Women are running for office in unprecedented numbers, but 2018 is shaping up to be far more than just another Year of the Woman. We can transform this wave of enthusiasm into lasting change—not only in the number of women in office but in the kind of political leaders that we elect—by ensuring that strong, connected and resourceful political networks for women remain in place far after the midterms are over.
I’m an international gender expert who has researched women’s political participation extensively, including reviewing over 90 academic articles and interviewing over 50 women actively engaged in the political field in 22 countries across five continents. My research has shown that when women from civil society, political parties and caucuses organize through formal or informal networks, they achieve three important goals: encouraging more women to run for office and supporting them get elected (parity); enhancing women’s ability to be effective policy-makers (good governance); and ensuring that the political agenda of female legislators takes gender equality into account.
We’ve seen this in real-time. Women’s networks like Emerge, Running Start, Emily’s List, the Women’s Democracy Network and IGNITE have an incredibly important role to play in providing the encouragement, validation and role models that women and girls need to consider pursuing political careers. These networks also provide female political aspirants with the training, coaching, mentoring and networking opportunities that they need to advance those careers.
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More Than Just One Year of the Woman