Women are running for elective office in larger numbers and apparently with greater success this year than ever before, the leaders of three women's political organizations said yesterday.
The figures reflect a new trend of success for the women's movement that was illustrated by the hard-won congressional extension of the ratification deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment, according to Carol Randles, executive director of the Women's Campaign Fund.
Although women in politics still face more obstacles than men, they are proving that "when given the party nominations and the resources, they can win," she said.
Women will win 10 percent of state legislative seats, the highest number ever, but their proportion will remain about 4 percent in Congress, National Women's Education Fund director Betsey Wright predicted.
The National Women's Political Caucus has raised more than $325,000 for support of more than 100 candidates backing the ERA in states that have not ratified it, the group announced. Two-thirds of the group's choices won primary elections, according to its vice chairwoman, Patricia Bailey.
The National Women's Political Caucus, formed in 1971, is the oldest of three groups that jointly announced at a press conference the advancements made by women politicians.
"We have had money just pouring in," a spokeswoman for the NWPC polls, which show an overwhelming support for ERA." Fund-raising to support pro-ERA candidates began in March, she said.
Women now hold 8 to 10 percent of public offices at local, state, and federal levels. Their increased participation in politics is shown by the 20 percent rise in the number of women nominated for statewide races since 1974, rather than the percentage in Congress, which has hardly improved in 25 years, Wright said.
She said women are more willing to run for state offices than for difficult-to-win seats in Congress. This year 47 women are running for Congress, including 15 of the 18 House incumbentss and two running for the Senate. She said women are expected to win four of Maryland's eight House seats, which would make it the first state delegation with equal female representation.
Minority women will fare less well because two of the four black women in the House, Yvonne B. Burke (D-Calif.) and Barbara Jordan (D-Tex.), are not seeking reelection, Wright noted. Hispanic women "have hardly surfaced (as politicians) on anybody's graph yet," she said.
The groups' leaders said they are too busy concentrating on local and state offices to consider running a woman presidential candidate, as yet.
"There certainly are women who are well-qualified and who could be good candidates and a good president. We just have to be realistic about the process and what it takes to get through it." Bailey said.