We talk about underrepresentation in media and entertainment all the time, but the real area we should be focused on is politics, as Black women’s presence in this arena is greatly lacking and much-needed in these racially charged times. The Higher Heights Leadership fund recently released its 2015 report, Voices. Votes. Leadership
Status of Black Women in American Politics which “explores the barriers and opportunities that exist to harness Black women’s power at the ballot box and on the ballot.” And while the researchers note that the number of black women in political leadership roles has increased since their first report in 2014, there is still a lag when it comes to black women currently in office and in the pipeline for future roles.
According to the report’s key findings:
- Despite being 7.4% of the U.S. population, Black women are just 3.4% of Congress, less than 1% of statewide elected executive officials, 3.5% of state legislatures, and 1.9% of mayors in cities with populations over 30,000. Four Black women serve as mayor of one of the 100 largest cities in the United States.
- There are no Black women in Congress from 37 states and no Black woman serves in the U.S. Senate.
- There are no Black women in Statewide Elected Executive Office in 48 states.
- There are no Black women in state legislatures in 10 states There are no Black women big-city (>30,000) mayors in 33 states.
- Historically, only 35 Black women from only 15 states have ever served in the U.S. Congress, only 10 Black women from 9 states have ever served in statewide elected executive offices, and three states have still never elected a Black woman to their state legislature.
It’s studies like this that make the work of Marilyn Mosby — and her husband Nick Mosby who’s running for mayor in Baltimore because there’s certainly a shortage of black male representation in local and national politics as well — so important. It also makes us appreciate women like representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) who is the most senior of the only 12 black women currently serving in Congress. If we want to see more policies that help black women and the black family succeed, we have to have leaders in place who can push our concerns to the forefront.