After the 2012 elections, congressional Republican leaders not only recognized the severity of the gender gap, but also acknowledged that the party has struggled with a stagnant number of women in their ranks. By June, party officials had a solution in mind: Project GROW.
As we talked about at the time, the name stands for “Growing Republican Opportunities for Women.” (Yes, the “G” in “GROW” stands for “grow.”) The basic idea was to recruit, mentor, and elect more women candidates in 2014.
“We need more women to run,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said at the launch. NRCC Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) added, “Women are the majority, and we need to do a better job, and that’s what this is all about.” The RNC touted the effort with an unfortunate choice of words: “We need to be a party that allows talented women to rise to the top.” (The DNC immediately responded, “Democratic women DO rise to the top. We don’t need permission.”)
There was certainly nothing wrong with House Republicans making a conscious effort to improve its gender diversity – remember the committee chairmen chart? – but Jay Newton-Small checked on Project GROW’s progress and found that the party is “coming up short.”
Thirty years ago, Republicans and Democrats had equal numbers of female politicians, but since then Democratic female representation has taken off dramatically. Part of the problem is that Republican female state legislators tend to be more moderate than their male counterparts and therefore have a tougher time getting through increasingly partisan primaries, according to Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University. […]Indeed, last election cycle 108 Republican women ran in House primaries, according to data compiled by Walsh’s center. Less than half won and only 20 were elected to Congress, most of them incumbents. The 19 Republican women currently serving in the House make up only 4.4 percent of the House, and only 8 percent of the GOP conference.
Those numbers are actually poised to get worse.
The Time report added:
Only 73 Republican women, including 17 incumbents, have filed or are expected to file to run for a House seat in 2014. That’s a 33 percent decrease from last cycle, though there’s still time—albeit not much—for more women to sign up. By comparison, there are 62 Democratic congresswomen in the House, making up 30 percent of the Democratic caucus, and 149 women are running or expected to run in the 2014 primaries.
It would appear the GOP isn’t “growing” much of anything, except maybe the gender gap.