Women Still Lack Representation In US Politics

Interview With Michelle Whitaker, Director of Communications at FairVote


Michelle Whitaker is Director of Communications at FairVote, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that seeks to make democracy fair, functional, and more representative. She is  a veteran communications professional and strategist with over 13 years of creative acumen and expertise in social media; development and management of print, digital, and online resources; with superior skills in constituent relationship management and cultivation, online advocacy, and integration of innovative technology.

We sat down with her ahead of her presentation at the Women In Enterprise Summit, taking place in Boston this October 25-26.

What drove you to help encourage women into politics?

I'm driven by the desire for the best ideas to have a platform to be heard. Women make up 51% of the population but are often underrepresented in elected office. Our voices are needed on critical issues impacting families, children, health, and security.

What challenges do you face in encouraging voter turnout?

There is growing cynicism about government. In conversations with voters from across the political spectrum, there is frustration that the will of the people is not guiding the policy decisions of our elected leaders. The sense that someone's voice doesn't matter or won't make a difference is one of the biggest challenges to voter turnout. In addition, when the outcome of an election seems to be a foregone conclusion for the party power, disaffected voters may see little point in voting. Our collective challenge is to make sure every voter has a meaningful vote in every election, no matter where they live. In addition, we need to promote more civic engagement with young people at an early age so they recognize the value of using their voice in the political process. 

What do you think are the main factors preventing women becoming political leaders? How do you think these can be resolved?

Our Representation2020 project focuses on three things tear down the cultural and structural barriers facing women in politics: 1) We must continue to recruit and train women to run for office with support not just through PACs but also within the parties. 2) We need to have structural systems that give women an opportunity to win, like adopting ranked choice voting -- a proven system to strengthen the voice of voters. 3) We need to make sure legislative practices are flexible so women and men can serve effectively.

Do you think Hillary Clinton’s nomination will change the way both women are perceived within politics, and how young women perceive the chances of success?

Hillary Clinton's nomination is historic but the path to gender parity does not end with the first woman nominated by a major party. When women are able to run, win, and serve more often at all level of government that will change perceptions around women in politics from a rarity to normalcy. Clinton's nomination may give many young women an opportunity to see how women are engaged in politics at every level more and possibly even consider running for office.

You can hear more from Michelle, along with other leading women in enterprise, at the Women In Enterprise Summit. To register, click here.

Drivel small

Read next:

'It Is Absolutely Up To Companies To Solve The Gender Gap'