Over the past few decades, the US population has changed dramatically. The growth of Latino and Asian populations, driven largely by immigration, has fundamentally altered the composition of the electorate. Elected officials are changing in much the same way. To a large extent, recent gains in women’s office-holding have been fueled by the achievements of women-of-color candidates. Increasing the number of elected women of color is vital to achieving gender parity in politics. Many challenges remain, however, in order for women candidates of color to reach office in proportion to their share of the population.

Future Research Directions

Studies of women of color in politics, and studies using an intersectional approach to American politics generally, are increasingly common. But much more research is needed due to the fluidity of race/ethnic categories and variation in how social categories and identities change across space and across time. For example, while some districts are majority-minority and have a long tradition of officeholding by people of color, other districts are experiencing recent changes in racial and immigrant composition. More research is needed to examine the experiences of women of color candidates, and particularly their emergence as candidates, their experiences in primary elections, and their situation with respect to fundraising. Scholars have observed that women of color often participate in politics at a higher rate than the standard models of participation would predict. Thus, new theories, approaches, and data collection efforts designed to capture the political lives of women of color are very much needed.

Jane Junn and Nadia Brown, “What revolution? Incorporating Intersectionality in Women and Politics,” Political Women and American Democracy, eds. Christina Wolbrecht, Karen Beckwith, and Lisa Baldez, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008) 64-78.
Jane Junn, “Assimilating or Coloring Participation? Gender, Race, and Democratic Political Participation,” Women Transforming Politics: An Alternative Reader, eds. Cathy J. Cohen, Kathleen B. Jones, and Joan C. Tronto, (New York: New York University Press, 1997) 387-97.

Further Reading

Image of report "Intersectionality in Electoral Politics: A Mess Worth Making" - Politics & Gender 2
Wendy Smooth | 2006

In this essay, Smooth argues that studying women in electoral politics is "messy" because viewing politics through an intersectional lens that is attentive to both gender and race forces us to rethink dominant ways of looking at either "gender politics" or "race politics." She reconsiders the conventional wisdom about the Voting Rights Act and the gender gap using an intersectional approach. She also uses Gwen Moore's 2004 bid to be the first African American woman and first African American to win election to Congress from Wisconsin to show that African American women candidates can appeal to both the women's community and the African American community.

Image of report "One of Our Own: Black Female Candidates and the Voters who Support Them" - American Journal of Political Science
Tasha S. Philpot and Hanes Walton | 2007

Given the dearth of Black female elected officials in the United States, Philpot and Walton examine the level of voter support for Black female candidates among Black men, Black women, white men and white women. Using a mixed-method design including experimental, voting, and exit poll data, the authors demonstrate that Black women are the biggest supporters of a Black female candidate, regardless of the race and gender of her opponent. Black female candidates with prior political experience have the potential to mobilize Black women and men in support of their candidacies, even while appealing to a broad set of voters (including white voters), in order to win elective office.

Image of report "Gender and Ethnicity: Patterns of Electoral Success and Legislative Advocacy among Latina and Latino State Officials in Four States" - Journal of Women Politics & Policy
Luis Ricardo Fraga, et al. | 2006

Looking across four states with the highest concentration of Latinos (California, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico), Fraga and his coauthors investigate the election patterns of Latino and Latina state legislators. They find overlap in the legislative priorities and advocacy of Latino and Latina state legislators, but Latina legislators are more likely to consider serving the needs of other minority groups, specifically African Americans and Asian Americans, to be a top priority. Overall the authors demonstrate that Latina state legislators make a difference in their role as representatives, given their shared identity as being both a female and a Latino.