Black women representation in elected statewide offices increased from 3.7 percent last year to 4.3 percent this year, the largest increase since 1994.
The number of Black women elected to statewide executive offices doubled in the past year from three to six.
These and other figures come from a report titled “Black Women in Politics 2019,” recently released by the Higher Heights and Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
“Even where their numbers have increased, there is still vast opportunity for growth in the number of Black women running and winning at all levels of office,” stated the report to assess the information less than a year before the 2020 presidential election. “These data illuminate that opportunity to expand Black women’s political power, in addition to raising questions about what motivates Black women to run and what conditions facilitate or hinder their success.”
The report highlights some figures that show Black women are nearly 8 percent of the population, but less than 5 percent of Congress, statewide executive offices and state legislatures.
For instance, only 15 Black women have ever served in statewide executive offices such as lieutenant governor, attorney general and secretary of state in 13 states including Ohio, California and Kentucky.
The report credits former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in her bid last year to become the first Black women ever elected governor. Although Abrams lost, she continues to receive praise for putting the spotlight on Black women running in major elections.
In fact, Georgia currently leads the nation with 36 Black women, exactly half of the 72 women currently in its state legislature.
Maryland ranks seconds with 27, including House Speaker Adrienne Jones of Baltimore County, the state’s first woman and African American to hold the position. The state represented a record total of 73 women in the General Assembly.
Also included in the total is recently appointed Del. Nicole A. Williams (D-District 22) of Greenbelt. She replaces former Del. Tawanna Gaines, who resigned and pleaded guilty in October to wire fraud.
“I always feel like our legislature should be reflective of the demographic of the community in which we’re legislating,” Williams said. “While the report from Higher Heights and Rutgers is wonderful, there is still a lot more work to be done.”
Because of the most anticipated presidential elections in history next year where Democrats look to defeat Republican Donald Trump, the report assesses three recommendations for other organizations support Black women. They are:
• Harness the energy to support Black women candidates for elected office who are engaged in advocacy, community engagement and public leadership.
• Expand the sites for recruitment to non-minority districts at the state and federal level, particularly statewide executive offices and U.S. Senate.
• Address barriers that impede Black women’s entry or success in political institutions.
Del. Wanika Fisher (D-District 47B) of Hyattsville said barriers remain for minority candidates to raise money and get support from high-ranking officials.
“Black women are facing two issues: sexism and racism. Combating both those things to be leadership and in the executive role is really, really hard,” she said. “People are more comfortable working with Black women, but not as comfortable taking orders from Black women. That is the difference and that is why you don’t see many in executive positions in our federal delegation anymore. I am hoping that tied will change.”
Click here to view the full report.