Women's political giving

A recent study says women are far behind men in campaign contributions.

By Julia Dahl

Published July 9, 2007 3:00PM (EDT)

We already know that women are pathetically underrepresented as elected representatives -- we make up more than 50 percent of the total U.S. population but less than 20 percent of Congress -- but now it turns out we're also way behind in that bulwark of free speech: campaign contributions. According to a recent study by the Women's Campaign Foundation, for every $100 raised by political candidates and PACs in 2006, women contributed only about $25.

It gets worse. Because women are almost twice as likely as men to donate to female candidates, women running for office are at a distinct financial disadvantage and are routinely out-raised by their male counterparts. And since we all know money buys elections ... you get the idea.

It's not as if women are stingy -- quite the contrary. According to a survey by Citigroup, 94 percent of American women contribute time or money to charities. And some of the country's biggest charitable donations have come from women, like Joan Kroc, who bequeathed $200 million to NPR, and Joan Palevsky, who last year gave more than $200 million to such organizations as the California Community Foundation and the United Negro College Fund.

So, why don't women give to politicians? Aside from the obvious -- like not trusting politicians -- the WCF report says that women tend to open their wallets when they have a sense that their money will have an impact, and when they are familiar with where their money is going. So, giving money to help build a local library is more appealing than the "black hole" of political campaign coffers.

But there may be other reasons as well. WCF explains that "In political circles, fundraisers attempt to motivate women with the following: 'Think about how much you spent on your last pair of shoes. Now think about the last check you wrote for a candidate.'" This kind of condescension seems like further proof that people in politics don't deserve women's money in the first place. Of course, digging your heels into self-righteousness doesn't seem as satisfying when the result is fewer female candidates in office.

Julia Dahl

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