Why Aren’t There Even More Women Political Leaders?


Professor Catherine Powell shared her expert opinion with Forbes on the underrepresentation of women political leaders.

The 2020 election set numerous records with respect to women’s election to federal office:  the first woman – and the first woman of color — has been elected to national office as vice-president, a record number of women were elected to the 117th Congress, a record number of Republican women have been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and a record number of women of color were elected to the House.

Nonetheless, women remain dramatically underrepresented in U.S. elected offices. Even with these current record-setting numbers, women will only hold just over 26% of the seats in the 117th Congress. And that’s much higher than the proportion of women who are leaders of the top 500 S&P companies (6.2%).

What stops more women from running for political office?

Nor is the solution simply recruiting more women candidates, although that does help. Of course, based on the efforts of Emily’s List, which supports pro-choice Democratic women, and E-PAC and Winning for Women, which support Republican women, early money does help in electing women candidates. And, “new groups like She the People and Higher Heights are supporting women of color in politics, and Stacey Abrams stands as a symbol of the key role of Black women in supporting progressive leaders in particular,” points out Catherine Powell, a law professor at Fordham. And prominent women in politics can inspire other women to run; in states with a female governor or senator, this adds approximately seven female candidates for state legislative office.

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