Could Republicans be shaking their “good ol’ boys” image? Some say the Republican Party’s female presence is undergoing a resurgence, even if statistically they are still very much in the minority.
The number of Republican women elected to Congress has increased slightly over the last two congressional election cycles, starting with 44 in 2000, and rising to 49 in 2002 and then 55 in 2004, according to data compiled by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
Lisa Ziriax, communications director for the National Federation of Republican women said she attributes this increase of women in Republican leadership roles to both inspirational characters and the party’s platform.
“I think some women may be motivated by seeing figures like (Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice, but I think it is primarily the issues that motivate them,” she said.
At GW, Republican student leaders believe that women are becoming some of the most active members of their party, despite their low membership numbers.
Alexandra Valenti, membership director for GW College Republicans, said about 38 percent of this year’s members are females, but stressed that “among our most dedicated members, our female members outrank the men.”
“Especially when thinking about all of our active members, I would venture to say that we have more very active women than men, though men do have a monopoly on the executive board,” she wrote in an e-mail. This year, there are seven men and three women on the group’s executive board and next year there will be five men and three women on the board, plus two freshman representatives elected in early fall.
At an event for women the GW College Republicans held at the University Club last week, speakers emphasized the importance of female Republicans in college making their involvement in the party known.
At the event, attended by about 50 women, National Federation of Republican Women Membership Director Andrea Bryan explained that the organization is launching a new program to expand membership to young women. She added that the party’s main female demographic is white, middle-aged homemakers, and that “needs to change.”
Christine Kelly, a professor at William Paterson University in New Jersey specializing in women’s issues, said she sees the new focus on women in the Republican Party as a “breakthrough for women.”
“The Republican Party understands that in order to maintain a coalition they need to admit women in greater numbers,” Kelly said.
She added that statistics show the number of young women Republicans is not increasing; rather it is a case of women speaking out more by taking leadership positions within the party and becoming more involved in female recruitment.
Freshman Carolyn Schintzius, a member of the GW College Republicans who attended last Monday’s event, said that the Republican Party should be focused on recruiting more women, but for now she thinks the women within the party are being portrayed strongly.
“Since there is such a small number of us, it adds to the fact that we need to advocate our positions more strongly and actively in order to have an impact,” she said.
Kelly added that she does not think the stereotype of young people being associated with the Democratic Party is changing, adding that the conservative culture and the Republican era has not really penetrated youth culture.
“The real trends are not abstinence or Christian music,” she said. “Because capitalism dominates, what sells is not the conservative virtue model.”
Kelly believes that young women tend to be Democrats because of liberal social issues many support, like reproductive choice, one of the “key dividing lines for young women.”
Ainsley Stromberg, GW College Republicans’ freshman representative, said that with issues like abortion, she thinks the Republican Party is more beneficial to women.
“Although the feminist movement was originally identified with liberals, the idea that a woman can be anything is across both parties,” she said.
Senior Annie Zhou, a member of the College Republicans, said her ideological views come from finding herself more aligned with the pro-business aspect of the Republican Party. Kelly corroborates this by speculating that one reason some young women do choose to be Republicans is to better “position themselves in a global economy” and because of “corporate benefits.”