Letter to the DNC Platform Committee on Gender Equality

  • Jul 9, 2020
  • Emerge

DNC Platform Committee
430 South Capitol Street Southeast
Washington, DC 20003


Members of the DNC Platform Committee:

Addressing the inequalities in representation by gender in our governments – from the Federal Government down to School Boards and Town Councils – means that we as Democrats need to evaluate the way public policy effects women and nonbinary people holistically.  

Recruiting more women and nonbinary people to run for office is often a matter of intentional recruitment and training – however, we also need to recognize that the barriers they face in deciding to run for office are also economic, institutional, and intersectional. We are hoping that as the Platform Committee writes the platform they take into account the many barriers people face when deciding to run for office. 

Ensuring equity in our representation requires a focus in these three areas: 

  1. Ensuring women’s equality in all areas of our society
  2. Election Reform – voting rights and campaign finance reform. 
  3. Intentional recruitment

These suggestions come from Emerge’s 15 years of work with the Democratic Party, our work in the 27 states in which we have affiliates, and the experience of our over 700 alumnae in office around the country. We have also pulled from “Autopsy: The Democratic Party In Crisis” for its thorough analysis of the 2016 race as well as our work with Democratic Party and Progressive Partners since 2016. 

As the Platform Committee is writing the 2020 Democratic Platform, Emerge strongly encourages you to consider the following issues in order to encourage more a more economic, racial, ethnic, religious, and gender diversity in candidates for office:

Ensuring Gender Equality: 

The lack of gender equality in society means that women and nonbinary people often face higher barriers to running for office. The wage gap means that women will be punished more severely for the time they take off to run for office, the lack of affordable childcare means that they might not be able to afford taking off work or to run for office if they currently stay home with their children. One of the top reasons Emerge hears for why folks are not able to run for office is that they cannot afford to give up the employer provided healthcare their family receives to run for office. 

In particular, we need to focus on the ways that our policies affect people with intersecting identities and how the impacts of policies on those intersecting identities makes it that much harder to exist safely in our society, much less run for office. 

We encourage the platform committee to view every piece of the platform through an intersectional lens because by ensuring equality and preventing discrimination in as many places as possible – more women, women of color, LGBTQ folks, and working people will be able to run for office. 

Election Reform:

Currently both our laws and party policies often add barriers to ordinary people getting involved in electoral politics. Our system is designed to keep incumbents in office and benefit the wealthy and/or well-connected over activists, advocates, and everyday Americans trying to make a difference for their communities. Women and nonbinary folks overwhelmingly get involved in electoral politics in order to make a difference on an issues that impacts them and their community – not because they’re wealthy and well-connected. 

In order to level the electoral playing field, our platform must include: 

  1. Campaign Finance Reform is needed in order to get big money out of politics which keeps anyone without access to huge sums of money from being able to compete and increases the likelihood that donors and special interests have an outsized impact on picking a candidate for a district. Leveling the playing field with public financing, lower contribution limits, stronger FEC enforcement, and fewer dark-money loopholes will make it easier for candidates who are truly representative of their districts to compete. 
  2. Ensuring open processes for appointments – more often than not our most Democratic cities, counties, and states are our least democratic party processes. Often many of these decisions are still being made by “party bosses” or in the metaphorical smoke filled back rooms. Section 7 of “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis” encourages a  more democratic Democratic Party, and while it’s suggestions focus on the DNC – there is also significant work that needs to be done at the state and county level as well to ensure that we are giving everyone a chance to run for office. We need to bring these processes into the light and make them as equitable and transparent as possible.
  3. Expanding voting access – like for all Democratic candidates, candidates that are part of underrepresented constituencies will benefit from expanded voting access. Too often, the underrepresented constituencies are underrepresented because their communities lack access to voting. We need to ensure that women working multiple jobs to put food on their table that can’t wait in long lines to vote or trans folks that might have to out themselves or share their deadname with a neighbor working the polls to be able to vote can have their voices heard. 

Intentional Recruitment

We will strive to recruit and support candidates that represent those least represented in our halls of government. We recognize that these candidates have to fight tougher odds to get to be candidates and we as Democrats pledge to do everything we can to break down barriers, focus on the unique barriers as well as the unique and needed perspectives that women and nonbinary people face, especially those that sit at the intersection of many different identities because those are the voices we most need in government. 

Part of this work is highlighted in “Autopsy” section 5 “Social Movements and the Party”– 

“For the Democratic Party, the goal of outreach cannot be only to get votes. The enduring point of community outreach is to build an ongoing relationship that aims for the party to become part of the fabric of everyday life. It means acknowledging the validity and power of people-driven movements as well as recognizing and supporting authentic progressive community leaders.

Good recruitment work is part of community outreach. We should be working with and investing in existing community leaders – to elevate them into leadership positions within our party. We need their insights, their voices at our tables, and only then can we ask for the votes of their communities. 


The Emerge Network