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At the Current Pace, We Will Not Achieve Gender Equality in the United States Until 2227

15 Mar 2022

We should empower underrepresented women ages 18 to 25 to explore their leadership potential. It’s why we’re supporting She Should Run with a $550,000 commitment.

By Alexandra Cloyes, she/her, VP of Social Impact at Youth To The People

Only 1.9% of all charitable giving and philanthropy goes towards women and girl-focused organizations, with an even smaller percentage within that allocated to civic engagement.

Less than 2%. 

We are, all of us, living in an environment where the vast majority of resources in philanthropy are NOT going to women and girls, let alone gender non-conforming youth. 

This fact makes it easier to understand—but not to stomach—why at the current pace, according to the World Economic Forum, we will not achieve gender equality in the United States until 2227. 

The year 2227. Over 200 years from now. Six to seven generations.

There are many complex reasons for this. Barriers that must be dismantled. New cultural and socio-political norms that must be grown and nurtured. But what isn’t complex is for brands like Youth To The People to prioritize giving to organizations that are women- and girl-focused. Women's leadership and representation is deeply engrained in our brand DNA and we understand that one-time donations fall short. We must go boldly toward radically non-transactional philanthropy by sustaining donations to organizations—like She Should Run—working toward literally saving our future and our lives."

This past December we announced a three year partnership and $550,000 commitment to She Should Run, a nonpartisan nonprofit working to dramatically increase the number of women considering a run for public office. With this support, She Should Run will expand its efforts to bring more Gen-Z women into the political pipeline, with an emphasis on empowering underrepresented women ages 18 to 25 to explore their leadership potential.

My hope for the future is that our elected leadership from town council to the presidency reflects the beautifully diverse experiences and backgrounds of the people it serves. Our country and world will thrive when we normalize and fully realize the gift of women's political leadership,” stated Erin Loos Cutraro, CEO and Founder of She Should Run.

Young women are severely underrepresented in political leadership in the United States and are less likely than young men to be encouraged to run. As of 2018 only 20% of young legislators under 35 were female. A 2013 study of college students found that young women were 50 percent more likely than young men to assert that they would never run. What explains this discrepancy? What messages about political leadership are young women receiving that makes running so much less appealing than to young men? These are some of the questions that our partnership with She Should Run is seeking to address through its initial research phase. 

For young women of color, Black women, Indigenous women, LGBTQ+ women, economically underprivileged women, and women with disabilities, and the women who live at the intersection of these identities and experiences, the probability of recruitment to political leadership is even more stark. As of 2021, women of color constitute only 26.5% of women state legislators nationwide—a quarter of what’s already a fraction of the representation of men in office.

If we want gender equality in our lifetimes—or even our great-grand children’s lifetimes—we not only need more funding to be directed to organizations fighting for increased civic engagement of women but generations of girls and women who know their leadership potential. Women, in all their diverse lived experiences and backgrounds, must be the rule on the ballot in office, rather than the exception.

Getting there is the challenge. Through their years of experience, She Should Run has found that for every one woman they seek to influence to run, they need six women who know that their experiences and perspectives can change their communities for the better. Using that math, if we want to encourage 1,000 women to run, we need to reach 6,000. According to the Federal Voting Assistance Program, there are 542 elected federal offices in the United States. There are hundreds of elected state officials. And there are far more local legislators across the country. We need tens of thousands of diverse women who know their leadership value, who want to address the urgent problems facing our communities, and who are willing to run in order to achieve equal numbers of women to men running—every election cycle. 

Have there been gains in past years? Is it wonderfull for little girls, boys, and gender non-conforming youth to see Kamala Harris as Vice President of the United States? Absolutely. But is one woman enough to create the tidal wave of women candidates we need? Does one woman—or do thousands even—dismantle the barriers for all girls, women, and gender non-conforming youth? What are the barriers? How do they differ across age, race, and economic privilege? Why aren’t more young girls saying they want to run for office one day? Why aren’t more women taking steps to run for elected office? Why are more men running for office and more young men being encouraged to do so? 

Novels could be written (and have been) on the false confidence of cis-gendered white men in America, but is the patriarchy explanation enough? What in American culture, in the way our culture interacts with political everyday life, has some women believing they aren’t qualified to serve their communities when they are already the life-blood and builders of those communities?

The first phase of our partnership with She Should Run is a qualitative and quantitative research phase. On bated breath we await answers to many of the questions posed in this piece. Over the next three years we’re going to bring you the answers, resources, and tools of engagement and empowerment, and the stories of young women who are pursuing political leadership. 

And we intend to contribute to the hope that we will, all of us, see and feel a more equitable future.

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