More Women Running for Congress Than Ever Before

    This Oct. 9, 2012, photo shows Utah Republican candidate Mia Love talking with students during the Granite PTA meet the candidates at Skyline High School in Salt Lake City.This Oct. 9, 2012, photo shows Utah Republican candidate Mia Love talking with students during the Granite PTA meet the candidates at Skyline High School in Salt Lake City.
    x
    This Oct. 9, 2012, photo shows Utah Republican candidate Mia Love talking with students during the Granite PTA meet the candidates at Skyline High School in Salt Lake City.
    This Oct. 9, 2012, photo shows Utah Republican candidate Mia Love talking with students during the Granite PTA meet the candidates at Skyline High School in Salt Lake City.
    Women may be ringing in a political new year on November 6. In the final countdown to the 2012 election, researchers say the two major political parties have more women candidates running for Congress than ever before.

    “Not since the so-called ‘Year of the Woman’ in 1992 have we seen such a leap in the number of women stepping forward to contend for congressional seats,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University.

    The CAWP notes 184 women are running for Congress in the major parties this year, up from 152 in 2010.  Eighteen women (12 Democrats, six Republicans) are running for Senate seats, while 166 women (118 Democrats, 48 Republicans) are on the ballot for the U.S. House of Representatives.

    Woman vs. Woman

    Women are even squaring off against each other for 14 of the 468 available congressional seats. Such is the case in Maryland's District 4, where Republican Faith Loudon is challenging Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards.

    "I do want to be a role model for my granddaughters," Loudon said in between talking to voters near a local polling station.  "I think because I am doing this, I know that there are a lot of women that are encouraged and are going to step forth in the future."

    As Maryland's only female member in the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Edwards notes the campaign trail is a "really tough environment."

    "I think we're really just coming into our political space," she said while handing out political flyers to constituents at a metro stop.

    The increase in women, however, does not classify as a breakthrough just yet, according to Jennifer Lawless, the director of the Women & Politics Institute at American University.

    "Although we do have a record number of women running for both the Senate and the House, it's important to put those numbers in perspective, she said.  "These numbers don't represent marked increases over previous election cycles."

    Even with record-shattering numbers, women only constitute about 20 percent of the two major parties' total number of congressional candidates.

    Obstacles

    The problem is getting women to run in the first place.  Lawless said her research shows three basic factors are keeping women from running.  First, women in American society have made gains in the workforce but still shoulder the vast majority of household and childcare responsibilities.

    Loudon, a career homemaker, did not run for Congress until her children were supporting their own children.  Edwards ran for office amid the pressure of being a single mother.

    "I still had to send my son to college, I still had to make sure that I had dinner prepared, but I also was fully prepared to do the duties that were required of me in Congress," Edwards said.

    Another obstacle is that women are less likely to be recruited for office than men. Congresswoman Edwards said no one approached her to run for office and called it a "big mistake" that so few women are encouraged to run.

    "To be honest, I spent a lot of time trying to find somebody else who would run, and then when nobody would, I decided to do it," she said.

    Coupled with the fact that women are less likely to be recruited is the personal assessment of qualifications.  Lawless says many men and women may look the same on paper, but men are much more likely to assess themselves as qualified to run.

    Loudon, too, turned to others to run at first, even though she has been involved in political campaigns for more than 30 years.

    "I tried to get every man that I knew that had name recognition that would be a qualified candidate, and not one of them would take on the challenge," she said. 

    Breaking the cycle

    Loudon admitted to seeking out men in particular because they were the ones who had previously run for other offices.  She is not the only one who has turned to incumbents for leadership.  Past election results show voters are much more likely to choose incumbents, making it difficult to break a cycle that lacks equal female representation.

    "When we have a Congress right now that's 84 percent men, and the overwhelming majority of those men are seeking reelection, that doesn't allow much opportunity for women to make substantial gains," Lawless said.

    Analysts agree the good news is that gains are possible.  Lawless says the gender gap in Congress has nothing to do with voters because women are just as likely as their male counterparts to win elections.  This proved true in this year's primaries, where more than half of the women advanced to become their party's candidate for Congress.

    Women also have the potential to make more political gains this year because it is the first election after the redrawing of congressional districts, which happens every 10 years.  Redistricting creates more open seats, which in turn provides the best opportunity for new candidates, male and female.

    The shortage of women in Congress is not something that can change in one election cycle, but this year's increase in candidates could prove to be a big step forward for women when the election results are announced. 

     


    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her bylines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Korea, Japan and Egypt.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.