Black Women in American Politics 2021

Higher Heights and the Center for American Women and Politics Release Reaching Higher: Black Women in American Politics 2021


WASHINGTON (October 22, 2021) –Today, Higher Heights Leadership Fund and the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, released a new report, Reaching Higher: Black Women in American Politics 2021.

This report will be launched at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, with a robust discussion of national political experts, including Glynda C. Carr and Kelly Dittmar, Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL); A'shanti Gholar, President of Emerge; Minyon Moore, Principal at Dewey Square Group, Nikole Killion, Congressional Correspondent, CBS News, and Sonya Ross, Founder & Editor in Chief, Black Women Unmuted.

The 2020 election marked a significant milestone in Black women’s political leadership. Kamala Harris became the first woman, the first Black person, and the first South Asian person on a major-party general election presidential ballot, as well as the first woman, the first Black person, and the first South Asian person to win the vice presidency. Black women also found success across other levels of office, in addition to playing pivotal roles in voter mobilization and voter turnout.

As we look ahead to the midterm elections, the report finds there may be greater opportunities for Black women’s gains in statewide offices where they remain especially underrepresented. One year ahead of the 2022 election, it’s important to take stock of the current levels of Black women’s representation nationwide, as well as Black women’s political successes and the persistent hurdles they faced in the 2020 cycle. This update outlines the status of Black women in American politics as of fall 2021 and provides an outlook for the 2022 election, which offers an immediate occasion for harnessing Black women’s political power both at the ballot box as voters and on the ballot as candidates.

The report illustrates:

· A record number of Black women ran for and won congressional offices in 2020, but Black women’s congressional representation is not at a record high. Most acutely, no Black women currently serve in the U.S. Senate.

· Between 2020 and 2021, Black women’s state legislative representation increased, though not as much as it did after the 2018 election. Black women reached a record high in state legislative representation in 2021.

· Despite being 7.8% of the population, Black women are less than 5% of officeholders elected to statewide executive offices, Congress, and state legislatures. They are 8 of the mayors in the nation’s 100 most populous cities.

· Black women remain severely underrepresented as officeholders at the statewide executive level, holding just 1.9% of these positions. Just 17 Black women have ever held statewide elected executive offices, and no Black woman has ever been elected governor despite the first-ever major party nomination of a Black woman for governor in election 2018.



"In 2020, we saw another year of historic developments, coming after a record number of Black women running for office in 2018. We already knew that Black women would power the road to the White House and the road to 2020-- but this data shows that Black women candidates are stepping off the sidelines as viable candidates with voters' support. Black women are converting electoral power into political power, "said Glynda Carr, President, and CEO of Higher Heights. "Black women are a powerful force in the American political system, and their political power at the polls and on the ballot continues to grow and is increasingly recognized as the force it is. When Black women run for office, they not only challenge biased views of who can or should lead, but also disrupt perceptions of electability."

Higher Heights and CAWP issued their first report on the status of Black women in American politics in June 2014. Since then, 16 new Black women were elected to Congress, the number of Black women state legislators has risen by nearly 50%, Black women have made tremendous strides in representation as big-city mayors – with 12 Black women taking office as mayors in the top 100 most populous cities since mid-2014 – and a Black woman now serves as vice president.

Although Black women have made strides in representation in elected leadership, the newest report indicates that there is still a tremendous opportunity for growth.

“Our organizations are committed to raising awareness about both the gains and gaps in Black women’s political power,” said report author Kelly Dittmar, Associate Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University–Camden and Director of Research at CAWP. “To accelerate the progress we’ve seen in recent years and to take advantage of opportunities forthcoming in 2022, the work must continue to create more equitable conditions under which Black women candidates both emerge and compete.”

Previous Status of Black Women in American Politics reports have been in published in 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2019. To learn more and to join in these efforts, visit Higher Heights and the Center for American Women and Politics, follow us on social media, and sign up for our newsletters.

Click here to read the full report.

About Higher Heights Leadership Fund:

Headquartered in New York, NY, Higher Heights Leadership Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization, and its sister organization Higher Heights for America, a national 501(c)(4) organization is investing in a long-term strategy to analyze, expand and support a Black women's leadership pipeline at all levels and strengthen their civic participation beyond just Election Day. For additional information, please visit http://www.higherheightsleadershipfund.org/.

About the Center for American Women in Politics:

The Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is nationally recognized as the leading source of scholarly research and current data about women’s political participation in the United States. Its mission is to promote greater knowledge and understanding about the role of women in American politics, enhance women's influence in public life, and expand the diversity of women in politics and government. For additional information, please visit http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/.