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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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