The Women’s Collective aims to build a community that inspires and supports AAPI women to become politically engaged by leading the national conversation on AAPI women representation in politics, uplifting AAPI women in politics, creating resources and tools for AAPI women to increase representation in public service, and to connect leaders and stakeholders.
The Power of She: Why we need AAPI Women in Public Office Now
AAPIs currently make up 6.1 percent of the United States population and are the fastest growing racial group in the country. Despite this, AAPIs are the least-likely to hold positions in public office. Due to discriminatory policies for over two centuries including exclusion, denial of citizenship and other targeted actions, AAPIs today continue to face significant challenges when entering the political arena. The persistence of stereotypes and the perpetuation of the model and silent minority myths all contribute to the lack of AAPI representation in politics.
AAPI women face higher hurdles than AAPI men when running for office. Only sixteen AAPI women have been elected to Congress with ten currently serving in office today. AAPI Power indicates that AAPI women make up 81% of leadership (executive director/co-director) in AAPI civic engagement organizations; yet, only 47 out of 149 AAPI state legislators in the country are AAPI women. Such lack of representation does not derive from lack of interest, but due to concrete examples that this blog post will highlight, and is addressed in the APAICS’ Women’s Collective Summit.
Not only do AAPI women face a racial barrier when running for office, they also combat sexism on the campaign trail. Researchers at Harvard University found that voters view ambitious women with contempt, while they view ambitious men as competent and strong. Men who utilize an authoritative voice are viewed as confident, while women with a similar tone are perceived as arrogant. Women are also judged on their attractiveness, body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice on the campaign trail. Even when voters dislike both the female and male candidates, they are more likely to support the male candidate rather than a female candidate who is equally qualified for the office.
Other than facing these outside barriers, women also must gain the courage to run in the first place.The sexist public perception that women are not as viable candidates or qualified as their male counterparts significantly contribute to the lack of female representation in politics. According to the American Political Science Review, women are less encouraged to run for office.
Strategic discrimination, in which party leaders or donors worry that candidates’ identities will hinder voters from supporting their bid for election, also plays a hand in discouraging women from running for office. For example, Senator Mazie Hirono acknowledged that in the Japanese culture, her personality of being candid and upfront are seen as negative characteristics. She knew that she had to be prepared and strategic as, “that's what women do, you know, we pretty much have to hunker down and do all this stuff, because we're not necessarily rewarded for being leaders.” Furthermore, she notes that the generalization of Asian people being kind and sweet indicates “why diversity is so important. It broadens your perspective of view.” Such double standards not only judge female candidates through a patriarchal lens, but also discourages interested female candidates from declaring their candidacy to begin with.
Despite these challenges, AAPI women want to see themselves represented in elected office.
According to a study done by NAPAWF, 84 percent of AAPI women want to see more women running for office, and 86 percent would like to see more AAPIs in government. Based on research done by CU Boulder and Notre Dame professors, the “legacy effect” can help expand female representation in politics but it requires women in visible positions in the first place. For example, Stephanie Chang, Michigan State Senator and the first Asian American woman to serve in the Michigan Legislature, said that she “needed a lot of encouragement to decide to run for office.” When there is more visibility of women holding elected office, more AAPI women are likely to see themselves as viable candidates.
Men and women win elections at the same rate, and women, once in office, tend to outperform men in co-sponsoring legislation and bringing money to their home districts. In spite of this, women experience higher levels of election aversion as they either possess different political ambitions, or they underestimate their qualifications, while men tend to overestimate their own.
The APAICS’ Women’s Collective aims to change this narrative.
The Women’s Collective targets the issue of lack of encouragement by giving access to resources as well as support to politically active AAPI women. Through panels of political experts, networking opportunities, and hearing from AAPI elected officials, APAICS provides a launching point for AAPI women interested in politics.
Having the resources and support to deal with the political challenges still arising today will increase AAPI political representation. The APAICS Women’s Collective is just one of the ways that APAICS is providing resources to the AAPI community and to AAPI women specifically.