What Tuesday’s Primaries Mean for Young Women
Nikki Haley, Susana Martinez, and Elaine Marshall’s primary wins Tuesday night are once again focusing the nation’s attention on women running for political office. While it is an exciting year for all of us who work hard to promote bringing more women to elected office, we must not forget that there is still work to be done. Politics is still a field dominated by men. But together we can turn this “trend” of women running into the norm. First, women need to see more role models, women who look like them, who are stepping out to run. These role models will encourage and inspire more women to see themselves as candidates. Second, they need to understand that positive change can be created in their communities by their participation as political leaders. Women have long disassociated creating positive change with holding political office. These women candidates are making this critical connection.
It may feel like every political cover story now features a woman running for office, but the numbers suggest we have a long way to go. Women holding executive office declined from 28.5% in 2000 to 22.9% in 2010, according to Rutgers University’s Center for American Women in Politics (CAWP). 83% of Congress is male and the United States currently ranks 75th in the world in terms of women’s political representation on the federal level. So we should not let this surge of new blood in the political arena fade away again. We must work together to encourage its growth and build a pipeline of women candidates for the future.
Organizations like Running Start are working to educate and inspire young women to start thinking about politics earlier in their lives so that they can take the necessary steps to run for office and climb the ladder of political leadership. This surge of women candidates this election cycle is proving to women in our country, and internationally, that it is not only possible to be a candidate, but it is also exciting to make a difference through the political process. Running Start knows that the more women that run, the more girls and young women will realize these goals are both admirable and attainable.
Running Start could not be more excited by this year’s groundbreaking races across the country. We are thrilled our program participants will have more role models to admire as they engage and learn about politics, leadership and themselves. And while some of these candidates will be winners and others will inevitably lose this November, their presence on the state and national political landscape marks their emergence as winners to the next generation of women who will step up and lead.