By Susannah Wellford
This post is not an endorsement of any political candidates or parties.
The 2020 Presidential election is probably the most consequential election in my lifetime, and probably yours too. I know my vote has never counted more, and that the very future of our country is riding on the outcome. I’ve been meditating and drinking a lot of herbal tea, but it’s hard not to worry.
Regardless of who wins on Election Day, one thing is for certain: we won’t have enough women serving in elected office.
Despite huge gains for elected women in recent years — especially 2018 when we saw 36 new women enter Congress (many of them diverse BIPOC and LGBTQIA+) — America is still woefully behind the world in the number of women leading our country. Rwanda has 61.3%, Cuba has 53.2% and America has only 23.4% women in Congress. We are now 82nd in the world in terms of elected women leaders. So even though we have a powerful woman on the ticket, Kamala Harris would be the outlier rather than the norm if she becomes Vice President.
Here are a few facts so you can be in the know about women and politics in 2020’s races:
The good news:
The disappointing news:
· There are almost twice as many men running as women.
· So even if every woman on the ticket won her race, we STILL wouldn’t have parity in Congress (or in state legislatures or local races, for that matter.)
· Moreover, women are predicted to only win between 12–16 new seats in Congress, which would mean the percentage of women might be static or even fall this cycle.
And that’s why we need organizations like Running Start. Because women’s leadership makes a huge difference in the success of the country, and we still have a lot of work to do to bring more women into politics, regardless of who wins the Presidential race. Running Start (and groups like She Should Run, Ignite, Represent Women and Higher Heights) encourage women to run and give them the tools to do so.
We’ve seen so many of our alums run during the 2020 cycle, like Natasha Dupee, who is running to become a DC Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, and Maria Vismale, who is running to become a Baltimore City Councilwoman.
But our alums don’t just run — they win! Lauren Underwood is running for re-election to represent Illinois’ 14th district in Congress. Denise Davis was elected in 2018 to the City Council of Redlands, California. Dr. Monica Taylor was elected to the Delaware County Council in Pennsylvania in 2019.
Running Start knows that our work adding women to the pipeline will equal more elected women down the line. And while picking election winners can be a mystery, getting more women prepared to run for office is a no-brainer.
Susannah Wellford founded two organizations to raise the political voice of young women: Running Start (which she now leads) and the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee. Susannah previously worked in the Clinton White House and for Senator Wyche Fowler, and is a graduate of UVA School of Law and Davidson College. She lives in Washington, DC with her twins.