Sister, Can You Spare a DimeAugust 04, 2009
I received a letter in the mail from Virginia Governor Tim Kaine last weekend. My first thought was, no more elections. Run. Hide. Ok, admittedly a bit dramatic, but I’m still having flashbacks to the 2008 election. Normally I would have just shredded the envelope with the rest of the junk mail but, wanting to make sure I didn’t blow up another shredder by getting it stuck on an enclosure, I opened the envelope first. It turns out the letter was part of a Democratic National Committee action kit that requested participation in party activities, including contributions.
While I have been solicited for years by the major political parties, I can count on one hand the times I have actually donated to a campaign. Sadly, as a woman, I am not alone. The recently updated report Vote With Your Purse reports that women accounted for only 31 percent of contributions to candidates in 2008. And of that amount just 35 percent went to women candidates. Although contributions from women are increasing, it is estimated that it will be 2110 before women reach parity with men in campaign donations.
This lack of contributions plays out in a of women in elected office. My home state of Virginia is currently ranked 41st nationally in the number of women in the state legislature (17 percent), and it has no women in the U.S. Congress. I am encouraged that 24 women are running for the Virginia House of Delegates this year and that a woman is a contender for the state’s second highest office, but she lags far behind her male counterpart in campaign funds.
An additional barrier is that women are not being targeted for leadership. Writes Like She Talks blogger Jill Miller Zimon, herself a candidate for public office in Ohio, wrote last week about a National Republican Congressional Committee campaign that identifies a list of “young guns” to unseat Democrats in mid-term U.S. House elections. This outline for future leaders includes only one woman and seeks to unseat five incumbent women.
Investment in women through training programs like AAUW’s Campaign College, mentorship, and financial support is critical to empowering tomorrow’s political leaders. Even a 12-year-old grasps the importance of electing women leaders. While we may not all be cut out for office, we can support those taking the lead. Learn about women candidates for the 2010 elections and explore some easy ways to contribute to their campaigns.