Women are far less likely than men to run for Congress. But here’s the curious thing: When it comes to the hardest, most miserable part of campaigning — fundraising — women do just as well as men.
Study after study shows this, but it wasn’t always that way. Efforts over the past 30 years to teach women how to raise money and give money have helped them catch up to men as powerhouse fundraisers.
Even with ample evidence that women can raise just as much money as men in general elections, a lot of women say asking for money is what they dread most about running for office.
“I mean, I think about when I was a Girl Scout, right? And I did not want to sell those cookies because it was so hard to ask people to buy!” said Sara Eskrich, whose first campaign will be for city council in Madison, Wis.
Eskrich, 27, spent one afternoon role-playing in a basement in downtown Madison to practice how to call a donor for money. It was one of many training sessions across the country organized by EMILY’s List — the political action committee that raises funds for pro-abortion-rights Democratic women.
“Ring, ring! Ring, ring!” Eskrich sang, holding an invisible phone up to her ear.
Her training partner picked up.
“Hi, hi, is um,” Eskrich said, squinting at her notes. “Sorry, I forgot your name!”
The two women traded niceties and after a minute, Eskrich went in for her pitch.
“I was also wondering if you might be able to help join me in this effort to really bring development into Madison, and if you might be willing to donate $500 to my campaign,” she said.
The thinking is, if women get more confident at fundraising, they’ll run more often, and that means more women in seats of power. All they need is a little bit of nudging.
When Geraldine Ferraro made her historic run for vice president in 1984, neither party had ever systematically recruited or raised funds for female candidates.
Pat Schroeder, a former Democratic congresswoman from Colorado, remembers a very humble beginning.
“My first campaign in 1972 — are you seated? My average campaign donation was $7.50,” said Schroeder.
Even today, the money that women raise tends to come in small amounts. So women have to gather more individual donors than men do.