What Clinton's Nomination Means for Women's Groups

For groups hoping to elect more women, "the work is far from over."

ByABC News
June 8, 2016, 12:24 PM

— -- On Tuesday night in Brooklyn, not too far from where she launched her second presidential campaign a year ago, Clinton reached her arms up toward an actual glass ceiling and celebrated a historic feat: After a grueling primary season, Clinton became the first female presumptive presidential nominee of a major party in American history.

“It may be hard to see tonight. But we are all standing under a glass ceiling right now,” said Clinton to a cheering crowd of supporters. “But don't worry we're not smashing this one. Thanks to you, we've reached a milestone.”

Eight years ago, during her famous “glass ceiling” concession speech, Clinton said that her success in the 2008 Democratic race paved the way for the next female nominee to be “unremarkable.”

But for groups pushing for more women to take part in and run for public office, Tuesday night was a historic moment that has been a long time in the making. And it could not have come at a more pivotal point in American politics.

“The stakes literally could not be higher in this election cycle,” Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List, a fundraising powerhouse that works to elect pro-choice Democratic women into office, told ABC News. “The work is far from over.”

She added: “We’ve made a lot of gains and that’s been good. Women have had the right to vote for 96 years but not very many women were running for office until the last four decades.”

In the 2016 election, there are 32 women running for the Senate, and 220 running for House seats. And of the 535 seats on Capitol Hill, currently less than 20 percent are filled by women.

“We’ve got to move the needle faster. We need a million more women who are excited about politics,” Erin Vilardi, the founder and director of VoteRunLead, a bipartisan, nationwide training program for women in politics, told ABC News. “We need a million more Hillary Clintons before this work is done on both sides of the aisles. Not just one party claiming the woman mantle.”

With the financial and organizational backing of heavyweights like Emily’s List, Democrats have made strides past Republicans in attracting women to run for federal office. RightNOW Women PAC, a Republican political action committee formed in 2013, hopes to be the GOP’s answer to Emily’s List.

“I don’t think the differences have a lot to do with party,” said Jenn Higgins, a founder of RightNOW Women PAC. “Infrastructure gets at all the reasons Republican women don’t run for office. How do I raise money? Engage with the press? So RightNOW is playing a critical role in providing that infrastructure and building that network of women across the country.”

Groups say the political climate surrounding the 2016 election doesn’t help with recruitment. And it has been a campaign season rife with gendered fights between Democratic and Republican contenders for the White House.

“Quite a few people have called me to say 'screw the Bernie bros,'” said Vilardi.

“I think right now politics is still really icky on both the left and the right for people. Now we do have a role model, whether you love her or hate her. The idea of her leading the free world -- it is going to have an effect.”

Right before taking the stage in Brooklyn, Clinton tweeted a photo of a little girl dancing alongside her with the message, “To every little girl who dreams big: Yes, you can be anything you want -- even president. Tonight is for you.”

“I mean, even for me, I have to admit, ‘wow.’ We’ve been so focused on getting to this place,” said Schriock. “I think we’re having that moment now and I hope everybody takes stock in it.”