Women Continued to Make Gains in Election 2020.

Republican women were key to that success.

Women ran for and were elected to congressional and state legislative seats in record numbers in the 2020 election. However, the gains for women were smaller in 2020 than those that resulted from election 2018. The partisan story of women’s legislative success also differed between 2018 and 2020. While Democratic women were responsible for the increases in women candidates and officeholders in the 2018 election, Republican women rebounded from 2018 losses to account for the majority of increases in women’s candidacies and officeholding in 2020. Republican women were able to capitalize on a better-than-expected year for Republicans in legislative elections, especially in U.S. House contests where Democrats – women and men alike – lost ground.  

The progress for all women in election 2020 should also be put into important context. First, despite breaking records for candidacy and officeholding, women – who are just over half of the population – were still underrepresented among all candidates and remain less than one-third of elected officials. And while Republican women made notable gains in 2020, they remain less than one-third of women legislators and less than one-fifth of Republican legislators at federal and state levels.

Finally, measuring progress for women in electoral politics means looking beyond the numbers. Evaluating women candidates’ paths to office and campaign strategies reveal sites for both progress and persistent gender and intersectional power imbalances at play in U.S. campaigns.

This report was written with support from Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company founded by Melinda French Gates.

This report:

  • Breaks down 2020 congressional and state legislative candidate data by candidate gender, race, and party; 
  • Puts the data on gender, candidacy, and representation into historical context, with specific comparisons to the 2018 election; 
  • Analyzes women candidate characteristics and motivation to better understand their paths to candidacy and officeholding; 
  • Offers insights into the gendered and racialized elements of women candidate presentation and strategies as indicators of adaptation to or disruption of an electoral status quo that has traditionally advantaged white men; and 
  • Looks ahead to what 2020 election outcomes mean for the future of women in American politics.

Explore the content in this report to learn more.