Women will turn out at the polls on election day and even volunteer for political campaigns, but they won't donate to just any old campaign and especially won't spend money making sure that even more men are elected to the House and Senate. During the 2010 election cycle, women's campaign contributions dipped to just 26 percent of recorded federal political giving, a decrease that dovetails not-so-nicely with the depressing fact that during the very same election cycle, the number of women in Congress fell for the first time in over 30 years. Women, crazy as it sounds, might not be too keen on helping ensconce more men in the legislative branch of our government, where those men can spend all day baffling each other with very unscientific debates about the apparently enigmatic female anatomy.
Though women might be increasingly reluctant to donate money to a political system with so little female representation, a study called "Vote With Your Purse" by the group She Should Run sees increased campaign contributions among female voters as the key to filling the congressional halls with more female voices. Sam Bennett, president and CEO of She Should Run, emphasizes the importance of political donations in getting more women elected to public office. "Money," says Bennett,
is essential in winning campaigns. If you don't give, you don't have a voice, so I urge women to put their money where their mouth is. As a nation where women make up over 50% of the population, yet only 17% of Congress, women must increase their political giving to other women to affect change and close the gender gap.
Other than the fact that few women believe that their money will help champion the causes they most care about, women generally don't view political giving as a civic duty on par with voting or volunteering, which is part of the reason why total 2010 political donations from men more than doubled those from women. Women also — and you'll want to be sitting down for this shocker — gave significantly more to Democratic candidates than Republican candidates, accounting for 38 percent of all 2010 contributions to the Democratic National Committee as opposed to 24 percent of contributions to the RNC. The 6.3 decrease in donations from women between 2008 and 2010 coupled with a shrinking female minority in Congress underscores the need for women to ante up, and according to Vote With Your Purse, it wouldn't be all that tough — the study estimates that if every woman gave as a little as $5 to one female candidate, they'd raise enough money to run a woman in every House race, with a budget of $1 million for each theoretical candidate.
Women were also way less fascinated with PACs than men and accounted for only 14 percent of all PAC donations. Despite the low rates of political giving among women, however, female politicians are crafty fundraisers, and raked in about $100,000 more than their male peers. Despite their fundraising successes, there all only 17 women in the Senate and two of them are retiring. The disparity in representation is particularly acute for women of color, who account for a mere 24 of the 535 members of Congress and are all in the House of Representatives.
As long as women don't consider political donation an important component of our gleefully capitalist political system, She Should Run worries that female politicians will have a harder time gaining traction in the the House and Senate, which is a shame because the male majorities seem to be making every effort to engender as much antipathy among voters as possible. It's like sometimes you get the sense that some of them don't even want to be there, at least not after they figured out that they'd never get a real opportunity to get all Jimmy Stewart-righteous with their colleagues.