What is Elect Women NJ?
Elect Women NJ is an organization, a political action committee, focused on raising money to invest in strong, women candidates in NJ races. Elect Women NJ is doing what no other women-focused political organization in NJ is doing. It is giving campaign donations and building a network to support strong candidates who need the investment in local races. Having access to funds can be the critical difference between a successful race and an unsuccessful race.
Women nationally and in NJ are radically underrepresented in elected office. The United States ranks 75 out of 193 for the women’s representation. While women in the US make up slightly more than 50% of the population, only 23% of the House of Representatives are women and only 8.8% are women of color. A paltry 18% of our country’s governors are women. We have never had a female President or Vice President.
NJ ranks 21 nationally for women in elected office. For 231 years, NJ has elected US Senators to represent our state. Inconceivably, we have never elected a female US Senator in NJ. In 244 years of elected Governors, we have elected one female governor and two Lt. Governors. Today, only two of the 12 U.S. Congresspeople from N.J. are women and 30% of the State office is female. In order to have true democracy, we need one that is representative of the people of that community and NJ surely is not.
According to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW): “the concept of democracy will have real and dynamic meaning and lasting effect only when political decision-making is shared by women and men and takes equal account of the interests of both.” Women bring different perspectives to all policy areas including healthcare, transportation, education, and jobs. Having more diverse and representative views help our governing bodies to create solutions that are just and effective.
Why are women not running for office?
Some reasons include:
Women are less likely to be recruited! People run more when they are asked to run. Women are less likely than men to think they are qualified to serve (even when they are more qualified!).
Women are less likely to have the networks in place to support them as they run; this may limit access to early capital.
What does Elect Women NJ do?
The three founders of Elect Women NJ have all run for office in NJ. We started the PAC to address some of the systemic issues that prevent women from running for office (lack of funding, support or networks). Elect Women NJ will help recruit candidates, build candidates’ networks, and provide campaign funding – all critical in building the pipeline of strong, viable women candidates. Elect Women NJ wants to increase the representation of women in elected office in NJ starting with local races. We will make strategic investments in top tier women candidates in order to produce results, one seat at a time.
Elect Women NJ raises money through its supporters and their networks and provides early investments in races where the woman candidate has demonstrated the capacity to win. In addition to financial investments, Elect Women NJ supporters will identify opportunities to support candidates by providing valuable professional resources to candidates through our networks. We will also link our network of members to the candidates and ask them to provide additional support with dollars and votes!
The 2020 election may be most important election in decades. Over the past four years, we have witnessed roll backs in environmental protections and civil liberties, political attacks on media and hyper-partisanship that have undermined the basic foundations of policy debate, political compromise and democracy.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has so unfortunately highlighted, our health care system is insufficient, inequality is rampant, and too many Americans do not have an adequate social safety net. Over the past months as business and schools were closed to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, there is evidence that women are disproportionately burdened and taking on more of the homeschool and child-care responses even when both spouses work.
To have a truly thriving democracy, it needs to be representative of our country. It’s imperative to have diverse voices and perspectives in elected office to meet the challenges that we will have post COVID-19.
Approximately, 25% of America’s large city governments are comprised of women, slightly better than the numbers of women in national office, but still seriously underrepresented. In 2019, 23% of mayors of US cities had a female mayor. 10% women of color serve as mayors in the U.S.’s largest 100 cities. This lack of representation in both local and national office raises concerns about the health and quality of our democracy.
Local government officials make important decisions that affect every American’s daily life. They take care of our schools, streets, libraries, utilities, police departments and public lands. Local government can consist of councilmembers, mayors, county commissioners, freeholders, sheriffs, and school boards.
Studies have found that men were twice as likely to say they would be qualified to run for office compared to women. We know the many reasons why this gap exists – lack of recruitment or encouragement, negative ideas about campaigning, wage gaps and family obligations, to name a few. Women with the same professional credentials as men are less likely to receive encouragement from political party leaders and family to run for office. We also know from studies that when women run, they are likely to start off with local races, like school board, when compared to men.
So perhaps one solution to challenging the systemic under-representation of women, especially women of color, is to attract more women and a broader diversity of women to run for local office. Serving in a local government office is critically important. Local races can have a lower barrier to entry for women hesitant to run due to lack of funding or political party support. Women in local government help to build a network and pipeline of women who are confident they can run and win.
Elect Women NJ will fund viable, diverse women who are interested to run for local office. We will help to network women elected officials to each other, funders and supporters. Most importantly, we will recruit and encourage women to run for office because we know that makes the critical difference.