Are We There Yet? The Road to Equal Representation

Are we there yet? How much further? Did we just pass it? Are we even going the right away? Can’t we go any faster?

As anyone who’s been on a long road trip with a young child in the car can attest, you need to be prepared to answer these questions. Repeatedly and under pressure to demonstrate progress.

The journey to women’s equal representation in government can feel the same way.

Are we there yet? No. We’re now actually ranked 104th in the world for women’s representation. Women currently make up 19.4% of Congress and only 24.8% of state legislative offices. There are only 4 women governors and only 20% of the 100 largest cities have a woman mayor. And, of course, a woman has never been elected to the highest office in the land. On the plus side, we do have a gender-equal Cabinet — oh wait, that wasn’t us.

How much further? Well, that depends on what route we take and how the roads look. Some estimates say that, if we stay on the path we’ve been on, it could take more than one hundred years to reach gender equality in Congress. I hope you packed a lot of snacks. For those of us less inclined to wait one hundred years, we need to be ready to throw out the map, which hasn’t been updated in decades, and go off-road. After all, there is no one route to politics and there is no one “type” of politician. Only by bringing many more women into the movement, women from all backgrounds and all sides of the political spectrum, by addressing cultural messages and by tearing down structural barriers, can we make serious headway on women’s representation, instead of just spinning our wheels in the mud.

Did we just pass it? We just had our first ever woman presidential candidate from a major party. And while that’s an important historical marker, it was never the final destination. If you want to pull over for a moment to take some pictures, soak up the achievement, and let it recharge you for the journey ahead, we think that’s great. But don’t dawdle, we left the engine running.

Are we even going the right way? Since the election, over 13,000 new women have joined the She Should Run community. And over 9,000 of them are in the She Should Run Incubator, our online resource to help women envision themselves in public leadership. With over 500,000 elected offices in the U.S., this surge in enthusiasm around running for office is a very positive sign that women are ready to see themselves reflected at all levels of government.

But the gains aren’t restricted to women in office. Everywhere you look, there are amazing achievements by women that we should be celebrating. The most dominant athlete in history is a woman. An 12-year-old girl is single-handedly changing the face of children’s literature. The highest grossing movie in U.S. history had a woman lead. The contributions that women of color have made to scientific advances got long overdue recognition (and breakout box office returns). And women’s economic power continues to surge.

These achievements are all impressive in their own right, but are especially noteworthy because they allow girls and women of all ages to finally see themselves better represented in politics, sports, literature, business, etc.

We’re all on this journey together. So, if you see a woman putting up her own historical marker, be sure to honk as you pass by. Similarly, if you see a woman changing a flat tire after a rough couple of miles, consider pulling over. Not to help with the tire, she’s got that part under control. But if you shine some light on her, it could get her back on the road that much faster.

Can’t we go any faster? YES! Together, we can. She Should Run’s #500kSteps campaign offers six practical, but powerful ways we can all help put the pedal to the medal.

  1. Raise Your Hand. Start your journey to elected office by signing up for the She Should Run Incubator. It’s free and there’s no commitment to run for office required. Just to think about it.
  2. Tear Down Barriers. Stay informed via email and social media with She Should Run and call it out when you see a woman facing a double standard. #NameItChangeIt #FliptheScript
  3. Celebrate a Leader. Shine a light on an amazing woman leader in your life or community. She can be a friend, sister, parent, coworker, a school board member, or the Mayor. Tag your photos or stories with @sheshouldrun and #500ksteps on social media.
  4. Invest in Her. Support the next generation of women and girls who want to lead by donating to organizations like She Should Run. Your support means we can reach that many more women and girls across the country with big dreams of being a leader.
  5. Ask A Woman to Run. Inspire the amazing women leaders in your life to run for office. Your encouragement matters.
  6. Encourage a Girl to Lead. Learn how to mentor and teach girls in your life to lead. It’s never too early to plant the seed.

With you in the driver’s seat, a supportive She Should Run community riding shotgun, and #500kSteps as the GPS, we can make our vision of more women and girls in elected office a reality.

And, we’ll know we’ve arrived when girls aspire towards elected office, sexism is no longer accepted in politics or any industry, women from all backgrounds and walk for life are running for office and winning, and we have the most effective government possible to tackle the challenges we face as a nation and across the world.