Publication Date



In recent presidential elections, women, people of color, millennials, and new immigrants shaped the outcomes of those elections. Women of color standing at the nexus of two underrepresented groups in politics- racial minorities and women- demonstrated their commitments to democracy by maintaining their traditions as reliable voters, far exceeding expectations. In this project, we ask what is necessary to move these women of color from reliable voters to candidates for political office and locate our answer with women of color. They are doing much of the work to deepen democratic engagement in communities of color, namely mobilizing voters and political candidates. They are redefining democratic inclusion, reshaping the electorate, and they stand to change the demographics of voters and officeholders alike.

Likewise, they are redefining and disrupting traditional notions of political actors. How and why they see this as important work for themselves and their communities helps us to understand how people challenge exclusions and make a place for themselves, particularly in the political sphere which is marked by white, male dominance. Scholars have not documented this significant role women of color are playing in extending democracy and this documentation is critical to preserving women of color’s historic contributions to formal electoral politics. While the existing scholarship is rich in denoting the propensity of women of color to act as social change agents, we lag behind in scholarship recognizing the richness of their contributions to formal electoral politics. Their contributions deserve to be recorded and linked to the long line of scholarly engagements with women of color activism and leadership.

We begin the project by establishing the landscape of existing WOC organizations, civic groups, collaborations and projects engaged in this work including the full landscape of programs, initiatives and organizations seeking to mobilize women of color as voters and political candidates. We explore their origin stories and contributions to civic engagement of marginalized groups. Our long term goals of the project are to strengthen the capacity of these organizations by bringing attention to their contributions; sharing best practices across groups that are not currently networked; and to leverage resources to strengthen their capacities.

Document Type



women candidates, women of color, female vote


American Politics | Civic and Community Engagement | Gender and Sexuality | Politics and Social Change | Race and Ethnicity


SMU Tower Center and Latino Center for Leadership and Development