A group devoted to female politicians says one way to get more women on Capitol Hill is to convince female voters to donate money to campaigns.
"Money is essential in winning campaigns," says Sam Bennett, president and CEO of She Should Run. "If you don't give, you don't have a voice, so I urge women to put their money where their mouth is."
She Should Run, in cooperation with the Center for Responsive Politics, released its "Vote with your Purse" report, showing women made up just 26 percent of the political donations in 2010, down from 31 percent in 2008. Women make up more than 50 percent of the U.S. population, but only 17 percent of Congress. [See Mary Kate Cary's Five Ways the GOP Can Woo Women.]
"There is a direct connective tissue between women's vast underrepresentation in elected office in this country, women being significantly less likely to run for office and women's drastic underinvestment in politics financially," says Bennett. "It is all part and parcel of the same systemic problem."
In 2010, women gave just 21 percent of the total PAC contributions, with 25 percent of the donations going to Republican candidates and 30 percent of the total individual contributions to Democrats.
Bennett says, however, women are far from selfish about their money. Multiple studies show women annually give more money to charities then men.
Bennett says one explanation for women giving more to charities than candidates is that women view politics as combative and ineffective. The report also says that women don't think a campaign donation is the best way to make institutional changes. [Romney Sweeps 5 Primary Wins, Promises 'Better America']
"Women have not made that connection between giving charitably and giving politically. Women's giving potential is enormous," Bennett argues. "There is no more important investment that women can make with their dollars, with their time, then to be engaged in politics."
To illustrate how much of an impact women could have on campaigns, Bennett argues if every female in the U.S. donated just $5 to a congresswoman running for office in 2012, it would be enough to have a female candidate in each House race running on a $1 million budget. [Read Dems Put GOP in Political Box Over Women's Issues.]
Victoria Budson, the Executive Director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard University, offers up another reason for the gap in political contributions between men and women.
"Men tend to view political giving as an extension of their power base," Budson says. "Women view it as one of the many ways they invest in their values and their priorities. It is one of the ways they participate in politics, but it is not the only way."
Budson says women are less likely to run for office, but they volunteer more, translating their support for their families and community into a support on the campaign trail.
Despite women giving less money to campaigns, female congresswomen already in office raised more money in 2010 than their male counterparts by roughly $100,000 . However, for all but four of those representatives, more than half of the donations came from men.