On January 3, 2o15, 104 women were sworn into the 114th Congress. On January 3, 2017, 104 women were sworn into the 115th Congress.
Two years. No change in gender diversity. Even with Hillary Clinton, the first major party female presidential nominee in American history, winning the popular vote by 3 million, women still comprise only 19.4% of Congress. That puts the United States 99th in the world in terms of gender diversity. Two states – Mississippi and Vermont – have never even elected a woman to Congress.
EMILY’s List was formed in 1985 to combat this issue of representation. The feminist political action committee is dedicated to bundling donations to support pro-choice Democratic women running for office. According to the EMILY’s List website, the group’s acronym, Early Money Is Like Yeast, “is a reference to a convention of political fundraising that receiving major donations early in a race is helpful in attracting other, later donors.”
The website also proudly states that EMILY’s List has “trained nearly 10,000 women to run and helped elect 116 women to the House, 23 to the Senate, 12 governors, and over 800 to state and local office.” 40% of these women have been of color, a significant fact given that the United States Senate only has four women of color – all Democrats. The House of Representatives isn’t much better, with women of color making up only 7% of the chamber.
Since its inception, EMILY’s List has raised over $500 million. It raised over $90 million in the 2016 election cycle alone. With over 5 million members, EMILY’s List is now looking to create local networks of women through its Run to Win campaign. The group describes this as their “most aggressive” recruiting effort yet.
“We have made very good gains over those 32 years,” said EMILY’s List president Stephanie Schriock. “But when a moment like this comes where women are feeling empowered to take charge and take control of their communities we want to be there and be encouraging and make sure they actually run.”
This is a truly special moment for American women. Though many predicted that the misogyny displayed by the president and the media in the 2016 election would deter women from further engaging in politics, the opposite has turned out to be true. On February 9, New York Magazine published an article revealing that over 13,000 women had registered with candidacy training programs such as EMILY’s List and She Should Run following Donald “grab ’em by the pussy” Trump’s Electoral College victory.
Just last weekend, the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute of Politics held a “Ready to Run” workshop. The event had a turnout 66% higher than usual. “This is the 18th year we’ve held Ready to Run and never before have we seen this kind of turnout or energy,” said the Center’s director, Deborah Walsh. “The challenge now is maintaining this level of engagement for the long haul. Changing the face of power is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Jordan is a political writer, activist, cinephile, proud queer woman of color, and Mad Max: Fury Road fanatic. She’s cautiously optimistic about the future of humanity.