Publication

Vote Mama Foundation 2021 Annual Report

For immediate release:

November 24, 2021

Why Vote Mama?


Vote Mama Foundation, a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization, is the leading source of research and analysis on the political participation of moms in the U.S. We break the structural barriers moms face running for office, normalize moms of young children running, and leverage a network of moms in office to advance women-centered, family-friendly legislation.


Just 6% of congressional representatives are moms of children 18 and under. Yet 86% of American women are moms by age 44 if we aren’t electing moms we aren’t electing the vast majority of American women. What’s more, moms in office are effective advocates for women, children, and working families. A 2019 study showed that moms in congress introduced more bills than their peers, and focused their legislation on issues that mattered most to working families, such as paid family leave, reproductive rights, children’s healthcare, and childcare.


We are changing who has a seat at the table, to transform the reality of working families.


Campaign Funds for Childcare


Our first initiative is to expand the use of Campaign Funds for Childcare to all 50 states by 2023. We are the only organization working with candidates to petition state and local election commissions and legislators to introduce and pass legislation to approve the use of Campaign Funds for Childcare, removing a major financial obstacle that prevents mothers from running for office.


In 2018, Vote Mama Founder & CEO Liuba Grechen Shirley became the first woman to receive federal approval to use Campaign Funds for Childcare. By the end of 2020, 7 states had approved the use of Campaign Funds for Childcare by passing legislation. In 2021, we more than doubled this number, bringing the number of states to pass this legislation to 15, and bringing the total number of states allowing use through either legislation or an election commission ruling to 25. This puts us halfway to our ambitious goal of expanding access to all 50 states by 2023.


Specifically, in 2021 we worked with legislators to pass legislation in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Montana, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia. We also supported a request by legislators in Virginia of the Attorney General to permit the use of Campaign Funds for Childcare in the state by issuing an Advisory Opinion. We were thrilled to be able to demonstrate bipartisan support of this legislation by passing it in both Republican and Democratically controlled states, laying the groundwork for further success in expanding access next year. We also began building coalitions of partnerships with legislators and advocacy organizations in key states targeted for 2022, such as Arizona, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin.


We are the only organization tracking the use of Campaign Funds for Childcare, and earlier this year published our findings in a report, Campaign Funds for Childcare: Breaking Barriers for Moms to Run for Office. The report outlines how this resource increases equity and accessibility in our democracy: 73% of funds have been spent by women and 45% by candidates of color. The report played an important role in raising awareness of this issue, with coverage by The 19th*, Roll Call, Motherly, CNBC, and Forbes, among others, and social media amplification by influential leaders, such as Rep. Katie Porter, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, and Hillary Clinton.


In 2022, we hope to expand the use of Campaign Funds for Childcare to 35 states, toward our goal of reaching all 50 states by 2023, so that no candidate has to consider the cost of childcare when determining whether to run for office.


“If we want a diversity of candidates, if we want equity in campaigns, we need to make childcare part of the process.”


Debra Rodman

Former Virginia Delegate


State of Motherhood in American Politics


Vote Mama Foundation is filling a critical gap in the research on gender equity in politics: that of motherhood. When we launched last year, we discovered that less than 5% of the 116th Congress were mothers of children 18 and under, including 24 members of the House of Representatives and 2 Senators. Of these, just 4 members were Republicans. In the 117th Congress, we have seen a slight increase, with moms of children 18 and under now representing just over 6% of congressional representatives. While Democrats still make up the majority of moms in Congress, the increase was driven by the gains made by Republican moms, who now number 9 to the Democrats’ 24.


This kind of data does not exist at the state level. That’s why Vote Mama Foundation is launching new research into demographic data on women in state legislatures, the impact moms in office have on state policy priorities, and the barriers these women face to holding elected office.


Meeting the Moment


American policies were failing women and working families long before the COVID-19 pandemic. We are one of only two countries with no paid family leave. Infant childcare costs more than four-year college, and childcare centers operate on razor thin margins and pay their staff minimum wage. More than half of Americans live in childcare deserts and we lose $57 billion each year in lost earnings and revenue because of the lack of childcare. Women - especially women of color - have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 5 million women pushed out of the workforce, and recovery still largely out of reach. These external factors have further exacerbated the challenges working mothers have faced in this country for generations, but they have also brought with them a renewed attention, and a once-in-a-generation opportunity to achieve real progress for working families.


Moms at all levels of elected office are meeting this moment with bold policy proposals that empower women and working families:

  • Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic introduced legislation to provide City of Milwaukee employees 12 weeks of paid parental leave.

  • Rep. Sherae’a Moore (DE) introduced Campaign Funds for Childcare legislation as her first act in the state legislature. It was signed into law a few months later, breaking a major barrier for working parents in her state to run for office.

  • Sen. Jessica Ramos (NY) and Assemblywoman Sarah Clark (NY) announced their plan to introduce legislation to effectively implement Universal Childcare in New York State through their The New York State Early Learning Child Care Program bill.

  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is one of just two moms of children 18 and under in the U.S. Senate. A tireless advocate for women and working families, Sen. Gillibrand has refused to back down in the fight to include paid family leave in the Build Back Better Agenda, despite resistance from Republican and Democratic colleagues.

Organizational Capacity


Vote Mama Foundation grew significantly this year. Our full-time staff increased from three to five, as we hired a Digital Engagement & Communications Associate, Elise Anderson, and a Research & Policy Manager, Bailey Bruce. Our Board of Directors also welcomed three new members: Matielyn Jones, former candidate for Georgia State Senate and Founder of Politics 365, Melanie Fonder Kaye, Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Strategic Engagement, and Elliot Haspel, Program Officer at Robins Foundation.


From 2020 to 2021, Vote Mama Foundation doubled our revenue, increasing our individual donor base and securing two new major institutional partnerships with leading funders in democracy and civic engagement. We are grateful to our supporters for making this work possible.


Conclusion


This report is evidence of what can be achieved with your partnership, and we thank you for your support of our movement to build political power for moms across the United States. We look forward to our continued work together in the months and years ahead.