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Miller McCune: A new initiative from Rutgers University Center for American Women and Politics is attempting to draw more women in to politics, grooming them for public office, after seeing female participation as candidates reach a plateau after 30 years.
"Women waded steadily into politics from 1971 until 1991, culminating with the famous Year of the Woman in the 1992 election. That fall, 24 new women were elected to U.S. House of Representatives, and five to the Senate. But in retrospect, that election was more a high-water mark than harbinger of things to come. Women’s political participation has largely been flat-lining ever since.
'That flat-lining holds true for candidates as well as office-holders, reinforcing the notion that if women run, women win,' Walsh said. 'The problem we have is not that women are running in huge numbers, they’re increasing every year, and they don’t get elected. The problem is they’re not running in first place. That’s the real challenge here.'
Walsh was speaking on a conference call Monday afternoon to detail an ambitious new CAWP initiative to draw women into politics, at just the moment when they may feel most discouraged. The national, nonpartisan 2012 Project hopes to exploit what researchers have learned over the last several years about why so many women don’t run.
Frequently, women cite predictable roadblocks: family, privacy, the negativity of campaigns, the daunting task of fundraising (women like to raise money for other people and causes, Walsh notes, but they are often uncomfortable doing so for themselves).The most common explanation, though, is a bit more surprising: “Nobody ever asked me,” many women say.
The 2012 Project is planning to do that — to put the idea to women who have never considered it before. The initiative will target women over 45 (of any party), the baby boomers who were the first generation of women to have extensive career options, and who are now past the responsibility of raising children. The project wants to find women in finance, science and technology, energy, the environment, health, small business and international affairs. 'We not only want to diversify in terms of gender, we want to add value in terms of expertise,' said Mary Hughes, the director of the project. "