The U.S. Census Bureau analysis of the 2012 presidential election shows that Black women had the highest voter turnout and represented 70 percent of the Black electorate surpassing their 2008 record breaking numbers. Yet, Black women’s growing political power at the polls has not translated into an increase in the number of Black women elected to office.
Of the 100 members of the U.S. Senate, none are Black women and of the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 16 are Black women. Currently, there are 1,788 women serving nationwide as state legislators, 242 are Black. And of the 100 largest U.S. cities, only one has a Black female mayor, according to the Center for American Women in Politics.
In an effort to address the leadership gap, the women of the Congressional Black Caucus and their Sojourner Truth Legacy Project partnered with Higher Heights for America, the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University and BET Networks to convene a conversation on #BlackWomenLead: Building a Sustainable Leadership Pipeline last weekend during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 2013 Annual Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.
“African-American women continue to be a formidable voting bloc; many elected officials owe their elections to our powerfully consistent appearance at the polls. It's high time that we translate our power at the ballot box into power at the tables of political campaigns and in the halls of legislatures across this country, by running and winning campaigns that reflect the values and the issues that are at the heart of this country,” said Leah Daughtry, president and CEO of On These Things.
Rep. Yvette D. Clarke reflected on Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm’s historic 1972 presidential campaign. "Her run for the highest public office in the land ignited an empowerment movement of women across the nation," said Clarke. "Her tenacity and audacity would speak volumes for the causes of the disenfranchised and marginalized — if she had waited, it’s quite possible that we all might still be waiting."
The standing-room only crowd engaged in a bipartisan conversation about Black women’s political power and the role they can play, individually and collectively, to strengthen the electoral leadership of Black women across the country. The panelists also discussed the dearth of Black women candidates running for office.
"Women candidates need to understand polling, field, basic campaign finance, fundraising budgeting, media relations, messaging, candidate branding and GOTV strategies. Campaigns are organizations; a business of getting people in elected office that requires organizational structure, strategy, and systems," said Stephanie Thomas from Women's Campaign School at Yale University.
In an effort to determine what the pathway to political leadership is for Black women, Glynda C. Carr, co-founder of Higher Heights for America, announced the group is currently conducting an online survey to identify the barriers and opportunities that exist for Black women as they determine if they should run for public office.
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