Caitlin White
June 27, 2019 9:13 am

This week is historic for women in politics. Last night and tonight, June 26th and 27th, mark the first Democratic debates of the 2020 election cycle. So far, they’ve been important for many reasons. On night one, the candidates all spoke out in support of reproductive rights, Cory Booker called attention to protecting black transgender women, and the presidential hopefuls discussed their plans for immigration reform. But it wasn’t just what they debated that was important. This week made history as the first time ever that more than one woman was on stage during any U.S. presidential debate.

Combining the two nights, a total of six women will take part in the debates. Last night, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar and Representative Tulsi Gabbard were on stage. Tonight, Senators Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand and author Marianne Williamson are slated to debate.

According to NBC News, not only is the number of women in one debate historic, but more women will be on stage this year than in history, combined.

Prior to 2019, in 243 years, only five women ever took part in a presidential debate. Representative Shirley Chisholm paved the way in 1972 as the first woman—and first black woman—to ever take part in a U.S. presidential debate. Another woman, Senator Carol Moseley Braun, didn’t take the stage again until 2004. After that, the list is short: Representative Michele Bachmann in 2012, Carly Fiorina in 2016, and Hillary Clinton twice, in 2008 as a senator and 2016 as Secretary of State. This week, the total number of women in presidential debate history will more than double.

More female representation in presidential debates and elections is not only historic, it’s crucial.

According to research by the Harvard Business Review about hiring, having only one female candidate means there’s statistically virtually zero chance of her being hired.

When there’s more than one woman in a pool, however, it helps to cut out “tokenism,” meaning women are judged more on who they are and what they have to say than by the mere fact of being the woman. This gives all women involved a better chance of being hired for the job.

On each of the Democratic debate nights, there will be, for the first time, a critical mass of female candidates. Research shows that this gives each of them a better chance of snagging the nomination—we’ll just have to wait and see what the voters decide.

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