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Could $5 Solve the Political Gender Gap?

The gender gap in politics may be a result of fewer women donating to candidates.


Despite some high-profile female GOP candidates in 2010, the number of women in Congress fell for the first time in 30 years. A new report from She Should Run, which encourages women to get involved in politics, concludes the gender gap is caused partially by a lack of political donations from women.

Women gave just 26 percent of the total funds to candidates, political action committees, and party committees in 2010 (down from 31 percent in 2008). In a written statement, She Should Run president and CEO Sam Bennett urged women to "increase their political giving to other women to affect change and close the gender gap." The group calculates that if a majority of American women gave $5 to a woman running for office in 2012, the total would be enough to run a female candidate in every single House race and give them each a budget of more than $1 million.


Compared to women's economic advances generally—their income has risen more than 60 percent in the last 30 years—their political giving lags behind. She Should Run's previous data shows women invest in political campaigns at lower rates because they "don't think their money matters in showing support for a candidate and the issues they champion," or don't "connect political leadership with positive, productive social change." Many women don't view political giving as a civic responsibility.

Meanwhile, the representation numbers are depressing: There are just 93 women in Congress—17 percent of the total. Of those, only 26 are women of color. But as Sarah Palin's 2008 rise made crystal-clear, women aren't going to support just any woman that steps up to the podium. Female candidates must support issues women care about. And they can't stay silent, either: According to the report, even successful lady candidates are largely funded by male donors, so they may feel compelled to prioritize the issues of these men before their female benefactors. Money gives us a voice far beyond the voting booth. Perhaps even more than funding women candidates, it's important to fund women's candidates: politicians who actually have the interests of women in mind.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user kevinosx; graph courtesy of She Should Run.

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This article was produced in partnership with the United Nations to launch the biggest-ever global conversation on the role of cooperation in building the future we want.

When half of the world's population doesn't share the same opportunity or rights as the other half, the whole world suffers. Like a bird whose wings require equal strength to fly, humanity will never soar to its full potential until we achieve gender equality.

That's why the United Nations made one of its Sustainable Development Goals to "Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls." That goal includes providing women and girls equal access to education and health care, as well as addressing gender-based discrimination and violence against women and girls.

While there is still much work to be done, history shows us that we are capable of making big leaps forward on this issue. Check out some of the milestones humanity has already reached on the path to true equality.

Historic Leaps Toward Gender Equality

1848 The Seneca Falls Convention in New York, organized by Elizabeth Lady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, is the first U.S. women's convention to discuss the oppression of women in sociopolitical, economic, and religious life.

1893 New Zealand becomes the first self-governing nation to grant national voting rights to women.

1903 Marie Curie becomes the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. She is also the only woman to win multiple Nobel Prizes, for Physics in 1903 and Chemistry in 1911.

1920 The 19th Amendment is passed in the U.S. giving women the right to vote in all 50 U.S. states.

1973 The U.S. Open becomes the first major sports tournament of its kind to offer equal pay to women, after tennis star Billie Jean King threatened to boycott.

1975 The first World Conference on Women is held in Mexico, where a 10-year World Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women is formed. The first International Women's Day is commemorated by the UN in the same year.

1979 The UN General Assembly adopts the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), also known as the "Women's Bill of Rights." It is the most comprehensive international document protecting the rights of women, and the second most ratified UN human rights treaty after the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

1980 Vigdis Finnbogadottir of Iceland becomes the first woman to be elected head of state in a national election.

1993 The UN General Assembly adopts the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the first international instrument to explicitly define forms of violence against women and lay out a framework for global action.

2010 The UN General Assembly creates the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) to speed progress on meeting the needs of women and girls around the world.

2018 The UN and European Union join forces on the Spotlight Initiative, a global, multi-year initiative focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls.

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As the UN celebrates its 75th anniversary, it is redoubling its commitment to reach all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including gender equality. But it will take action and effort from everyone to ensure that women and girls are free from discrimination and violence. Learn more about what is being done to address gender equality and see how you can get involved here.

And join the global conversation about the role of international cooperation in building the future by taking the UN75 survey here.

Let's make sure we all have a say in the future we want to see.

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