06/02/09 - WCF Foundation Releases Vote with Your Purse Research Update


WCF Foundation Releases Vote With Your Purse Update

From WCF's sister organization, WCF Foundation

June 2, 2009

In A Year That Brought Banner Progress For Women, Study Shows Women Still Don’t Open Their Wallets

The longer women fail to increase their political giving, the longer it will take to achieve gender parity in public office.

Washington, DC - Women continue to invest politically at rates far lower than their male counterparts. Despite casting nearly eight million more votes than men, women's contributions accounted for only 31% of total donations to candidates, PACs and party committees in the 2008 cycle. Today, in follow up to their 2006 report 'Vote With Your Purse', WCF Foundation released updated data which provides current information on the state of women's political giving through an examination of the 2008 cycle.

In 2008, women gave $381 million more in political contributions than in 2006, however, only 35% of these contributions were to women candidates. “We know that women are willing to make significant charitable investments,” says Sam Bennett, President/CEO of WCF Foundation, herself a candidate of U.S. Congress in 2008 (PA 15), former party leader and down-ticket candidate (Mayor of Allentown, PA, 2001, 2005). “In order to achieve the gender parity in public office that is essential to keep our nation strong, women donors must invest in women candidates.”

The update shows that women are still being disproportionately outspent by men. “We control half the nation's wealth, make up a majority of the electorate, but sadly, we are not making the necessary investments politically,” said Bennett. Also, in 2008, women gave $312 million to men and only $167 million to women. “The effect is clear: women candidates are being outraised and outspent. Money in politics is perpetuating the gender divide in public office,” continued Bennett.

There are three legs of the proverbial political power stool: voting, action, and money. Women are excelling at voting and action, but it is within the realm of political giving that women fall far behind their male counterparts.

The update highlights this divide:

    • Male U.S. House incumbents raised on average $196,281 more than women in 2008. Only five of the 1303 candidates relied on women for more than half their contributions. Women will be permanently handicapped if they can’t depend on women to financially support them and vote for them.


    • Men donors have widened the gap in average contributions to U.S. House candidates. In 2008, the average contribution by political donors of both genders received by women candidates was $967 versus $1,051 for men.


    • The top three women who enjoyed incumbency advantage in 2008 raised approximately $33 million - $16 million less than the total for the top three male incumbents. Of the Senate candidates who raised more than $125,000, not a single one relied on women for the majority of their contributions.


  • In highly competitive races, the gap between the top-raising female and male U.S. Senate challengers was almost $14 million (Senator Kay Hagan raised $8.5 million and Al Franken $22.5 million), which is $8 million more than the difference in 2006. 

More work is needed to convince women to increase their political giving and invest in women candidates. “We need to level the playing field. WCF Foundation is committed to working not just to increase women's political giving but to increase their investment in gender parity in public office. At WCF Foundation we focus on the woman and if we convince more women donors to do just that, we'll realize the gender parity this nation needs,” said Bennett.

Just as in the Vote with Your Purse report released in 2007, we urge candidates to:

  • Emphasize the impact they will have on specific issues;
  • Better inspire women by describing political giving as a civic or social responsibility, like voting or volunteering;
  • Provide multiple sources of independent information about their platform;
  • Include women in the process by making more transparent how the money will be used; and
  • Provide opportunities for women donors to interact with campaign supporters and staff, and, of course, the candidate.

View the full update online
or request a print version on WCF Foundation’s website.

*WCF Foundation is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to educating women on becoming more effective political participants.  WCF Foundation is committed to helping women build the skills, assets and infrastructure they need to become greater leaders in public life.

*Data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics; analysis conducted by WCF Foundation and Center for Responsive Politics.

For media requests, please contact: Erin Cutraro, Vice President, erin@wcfonline.org, (202) 393-8164

For all other requests, please contact: Niya Apostolova, Research and Operations Coordinator, niya@wcfonline.org, (202) 393-8164


  • ★ 50/50 Representation

    Why should good government depend on only half of the nation’s human capital? WCF commits to 50/50 representation of women and men in elected office by 2028.

  • ★ Common Ground

    Common ground just means problems get solved more collaboratively, for the good of more people. It’s the bedrock of our leadership at home and abroad.

  • ★ Viability for Election

    It takes more than money to make a candidate worth electing. WCF looks for guts, street sense, situational awareness, resilience -- the full range of gifts a woman brings to the race.

  • ★ Non-Partisan

    A woman’s place is in every party, every elected office, at every level. Period.