Ahead of the next election cycle, the Republican Party is trying to win over more female voters. And they are starting that with a search for more female candidates, since right now, less than ten percent of their Congress members are women. YNN's Washington, D.C. bureau reporter Geoff Bennett reports
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Women make up 51 percent of the U.S. population, but only about 18 percent of the House of Representatives. That number is even lower among House Republicans.
“We only have 19 women in the Republican conference right now, which is only eight percent of the Republicans in the House of Representatives. So you can see the number is very, very low. It's obviously not representative of the country and that's what we want to change,” said North Carolina Representative Renee Ellmers.
North Carolina Congresswoman Renee Ellmers is one of the leaders of a new House GOP program called Project Grow, which recruits conservative women to run for office. It's part of a larger, party wide effort. The renewed focus begs the question: Why are there fewer women in Congress?
“It's not because voters are unwilling to elect female candidates. It's not because women can't raise money. It's because women are still systematically less likely than men to run for office. They are less likely to be recruited, less likely to think they are qualified and ultimately less likely to throw their hat into the ring," said Jennifer Lawless, a professor at American University.
Republicans trail Democrats when it comes to electing women. Democrats have elected three times as many women to the House compared to Republicans and four times as many women to the Senate.
New York Congressman Steve Israel, who heads the House Democrats' campaign arm, says if Republicans want to attract more female candidates, they should rethink some of their policies.
“The Republicans just set up a task force to recruit women. When you set up a task force, it means it’s a task. It's hard for Republicans to recruit women because they are at war with women. Every week on the floor of the House, they are trying to restrict a women's right to choose, they are voting against pay equity. So they have a long history of voting against the interests of women in America," said Israel.
Ellmers said, “It's absolutely ridiculous. I am a woman. Why would I declare war on myself? I support women across this country and I support the different views that women have."
Still, those who study the issue see plenty of potential and room for improvement for both parties.
"There are millions and millions of women out there. I don't think, even if it's more difficult, that if the parties were serious, they wouldn't be able to achieve success," Lawless.