While a record number of women will serve in the next Congress, achieving representation for women in elected office nationwide will take 100 years or more at the current pace. To accelerate progress, ReflectUS, a national, nonpartisan coalition of leading women’s organizations, is launching a campaign to target resources, data and best practices in specific counties where women are severely underrepresented.
The newly formed ReflectUS will test and replicate new strategies to prepare women to run for public office and target favorable local, state and federal seats. Founded by seven organizations that assist women running for office, ReflectUS plans to:
- Share best practices and data with organizations focused on assisting female candidates.
- Develop and test strategies to accelerate representation by women across the nation regardless of party affiliation.
- Focus on a bottom-up strategy that seeks to secure parity wins in local elections in targeted locations and then develop a replicable gender-representation model to deploy nationwide.
“We are excited to get started with our important work in accelerating female representation across the country. No one should be satisfied with the recent gains in Congress because that rate of progress will mean waiting a century or more for women to achieve parity. Instead, we need to band together in a bipartisan effort to elect more women faster,” said Jennifer A. Nassour, Esq., Chief Operating Officer and Co-Director of ReflectUS.
“Our country is more divided than ever before, but we know representation has the potential to heal our hyper-polarized and broken democracy. We must pull ourselves out from our respective corners in order to have a truly effective government. This starts by engaging in a healthy discourse and filling the seats with leaders who are reflective of the populations they represent,” said Delia Garcia, Chief Leadership Officer and Co-Director of ReflectUS.
Focus Turns to Upcoming Elections
ReflectUS will announce its initiative during a panel discussion from the National Press Club at 1pm on Wednesday, November 14, featuring leaders from the coalition’s seven members. The event will be streamed live from the ReflectUS Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ReflectUSusa).
The event will be co-moderated by Ebony McMorris, an award-winning journalist with a 20-year career in radio and TV news, who is currently the national news correspondent for Reach Media, a subsidiary of Radio One, and Tara Setmayer, a CNN political commentator, ABC News contributor and a former GOP communications director on Capitol Hill.
The ReflectUS members will be represented by:
- Mindy Finn of Empowered Women
- Anne Moses and Kristin Hayden, IGNITE
- Andrea Senteno, Latinas Represent
- Cynthia Terrell, Represent Women
- Erin Loos Cutraro, She Should Run
- Erin Vilardi, Vote Run Lead
- Larissa Martinez, Women’s Public Leadership Network
In the mid-term elections, 123 women were elected, a historic number surpassing the previous high of 107 voting members, according to figures from the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. However, they will represent just 23 percent of the 535 voting members of Congress even though women represent more than half the population and electorate. Further, women make up 25 percent of state legislatures and 20 percent of local elected offices.
Strategies for electing more women have resulted in relatively small gains. For example, between 2012 and 2016, PAC spending on women candidates almost doubled to $88.7 million and women’s representation in Congress grew only 0.3 percent. In the mid-terms, fewer than a third of candidates for Congress, governor and statewide executive seats were women, according to The New York Times.
Target Local Elections in Underrepresented Counties
ReflectUS and its coalition members will start in January to focus on counties where women have little to no representation in local elected office. Specifically, ReflectUS plans to first focus on Dallas County, Texas, and Salt Lake County, Utah.
ReflectUS will provide expertise, data and grants to grassroots organizations to recruit and train women interested in running for local elected office. ReflectUS will analyze both counties to better understand the factors that impede and can accelerate representation, including electoral systems and composition, ideological and demographic factors, historical trends and the political infrastructure.
ReflectUS, online at reflect.us, is a nonpartisan coalition of seven leading women’s organizations working to increase the number of women in office and achieve equal representation across the racial, ideological, ethnic and geographic spectrum. The organizations are Represent Women, She Should Run, Empowered Women, Women’s Public Leadership Network, IGNITE, Vote Run Lead and Latinas Represent. We combine the unique resources, experiences and know-how of seven leading organizations to equip more women to run, win and serve – creating lasting change built on qualified, experienced women public officials.