Dear Friend,

Happy Women's History Month! While women have made notable strides toward parity over the last year, there is still so much work left to do.

- Women broke records for representation in 2020, but still hold just 26% of Congressional seats and less than 31% of state legislative seats.

- There are zero Black women serving in the U.S. Senate after Kamala Harris ascended to the vice presidency.

- Without intervention and investment, women will not reach political parity in the U.S. for more than 100 years.
Our twelve partner organizations are accelerating the pace of parity by empowering women to see themselves as leaders and equipping women with the skills to run and win. In 2020 alone they trained more than 36,000 women. By uniting the field of organizations working to elect women, we can achieve a truly representative democracy by 2050. 
               Abbie Hodgson

The Ascend Fund 2020 Annual Report

This week, we released our first annual report, diving into our strategy to unite the field of organizations working to elect women and the successes of our 12 partner organizations in 2020. 

In 2020, our 12 partner organizations trained tens of thousands of women to run for office – more than 500 of whom stepped up to run. Learn more about each Ascend partner and how they are preparing women from diverse backgrounds to run for office – and win.

In 2020 women trained by our partners who ran for office in 2020 had a 70% win rate in their primaries and 62% win rate in their general elections – double the national average for women candidates. Our partners are incredibly effective at providing women with the skills and confidence they need to run and win.
The Ascend Fund awarded more than $2 million in grants in 2020, including nearly $500,000 in emergency funding to assist our partners through the pandemic. Ascend invests in transformative strategies and provides multi-year general operating grants to support the long-term stability of organizations.
Read the full report to learn more about how The Ascend Fund is building a pathway for women to elected office.

This month, The Ascend Fund awarded an additional $550,000 in grants to four partner organizations: Advance Native Political Leadership Education Fund, Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS), IGNITE, and LGBTQ Victory Institute. Each organization received a two-year, general operating support grant between $100,000-$200,000. Read more about our 2021 grantmaking.

Each organization will continue to empower women to run for office through activities such as developing culturally relevant curriculum and recruitment practices, increasing training capacity and accessibility, and the development of mentorship programs.  

To date, The Ascend Fund has awarded nearly $6 million in grants. Learn more about the strategy behind our investments and how we are accelerating the pace of parity.

While progress was made, women still make up just 30.8% of state legislators. 
Women now make up a record 30.8% of state legislators, but the gains seen nationally were not evenly distributed in states across the country. Thirty-two states will see the number of women serving in their statehouses increase in 2021, while women’s representation in six states will remain stagnant, and decline in 12 states. Likewise, women as a percentage of state legislators varies dramatically in states across the country, from a low of 11% in West Virginia to a high of 60% in Nevada. 

Read our full analysis of the 2020 state legislative election results.

One key barrier to equal representation in state houses for women is the egregiously low pay for state legislators. Pay for state legislators varies vastly, from $100 a year in New Hampshire to more than $100,000 a year in California and New York; and the average base salary for a state legislator is just $38,370. 

“One of the first things women think about when considering running for the state legislature is the salary. Being a state representative is a full-time job, but it only comes with part-time pay. This is the number one barrier keeping women from running for office. This results in narrowing the field of candidates by gender; by occupation; income levels and ethnicity.”
        - Kansas State Representative Susan Ruiz

Legislatures were originally designed to allow members to hold jobs outside of government to maintain natural connections to the communities they serve. The demanding schedule of state legislatures, even those that are part-time, makes it difficult or impossible to maintain regular employment. This system makes state legislative offices inaccessible for most Americans and results in retirees, people with private businesses, and the independently wealthy having far more access to the role. 

The Ascend Fund is committed to changing the face of leadership. We believe it is important to establish a pathway for more women to see themselves as candidates and normalize women's leadership. We invest in organizations bridging the gap, providing women with the tools, training, and resources to successfully run for office.

Read our full analysis of the impact of low state legislative pay in our monthly column, Perspectives on Parity.  
The Ascend Fund is powered by Panorama Global, an action tank committed to solving pressing global problems through strategic partnerships, collaborative funds, and scalable solutions. 
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