Press Release

Vote Mama Foundation Receives Investment from Open Society Foundations

For immediate release:

November 16, 2021

NEW YORK Vote Mama Foundation, the leading source of research and analysis about the political participation of moms, today announced that it has received a grant from Open Society Foundations, the largest private funder of justice, democratic governance, and human rights in the world. The $250,000 award will support Vote Mama’s groundbreaking research and strategies to break down the barriers women with children face when running for office, to build a country where all women and working families can thrive.

The United States is one of only two countries in the world without national paid family leave, 1 in 4 women go back to work within ten days of giving birth, and the U.S. loses $57 billion each year due to the lack of childcare. Studies show that elected women with young children introduce more bills over their tenure and focus their legislation on issues that matter to working families, yet just 6 percent of representatives in Congress are women with children 18 and under. Vote Mama Foundation works toward gender equity by breaking the barriers mothers face when running for office, normalizing mothers of young children running for office, and enabling legislators to pass family-friendly policies.

“Our policies have been failing women and working families for generations, because women and working families have not been adequately represented in our government. I am honored to partner with Open Society Foundations as we continue our mission to dismantle the barriers that keep mothers from having a seat at the decision-making table,” said Liuba Grechen Shirley, Vote Mama Foundation Founder and CEO. “This investment will unlock new, first-of-its-kind research into the political participation of moms, increasing our understanding of the systems that hold mothers back and allowing us to launch comprehensive new strategies to overcome them. By changing who has a seat at the table, we will change the policy conversation in this country, and build a society that works for working families.”

“Open Society understands that a real democracy enables every citizen to participate in representative government, including the credible ability to run for public office. Despite the cliché about politicians looking for photo-ops kissing babies, the harsh reality is that our campaign rules make it incredibly difficult for the mothers of those babies to run for office and serve, leaving our public policy and priorities bereft of input from mothers and children,” said Tom Perriello, Executive Director at Open Society U.S. “We are proud to support Vote Mama Foundation’s critical work to study the political participation of moms, eliminate obstacles that make it harder for moms to run, and advocate for family forward legislation. When women and working parents can engage fully in democratic decision making at all levels, we all benefit from a more inclusive and representative open society.”

Grechen Shirley ran for Congress in 2018 and became the first woman to receive federal approval to use Campaign Funds for Childcare after she successfully petitioned the Federal Election Commission (FEC). That decision paved the way for more than 50 federal candidates who have since used campaign funds to cover the cost of childcare. However, the FEC decision does not apply to state and local candidates. As noted in a recent Vote Mama Foundation report, the resource is disproportionately used by candidates from historically underrepresented backgrounds: 73% of campaign funds spent on childcare have been spent by women and 45% by people of color.

In 2020, Vote Mama Foundation launched a strategy to expand the use of Campaign Funds for Childcare to all 50 states by 2023. This resource allows parents running for office to use their privately raised campaign funds to pay for childcare expenses incurred while campaigning. Because many parents give up their salaries to run for office, Campaign Funds for Childcare is vital in increasing equity and accessibility in our democracy. Vote Mama Foundation is the only organization tracking the use of Campaign Funds for Childcare and working to pass legislation across the country. In 2021, Vote Mama helped double the number of states that have passed Campaign Funds for Childcare legislation, and with 25 states now allowing use, the organization is halfway to its goal.