Experts examine gender disparities in political donations and nominations at recent CAWP event

The Eagleton Institute of Politics (CAWP) Center for American Women and Politics hosted a virtual event on Tuesday featuring several experts who discussed recent CAWP women, money and politics. report, “The Race for Money for the State Legislature,” and the topics it covers.

Kira Sanbonmatsu, Professor in the Department of Political Science and Principal Investigator at CAWP, began the event by briefly discussing the key content of the report, which focuses on the gender disparities of donors and candidates in state legislative elections during of the 2020 elections.

She said overall, men give considerably more than women in political contributions, whether it’s by who gives, the rate they give or the amount they give. However, women prevail over men in state legislative elections.

Sanbonmatsu also discussed a few specific elements of their research, such as their comparison between donor gender contributions for Democrats and Republicans in male versus male, female versus male, and female versus female elections.

“(Overall) men provided 68% of the money to state legislative candidates and women only 32%,” Sanbonmatsu said. “So it’s a very big gender gap in who gives politics.”

She then introduced the three panelists who answered a number of questions and discussed the report and its contents.

Ohio House of Representatives Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Ohio) said women could be under-represented as donors due to the negative implications surrounding money in politics.

“For many women, making the decision to vote for their candidate rather than donate money seems like a better proposition and something with a lot more impact,” said Sykes. “But … the people who raised the most money tend to be the ones who win the election, so we can’t fork those two actions.”

Additionally, she said there was a shortage of women in the top three professions associated with political donations: doctors, lawyers and executives such as CEOs. This leaves fewer women in the groups most often called upon to be political donors, she said.

Stacy Schuster, founding executive director of Women for a Stronger New Jersey, said many phone calls to donors asking for money are also made to previous donors, and because this list is mostly men, less women are invited to make a donation. She said that organizations that work with women and work to cultivate donors need to do a better job of explaining the impact of giving.

“I don’t think it’s fair to say that the reason is that (women) aren’t interested or don’t want to, maybe it’s because they haven’t been educated about it. impact it may have and how it affects who the candidates rise to the top, ”said Schuster.

Kimberly Peeler-Allen, visiting practitioner at CAWP, named transactional politics, which involves people voting for and donating to politicians who will convey their personal interests, as the reason for donations. She said this is a particularly strong motivator among male donors.

Regarding women’s motivations for donating, she said they are generally more ideological, with women often driven by the desire to solve larger issues in the world.

Peeler-Allen said the data shows black women in particular control $ 8 out of $ 10 within the black community for expenses ranging from household expenses to community investments, but they have historically been excluded from having an impact. political because fundraisers think it would be too much work to cultivate a new audience.

“I have dealt with applicants who are dissuaded from asking people for money because they know that someone’s child has just gone to college or is in financial difficulty. this way… rather than giving these donors the opportunity to invest in the future of their community, ”she said. “So it’s a double-edged sword of both motivation and the candidate side to talk to each other mostly about money before you even reach the door.”

Sykes said women of color have always been an important part of the political landscape, especially behind the scenes, and that in the future they can have an added impact by deciding to be donors as well. She said it’s important to recognize that giving can be just as important as other endeavors like writing letters or knocking on doors.

Additionally, Schuster explained why women are under-represented in terms of contributing to Republican candidates, stating that a big reason is because women are also under-represented as Republican candidates. However, she said she believes this gap will close with sustained and continued efforts in the future.

Regarding how women’s political influence is affected by the gender gap, Sykes said women are hampered due to unequal representation, resulting in a government that often does not work for they.

“In Ohio, for example, women make up just over 50% … of the state’s population, but in the legislature we only make up about 28% of the seats, (and) in our offices in statewide, zero, ”she said. “This means that the people who make decisions about the tax on tampons, custody of your children, your reproductive rights or your ability to have an abortion are predominantly men. “

Sykes said there was a lot of work to be done to change the political discourse to include the needs of women in the United States, with the increased representation of women in government being just one big change.

She also said that she believes the current atmosphere in the state legislature can be toxic, sometimes to the point that reasonable legislation cannot be passed, which ultimately does not benefit to the people and compromises the ability of the economy and citizens to prosper.

“I find that my female colleagues… are much more open to compromise. There’s a lot less bravado and ego going into these pieces, ”said Sykes. “We’re very willing to get things done no matter who gets the credit for it, and I think everyone could benefit, especially if you take a look at some of our federal activities these days.”

Peeler-Allen said it is crucial that people vote for candidates who share their values, regardless of their gender, to ensure that the issues they care about are given a platform. Schuster said that women’s issues in politics are often categorized separately from men’s issues.

“I always challenge, when I’m asked about women’s issues, the idea that there is something separate that matters to me,” Schuster said. “We are moving away from that, but there are still obstacles that suggest… that we should be treated differently because we think differently. This is simply not correct.

In terms of solutions to the gender gap in political giving, Schuster said organizational and grassroots financial support for female candidates is helpful in attracting the attention of party leaders and making them see the value of campaigns. of these candidates. She and Peeler-Allen said the transactional approach to getting people to donate should also be dropped in the case of encouraging women to donate.

“I think being able to make sure that (women) have the resources they need to be effective, as well as changing the norms and preconceptions about what sustainability really looks like will increase the number of women. in state legislative offices, ”Peeler said. Allen said.

Sykes said that she herself has personally experienced the judgment that is often placed on women who contribute to campaigns, and added that people should not let others tell them that they do not belong to such political activities or that their donations are not good enough.

“I would just say to people who want to keep persisting (in donating), if your donation, of course, is a few dollars, or if it’s a check at most, whatever that might be. be in your jurisdiction, ”Sykes said. “It’s not weird, it’s important. It is an equally necessary part, whether you like it or not, to get people elected here in our country. “