Women’s Political Empowerment: A Conversation on Capitol Hill

Donna Brazile, June DeHart, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Particia Russo, Dr. Gabrielle Bardall, Bill Sweeney

United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG5), “Achieve Gender Equality and Empower All Women and Girls Everywhere,” has identified the need to ensure women’s full and effective political participation, as well as equal opportunity for leadership at all levels of public life.

On January 17, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) organized a briefing to discuss how women’s political participation – both domestically and internationally – has developed in recent years; how political parties respond and adapt; the role that intersectionality and male allies play in changing gender norms in politics; and remaining barriers to equitable participation. Key takeaways from the briefing include: 

Congresswoman Jackson Lee addresses the audience.

  • Women’s political participation transcends borders and party lines. Domestic gender equality cannot be achieved without bipartisan cooperation, and international networking is critical to global empowerment.
  • Women interested in becoming candidates must first participate as active voters.
  • Candidates at all levels benefit from local campaigning and community involvement.
  • There is a persistent double standard in fundraising for female candidates, who are expected to demonstrate fundraising prowess as a prerequisite for endorsement. In order to succeed, female candidates must be aggressive fundraisers.
  • Violence against women in politics (VAWIP) is a global issue. In the U.S., VAWIP is often manifested as sexual and cyber harassment.

The event featured remarks by Congresswoman Jackson Lee and IFES President and CEO Bill Sweeney, and was moderated by IFES Senior Gender Specialist Dr. Gabrielle Bardall. Panelists included Donna Brazile, founder and managing director of Brazile & Associates LLC; June DeHart, a partner in federal government affairs and public policy at Manatt; and Patricia Russo, executive director of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University. A video of the event is available below.

The discussion was the third installment of a briefing series organized by Congresswomen Jackson Lee and IFES exploring each element of SDG5. Previous panel topics include “Violence Against Women in the Workplace” and "Ending All Forms of Discrimination Against All Women and Girls Everywhere."

The next briefing will take place on March 21, 2018, discussing “Ending Harmful Practices.” Contact esidell@ifes.org for more information.