This telling chart shows just how much women are crushing the competition in 2018.

Women are crushing it at the ballot box this year. Full stop.

There have been a lot of buzz and punditry about the surge of women running for office in 2018. But with each passing primary leading up to the midterms, we're getting a clearer picture if "the year of women" will truly shift congressional gender makeups across the country or if it's just an overblown talking point.

Voters in pivotal June 5 primaries across eight states — including delegate-rich California — continued turning the hypothetical hype into an electoral reality.

Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images.


In California alone, 30 women will head to general election match-ups in November, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Notable first-time candidate and former Navy pilot Mikie Sherrill won the Democratic nomination to represent her district in New Jersey. And in New Mexico, voters chose female candidates to head to midterm contests in two of the state's three House races this fall.

One telling chart shows just how well female candidates have performed throughout 2018.

The graphic, shared on Twitter by Dave Wasserman, highlights the fact that women — and particularly Democratic women — are over-performing.

Big time.

In the chart, every bar is an individual primary race where a woman ran (with Democratic contests in blue and Republican contests in red). The bars rising above the Y-axis represent a woman defeating her opponent, and the percentage by which she did so.

As evidenced by the large block of blue victories toward the right, women are over-performing by an average of 15% in their Democratic primaries thus far. In the Republican primaries, it's 1.7%.  

It's easy to connect the dots between broader cultural and political events and a sharp rise in female candidates since the 2016 election.

In 2017, the Women's March evolved from a single day of action into a political force for progressive candidates, and the #MeToo movement empowered survivors of sexual abuse to speak up and organize. Legislative attacks on women's rights — as well as the LGBTQ community, people of color, and other marginalized groups — have helped form a broad coalition representing the resistance. And women are largely leading the way.

In the 65 Democratic primaries where no incumbent was running and at least one man and one woman were on the ballot, women won a whopping 45 contests, Wasserman wrote for The Cook Political Report in May. Men defeated their female challengers in just 18. (Two such elections are headed to runoffs; women were the top vote-receivers in both.)

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

Women of diverse backgrounds and experiences are making impressive strides.

In Alabama, a historically high number of black women are running for office. Transgender women in places like Virginia and Minnesota have shattered glass ceilings. On June 5, 27-year-old lesbian Julia Fahl upset her male primary challenger to win the mayorship race of Lambertville, New Jersey (incumbent David DelVecchio has held the office as long as Fahl's been alive).

In May, Stacey Abrams became the first black woman in Georgia to be nominated by a major party for governor. If she wins in November, she would be the country's first black female governor.

Is this what a sea change looks like?

Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images.

To be sure, there's still work to be done — before and after November 2018.

Women — and particularly women of color, LGBTQ women, and disabled women — are still underrepresented in Congress. These primaries and the upcoming midterms won't counter the lopsided gender paradigm that's made state Houses and D.C. itself such (white, straight, abled) boys' clubs for centuries.

But it could change things for the better in big ways. And it starts at the ballot box.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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