With a historic number of women running for Congress in the 2012 election, the potential for a second “Year of the Woman” remains within reach. Seizing on the election’s momentum, Political Parity hosted two high-level “think tanks” at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, fittingly called “Unconventional Women.” These forums brought together more than 150 passionate and dedicated policy, research, and political leaders to generate ideas for advancing women’s presence in American politics.
The events, led by program Chair Swanee Hunt and Co-chair Kerry Healey, were divided into three sessions that focused on identifying opportunities and overcoming barriers to electing more women to US Congress and governorships.
At the Republican National Convention in Tampa, the afternoon began with presentations by British MP Brooks Newmark and Baroness Sayeeda Warsa. These Conservative Party members were instrumental in increasing the number of female legislators in Britain. They provided a foreign perspective on achieving greater parity, as well as the positive effects it has had in their country.
Next, Sam Bennett, She Should Run and Women’s Campaign Fund president, along with Christine O’Donnell (R-DE), Troublemaker Media CEO and former Senate candidate, and Imran Siddiquee, social media and communications manager for the film Miss Representation, discussed combating sexist media coverage of female candidates through their organization Name It.Change It.
The afternoon closed with researchers Debbie Walsh of the Center for American Women and Politics, Bob Carpenter of Chesapeake Beach Consulting, and Denise Baer, director of Boston University’s DC campus, presenting preliminary findings from their latest research studies on why women choose to or not to run for national office and discussing the past, present, and future of women in Congress.
At the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, Unconventional Women was kicked off by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Leader Pelosi highlighted the harsh reality of women holding only 17 percent of congressional seats, and the importance of our work in the 2012 election and beyond. The 2012 Project’s Mary Hughes and Stacy Mason joined Debbie Walsh for the first session of the day to lead a discussion on where women in Congress have been, are now, and can go in the future.
Denise Baer and Celinda Lake, Lake Research Partners president, then presented preliminary findings on two research studies commissioned by Political Parity: “Why Women Run and Don’t Run for National Office” and the “Twin States.” The “Why Women Run” study is a qualitative and quantitative analysis of female state legislators and their decision to run or not run for national office, and the barriers and motivations behind these decisions. The “Twin States” study looks at states that are “twins” – those that have elected two female US senators, a US senator and a governor, or any combination of the two in succession – and attempts to find the social, economic, and political factors contributing to their success.
The day closed with another conversation about media sexism led by Sam Bennett that featured former congressional candidate Annette Taddeo-Goldstein, PBS host Bonnie Erbe, legal advocate Gloria Allred, and Reps. Terri Sewell (D-AL) and Janice Hahn (D-CA).