A new twist on a classic children's book features a humorous, yet important truism about the state of American politics: "There are a lot of Dicks in office."
Literally. While the United States may be looking at its first real possibility of a female commander-in-chief, the nation falls way short when it comes to equal representation of men and women in government: By one estimate, less than one-third of the country's elected leaders are women.
Increasing female political participation is the primary goal of She Should Run
, a nonpartisan organization committed to getting women in office by encouraging them to put themselves forward as candidates. To help address the issue, the group is releasing See Joan Run,
an illustrated book that breaks it down in the most basic terms.
“We put women in the picture by helping them envision themselves in elected office,” Erin Loos Cutraro, cofounder and CEO of She Should Run, told Refinery29 by phone. “We need a government that represents the voices of all Americans, and without their voices and perspectives at the table we’re missing something.”
The book, a parody of Fun with Dick and Jane
, debuts on International Women's Day
, which is meant this year to call for global gender parity. On average, just 22% of seats in parliaments worldwide are filled by women.
The United States falls far behind many other countries when it comes to electing women to office — it ranked 73rd as of the start of last year, according to data collected by United Nations Women. Congress is only about 20% female, with 84 women elected to the House of Representatives and 20 female senators, Center for American Women and Politics figures show
. Three states — Delaware, Vermont, and Mississippi — have never sent a woman to Washington. And while the Supreme Court now features more female justices than ever before, only four have been appointed to the bench in history.
At state levels, gender parity in politics is even worse: Only six out of 50 state governors currently in office are women. In state legislatures — the ones that have a day-to-day effect on local policies
like abortion access and drug criminalization — women still comprise only about a quarter
of members across the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. And only about 18% of cities with over 30,000 people have a woman as mayor
Where are all the smart, talented women? Cutraro sees plenty of tremendous women in leadership positions like PTAs, local boards, and issue-based nonprofits. But many of them aren't aiming for public office.
“When I look at the challenges that we face as a country and know how much self-doubt is holding talented women back from stepping forward, I see a chance to make things better,” Cutraro said.
That’s where her organization comes in. She Should Run encourages women to email friends and loved ones who they think would be good for public office and encourage them to run, giving them support from within their own communities as well as the larger network.
So that smart, driven friend who you think could really make a difference if she held the reins — maybe it's time to tell her. Or maybe you're that friend yourself.