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Moms Are Largely Missing From the Law-Making Arena, New Report Reveals

“There is a reason why our nation’s policies are failing moms—we are systemically kept out of the conversation, out of office and out of power.”
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By Wyndi Kappes, Associate Editor
Updated October 19, 2022
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Image: JC Gonram | Shutterstock

As midterm elections approach, voters often have many questions about candidates’ backgrounds, where they stand on the issues and what their goals are. One of the seemingly simple questions the Vote Mama Foundation had for this election—how many mothers with young children are serving in state legislatures? It turns out this question wasn’t so easy to answer, with no data available—until now.

What The State of Motherhood Report Found

After gathering information throughout 2022, The Vote Mama Foundation’s State of Motherhood report recently revealed that only 5.3 percent of state legislators are mothers with children under 18 even though 17.8 percent of people in America are moms with kids under 18. This means that moms with young children are represented in state legislatures at less than half the rate they appear in the population. Researchers report that more than 900 mothers with young children would have to be elected for government representation to equally reflect the population.

Why Representation Matters

Mother’s rights advocacy organizations point to the lack of young mothers in government as one of the reasons that family-friendly legislation is often ignored.

“American moms are not okay. The United States is the most dangerous country in the industrialized world to give birth. More than one million women are still missing from the workforce since the start of the pandemic, mainly due to lapses in childcare and our nation’s inaction on paid family leave. Time and time again, proposals that would support working families are the first to hit the chopping block,” Liuba Grechen Shirley Vote Mama Founder and CEO told The Bump in an email. “There is a reason why our nation’s policies are failing moms -— we are systemically kept out of the conversation, out of office, and out of power.”

The State of Motherhood report also highlights the many ways that young mothers make a real, positive change in the lives of many when elected to state seats. For example, after struggling to find affordable childcare, New York State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Sarah Clark introduced the Early Learning Child Care Act in 2022. The bill, if passed, would provide subsidies for children to attend early learning childcare programs and establish the New York state childcare board.

Childcare affordability, the national maternal and infant health crisis and paid family and medical leave are just a few of the things on this year’s ballot that could use the voice of young mothers to be heard during discussions.

Barriers to Entry

There are barriers to entry into political office. A lack of staff and childcare, long campaign days and no pay all keep young mothers out of office. Not to mention once elected, moms have to contend with low pay, unpredictable hours and lack of changing tables, pumping rooms and affordable on-site childcare.

So what can you do to help young moms be better represented in state legislatures? The Vote Mama Foundation encourages parents to take action in their communities by doing a few easy things.

4 Ways to Help Young Moms Get a Seat at The Table

  1. Join the Vote Mama Lobby, an app to help moms build their political power, find advocacy opportunities and lobby for family-friendly legislation.
  2. Help Vote Mama Foundation pass Campaign Funds for Childcare in your state. The cost of childcare is a structural barrier that prevents so many moms from running for office. Authorizing the use of Campaign Funds for Childcare is a simple change that empowers more moms to run and helps transform the political landscape.
  3. Support young moms candidates in your community on November 8th. From School Board to the US Senate, review your state and district’s sample ballot and get to know your local candidates.
  4. Donate to the Vote Mama Foundation to help the nonprofit continue its groundbreaking research on the political participation of moms and close the motherhood gap in politics.

Learn more about how you can advocate for maternal health policies and check out organizations like the Chamber of Mothers and MomsRising, which are also dedicated to advancing mothers’ rights.

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