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Civic & Political Engagement

About Civic & Political Engagement

On an ongoing basis, IWPR continues to identify successful strategies to encourage women’s participation in civic and political life. From 2003-2008, IWPR conducted research with female activists working in a range of contexts—including interfaith organizations, unions, and secular social justice movements—about their experiences in taking on public leadership roles and the sources of motivation that inspired their involvement in this work.

More recently, a report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, and the Urban Institute reported encouraging findings on women’s civic and political participation in the Washington region, showing that as of 2008 women in this area were registered to vote at higher rates than both women and men nationwide.  Women in the Washington metropolitan area also continue to give back to their communities by volunteering with local organizations; in the District of Columbia, 35 percent of women volunteer. In addition to their contributions through voting and volunteering, women from diverse backgrounds in the Washington area are generous in giving to non-profit organizations. Several of the leading foundations in this region are led by women.

Still, much more can be done to encourage women to take on public leadership roles and to support them in this work. Through its research, publications, and outreach, IWPR will continue to promote a vision for U.S. policymaking that takes seriously the contributions of female leaders and activists, addresses the obstacles that hinder women’s civic and political participation, and explores strategies for increasing women’s involvement in public life and representation at all levels of government.


Politics, Religion, and Women's Public Vision

Status of Women in the Middle East and North Africa

Visit our additional resources page for links to more information on this topic.

Latest Reports from IWPR

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The Ties That Bind: Women’s Public Vision for Politics, Religion, and Civil Society
by Amy Caiazza, Ph.D. (May 2005)

This Research-in-Brief summarizes the fi ndings of a larger report, The Ties That Bind: Women’s Public Vision for Politics, Religion, and Civil Society, based on a series of 75 in-depth, qualitative interviews with women (and a few men) working as volunteers, staff, or leaders of nonprofi t religious groups working on social justice issues.

#I915, Research-in-Brief, 6 pages

The Ties That Bind: Women’s Public Vision for Politics, Religion, and Civil Society
by Amy Caiazza, Ph.D. (May 2005)

This report is the first in a series on women’s work as leaders and activists in religious, and particularly interfaith, social justice organizations. The series will analyze the values, motivations, experiences, and leadership development of women involved in this work. It will also explore how leaders in the women’s movement think about religion and religious values.

#I914, report, 140 pages

Women’s Status and Social Capital Across the States
by Amy Caiazza, Ph.D., Robert D. Putnam, Ph.D. (June 2002)

In 2000, Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone called attention to a compelling problem: a decline in levels of social capital, or community connectedness, across the United States. On a variety of indicators of political and civic involvement, including voter participation, involvement as members and leaders in civic groups, religious involvement, philanthropy, and even informal activities such as dinner parties and picnics, Americans have fewer connections with their neighbors than they did in the 1950s and 1960s. This Briefing Paper analyzes the relationships between social capital and indicators of women’s status. Using data on social capital from Bowling Alone and data collected by IWPR for its Status of Women in the States project, the paper assesses trends across the states on both dimensions. Overall, the findings suggest that there is a strong relationship between levels of social capital and women’s status. This, in turn, suggests that women and women’s organizations should be engaged in this important national debate.

#I911, Briefing Paper, 7 pages

Does Women’s Representation in Elected Office Lead to Women-Friendly Policy?
by Amy Caiazza, Ph.D. (April 2002)

#I910, Research-in-Brief, 6 pages
Preview not available

Women's Community Involvement: The Effects of Money, Safety, Parenthood, and Friends
by Amy Caiazza, Ph.D. (September 2001)

Decreased civic and political participation is a pressing problem in our country. Today, Americans are less likely to vote, work for a party or candidate, or attend a political meeting than they were 40 years ago. They belong to fewer social and community organizations and attend fewer meetings. As a result, Americans have many fewer "ties that bind;" hence, they lack crucial "social capital" that contributes to building safe and healthy communities. This research-in-brief suggests that gender plays an important role in determining who participates in the United States. Women chose to participate, or not to, for different reasons than men. Efforts to increase civic participation by both sexes need to take these differences into account if levels of civic and political participation are to increase in America.

Preview not available

Women's Political Participation: Status of the Women in the States
by Amy Young (February 2000)

Participating in the political process is one way women can seek representation of their interests and influence policies affecting their lives. Voter registration and turnout, female state and federal elected representation, and women's state institutional resources are all crucial to making women's political concerns visible. Although women have made significant political gains over the last century, women are far from achieving political equality. Eighty years after the Nineteenth Amendment granted female suffrage, women today are more likely than men to register and to vote. However, women are still drastically underrepresented in federal and state government. Although slightly more than half the population, women hold only 12.1 percent of seats in the US Congress and 22.4 percent of seats in state legislatures across the country. "The Status of Women in the States" is an ongoing research project conducted by the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) to establish baseline measures of the status of women in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Political participation is one of several measures IWPR uses to compare women's status among the states.

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