Three Vs of Civic Engagement
How Small Steps Can Close the Government Gender Gap
The face of the American politician is changing. Women are winning elections at a pace never before seen in history. Twenty-eight-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is on track to become the youngest female elected to Congress in history. In the House, Bloomberg expects the total number of seats held by women could eclipse 1001 for the first time ever in the near future.
Women have clearly made enormous strides, taking more seats than ever at the leadership table over the past several years— thanks in large part to trailblazers like Judge Midge Rendell and the extraordinary advocates at women’s advancement groups like Vision 2020, the national women’s equality coalition headquartered at Drexel University. These organizations and the powerful women behind them are making tremendous progress in closing the gender gap in government representation.
But there is still room for improvement. In fact, only 19 to 20 percent of seats in Congress are represented by women. According to The Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women will not hold an equal share of seats in Congress for nearly 100 more years2 if the trend continues at the current rate.
We cannot wait until 2117 for equal government representation. We must find a way to accelerate this change. One way to start is by boosting women’s civic engagement in our local communities. Civic engagement likely is not at the top of many women’s minds; but becoming more politically active does not have to take up a lot of time.
In fact, the following steps can go a long way in enacting positive, lasting change in our communities without requiring hours of time. The Three Vs of Civic Engagement, as we call them, serve as a great starting point for all women:
Women are beating men to the polls, but only a fraction of eligible women voters turn out. During the 2016 presidential election, only 63.3 percent3 of eligible women voted. While this is higher than the 59.3 percent of men who showed up, the fact remains that a third of all women voters sat on the sidelines. Turnout for local elections is even lower. Also, turnout among women has declined steadily over the past decade. Voting is the easiest and simplest way to increase civic engagement.
Women should educate themselves on the issues that matter to them and make their stance known to leaders in their communities. You would be surprised to know how much calling or emailing your local politician can influence public policy. Political rallies are also happening in communities large and small all across the country. They’re easier to find than ever thanks to social media and the internet. The strength of our voice is in our numbers, and the more we congregate to make our opinions known, the more likely they are to be heard.
Polling centers, education boards, local political offices, and other community groups are constantly in need of local volunteers. Sometimes just a few minutes, or even a like or share of a Facebook post, can make a big difference. If you have more time, taking a leadership position at local political advocacy organizations not only sets a good example for the next generation of women, it provides a platform to enact greater positive change in support of women’s advancement.
Closing the government gender gap won’t happen overnight. Advancing women’s representation on Capitol Hill will require a long-term concerted effort on behalf of women and women’s advocates for decades to come. Thankfully, the train is already in motion, and major progress has already been made. By boosting civic engagement at a local level and following these “three Vs,” we have the power to accelerate the existing momentum and create an even greater impact for our daughters and granddaughters.