in Indiana, although women from both parties gained seats in the newest General Assembly, the state still ranks 30th for gender parity in politics.
And lest someone should think this is an issue only Democrats care about, consider this: The Republican party ran 89% more women for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020; however, the fact remains that only 31 of the 335 House seats are filled by Republican women.
Why does this all matter? If women want the issues that matter to them to be addressed, they need to be at the table. We saw this vividly in Indiana’s recent legislative season, when several bills advocating for women’s rights died in the Statehouse: House Bill 1011 would have made it illegal to pay wages that discriminate based on sex. House Bill 1245 would have prevented the discrimination against pregnant employees. House Bill 1273 would have allowed menstrual products to be exempt from the state gross retail tax.
But, this is not just about legislation specific to women. Everyone benefits when women are in office, as studies have shown that women are more likely to propose legislation that benefits families and children, and they’re more inclined to emphasize education reform and health care. Furthermore, as Women Deliver notes, global studies show that women are more likely to work with members of other parties, to be available to their communities and to increase constituent confidence in a democracy.
So, how do we get more women involved? By training, encouraging and preparing them to run. To this end, on May 22 Women4Change Indiana is hosting its annual Ready to Run program, a non-partisan training initiative designed to help women run for office. With virtual presentations from experts who will talk about their experiences in politics and government, the event is open to anyone interested in supporting efforts to get more women in office in Indiana.
Our state and nation will be better with more women in office. You can help. To learn more, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ready-to-run-indiana-tickets-145897307775?fbclid=IwAR1M1mSnBe_lyxUqfGU8hBH_LtUY6w_Hv4QhlQN9KSnuklue4vNE6M1oMXE.
Editor’s note: Rima Shahid is executive director of Women4Change Indiana.