The following is an abbreviated version of an op-ed Amy published detailing her experience running for office. You can read it here.
When I ran for the San Francisco Community College Board in 2014, I was pregnant with my first child.
After she was born, I was consumed with worry: How would I feed my baby during the rigorous campaign cycle? If I won, how I would I balance public service with parenting? These questions didn’t seem to cross the minds of the men I knew in public office, regardless of whether they had children.
When I served, I was one of approximately 114,000 women ― and an estimated half a million people total ― in elected office nationwide. This puts women at about 22 percent of all elected officials, a number that breaks down to about 19 percent of Congress, 23 percent of state executive offices and 25 percent of state legislative offices. There are currently no data available showing how many elected officials are mothers. Considering this lack of information, it’s no surprise that we aren’t meeting the needs of these women.
Although men are increasingly sharing in housework and child care, according to the Pew Research Center, mothers are still carrying a heavier load.
Fundraising has been shown to be a major barrier for women running for office. Effective fundraising requires two things women are less likely than men to have: an established network of donors and lots of free time.
One estimate shows federal lawmakers so far having spent more than 650,000 hours fundraising during the current Congress! The most effective way to reduce the outsize role of money in politics would be to reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which gave corporations ― and their money ― the right to “free speech.” Another solution would be to increase regulations around campaign financing, and offer more public money for those who want to run for office.
As Pelosi once said, “If you reduce the role of money in politics and increase the level of civility in debate, more women will run for office.” Hillary Clinton said, “The only way to get sexism out of politics is to get more women into politics.”
We need structural and cultural change if we’re going to get moms into politics and keep them there. Solutions would make sure that our representative government is just that: a government that represents all Americans.
Having more moms in office is beneficial to our society as a whole. Female members of Congress secure 9 percent more funding than their male counterparts and introduce twice as many bills. And when there are more women in Congress, support for bills related to so-called women’s issues increases ― although only about 1 in 50 of these bills actually makes it, proving that we need a lot more moms to push them through.
Before 2016, Emily’s List, a progressive group that supports Democratic women running for office, reported that about 1,000 women annually contacted their organization for information about running. That number has since ballooned to 26,000. Many of these women are moms. To keep this number high and rising, we need more resources and support systems for these women once they are in office.
I was lucky: I had an incredible, equal partner as a spouse, who made sure that he could get home from work early so I could go to board meetings and political events. But a good partner is not the same thing as good policies. Imagine how much more I could have done, and imagine how many more women could serve, with real support for moms in politics.