Why Women Can & Must Reach Parity in Leadership

Paula Acevedo
By Paula Acevedo

On Friday and Saturday, May 8th and 9th respectively, VoteRunLead held its annual National GO LEAD conference, in St. Louis, bringing together women from all across the country to prepare them for civic and political leadership. VoteRunLead prepares women to run for office through training, technology and community. It seeks to end the disparity of women representation in elected office.

The National GO LEAD conference served as a motivation for those in attendance to consider running for office sometime in our lifetime and if we don’t want to, it encouraged us to at the very least continue to be civically and politically involved. The conference consisted of various workshops designed to build skills in communications, fundraising, social media, voting, running, and leading.

The attendees of National GO LEAD consisted of:

  • 114 participants from 20 states
  • 64% of attendees identify as women-of-color
  • 83% were under 35 with ages ranging from 18 to 65
  • 29% considered themselves low-income; 21% working class; 41% as middle class
  • 14% were openly LGBTQ
  • 30% said they were very likely and likely to run

Imagine if Congress looked like this?

Women currently make up more than half of the population and are graduating at a higher rate than men from college, but nowhere is this representation reflected in leadership. According to Representation 2020’s, the State of Women’s Representation 2013-2014, the first in a series of annual reports leading to the year 2020, the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment, women make up 18% of Congress, 24% of state legislators and 10% of governors. Even more shocking is the fact that we ranked 57th internationally in the percentage of women in Congress a decade ago, today we rank 92nd internationally.

As a country we have made some progress, but clearly not substantial to reach gender parity. Nonpartisan organizations seeking parity for women in political leadership such as Representation 2020, Political Parity, and Latinas Represent define gender parity as when the likelihood of a woman and a man to hold any elected office is equal. According to Representation 2020, out of more than 7,000 state legislatures fewer than 1 in 4 are women, consisting of 76% of men and 24% of women, up slightly since 1992 from 79.5% of men and 20.5% of women, leading to the conclusion that at the current rate women will be underrepresented for another 500 years!

We are just five years away from the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment, do we really want to wait another 500 years to reach gender parity? According to Latinas Represent, nearly 1 in 3 countries has elected a female head of state or government and the U.S. is not one of them. There is the possibility of this changing in 2016 with presidential candidates Hilary Clinton and Carly Fiorina, representing their respective parties.

The underrepresentation of Latinas is vast. According to a report by Latinas Represent:

  • Out of the 435 seats in Congress, women hold 84 (19%), Latinas hold 9 (2%)
  • 78 (1.1%) out of the 7,383 state senators and representatives are Latinas
  • 5 (1.5%) out of the 320 statewide executives across the country are Latina
  • 1 Latina has been elected governor
  • 0 Latinas have been elected to the U.S. Senate

How can we change this? Well, fellow lady leaders, we need to start running. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. On average women need to be asked 7 times to run for office, so start asking and most importantly ask yourself. The resources we need to lead are out there. The organizations I’ve mentioned in this article wants to help you reach gender parity. It’s up to us to take the initiative and lead!

Pictures from National GO LEAD 2015:

Paula Acevedo is a MPA Candidate at Florida International University. Paula graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a degree in Business Administration. Paula was born in New York to parents of Dominican descent. She has also lived in Montreal and currently resides in Miami.