6 Leading Resources on the Link Between Gender Equity and Voting Rights

Woman using a voting booth
  • Team Schusterman

August 25, 2021

  • Gender and Reproductive Equity
  • Democracy and Voting Rights

This Women’s Equality Day, on August 26, marks 101 years since the 19th amendment was passed, giving women the right to vote. This historic moment followed years of organized advocacy efforts, with women lobbying and protesting to gain suffrage nationwide. But while white women received the right to vote in 1920, it took decades until most women of color—including Black, Indigenous, Asian American and Latinx women—could formally participate in our democracy,.

Over a century later, women are still fighting for political power. Today, women hold only 27% of seats in Congress and make up just 31% of state legislators. While more women are getting elected to office, women across the country, particularly women of color and women struggling to make ends meet, face the biggest barriers to running for and staying in office. This same group of women and their communities find themselves barred from participating in elections due to targeted voter suppression tactics. The result: women lack a voice in making decisions that advance their rights, impacting everything from gender-based harassment and violence, to reproductive healthcare, to financial security.

Thankfully, there are visionary leaders on the front lines of expanding women’s power and voice in the United States. These women and their organizations are enfranchising their communites’ vote, supporting women candidates for office and helping the public understand what is at stake. By following their lead, we can ensure our democracy represents all women—Black women, women of color, Indigenous women, cisgender women, transgender women, and nonbinary people.  

Below, we have curated a list of six essential resources from leaders and organizations driving this work. We hope these materials help guide your understanding of the most pressing issues women face in our democracy today—and what we can do about it.

1. A podcast and radio show about how women of color experience and shape major political events
Hosted by award-winning journalist Farai Chideya, Our Body Politic is a podcast and radio show created by, for, and about women of color. By sharing stories about the transformative power of women in politics, Our Body Politic emphasizes the value of women of color as essential participants in an equitable American democracy. Not sure where to start? Listen to some of our favorite episodes:

2. An interview with political commentator, strategist and activist Heather McGhee on the “zero-sum” mentality in politics
In this interview with Salon, Heather McGee unpacks the widespread misconception that progress for people of color will only come at the expense of white people. By electing political candidates committed to dismantling racism across systems that have long devalued communities of color, voters can challenge the “zero-sum” approach to racial equity and benefit all Americans. We also recommend checking out McGee’s critically acclaimed book, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together.

3. A report on the experience of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women voters
AAPI voters are a rapidly expanding population in the U.S. and have become a significant political force. Yet AAPI voters, particularly AAPI women, are far too often ignored by political leaders. In their report Mighty Voices: Asian American and Pacific Islander Women Voters in 2020, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum chronicles the experience of AAPI women voters in the 2020 election and offers concrete recommendations for political leaders to engage this pivotal demographic.

4. A book unpacking a deep-rooted effort to alter the rules of U.S. democratic governance
While recent attacks on voting rights and the American democratic process are alarming, they are anything but new. In her book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, historian Nancy MacLean examines a strategy designed over six decades to alter every branch of government and disempower the majority of American voters. The goal: to preserve the power and privilege of white elites while further disenfranchising lower-income people and communities of color.

5. A list of 100 steps the Biden-Harris Administration should take to advance gender equity
The first 100 days of a presidential administration are critical for taking action to advance gender equity long-term. While the first 100 days of the new administration have passed, this list of 100 steps to advance gender equity from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) is a comprehensive roadmap for the Biden-Harris Administration to achieve bold and impactful change. Check out the full list and find out which steps the administration has accomplished—and which it has yet to achieve.

6. An article about how women of color are leading the fight for a more equitable U.S. democracy
Women of color—particularly Black women—were a galvanizing force in the 2020 election, achieving higher levels of voter turnout than better-funded groups. But these voter turnout efforts still lack the resources needed to build sustainable movements. In this column for The Hill, Yordanos Eyoel and Aimee Allison outline how politicians and voters can support the women of color leading these movements, helping them build new institutions with the potential to achieve a truly functional multiracial democracy.

Learn about our partners advancing this work in our Gender and Reproductive Equity and Voting Rights portfolios.