For former New Jersey State Sen. Diane Allen, it's a matter of principle.
"I truly believe until our legislature reflects the people we represent, we don't have a true democracy," she said. "I feel that the more women that get in, the better people are being served."
A gap in female representation in state politics compelled Allen to start runWOMENserve, a political action committee that aims to elect women to legislative office in New Jersey regardless of party identification.
Just 37 of the 120 lawmakers in Trenton are women. That's about 30 percent, although women make up over 51 percent of the state's population. Across the country, the disparity in representation is even greater.
According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, women occupy 1,876 of the 7,383 state legislative seats nationwide, making up just over a quarter of all state representatives.
Allen, who served in the Legislature for more than two decades before retiring for health reasons last year, hopes to boost those numbers by supporting female candidates — financially and otherwise.
"I think that runWOMENserve will be able to give women some money, which they desperately need as they run for office as non-incumbents, but also give them that sense of security that there are many of us out there that have done this," she said.
Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics, lauded the new PAC's goals.
"It's certainly something that is needed, especially if you think about the percentages of women in our state legislature," she said. "It's very hard to break in, particularly in a state like New Jersey where there's a very strong party control on both sides of the aisle about who runs and who doesn't run."
Allen launched the PAC at a news conference at the Statehouse this month.
Joining her in announcing the venture were lawmakers from both parties, including Senate Deputy Republican Whip Dawn Marie Addiego (R., Burlington), Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester), and Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean (R., Union).
In an interview, Addiego praised the PAC's goals.
"I am glad that women are getting together to help other women," she said. "Women have been hesitant to run in the past, and it's a great message to young women that they can get involved, and they can run."
Addiego also hailed the nonaligned nature of the PAC.
Walsh, too, said the PAC's nonpartisan mission makes it "unique in the landscape of organizations supporting women's candidates."
"Unlike most PACs, this is not just for Democratic women or Republican women," Walsh said. "You don't have to be pro-life or pro-choice. The one thing that [Allen] seems to care about is whether they are people who can figure out ways to work across the aisle and can get something done."
Although the nonpartisan nature of the PAC may be rare in today's polarized political environment, Allen said it was an easy choice to put party allegiances aside.
"It's not just your party that determines what you're going to do or how you're going to vote, it's what is best and how you can work with other people to make it happen," Allen said.
RunWOMENserve aims to break "the old-boys network" of New Jersey politics, Allen said, where the mostly male county chairs and party leaders hold immense power in recruiting and funding candidates. This can mean female candidates with less name recognition are denied crucial resources, she said.
"A PAC like this can open the door to some candidates that might perhaps be outsiders within their own party, or newcomers to the system who might not have the same connections," Walsh said. "This could give them a bit of a boost early on."
The PAC has already amassed around $50,000 in donations, and Allen said she has received interest from a variety of sources, including support from Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Hugin, a prospective female state legislative candidate, and even the White House.
"This is something that people are starting to realize may be the way to break that deadlock we have on the floor of legislatures and in Congress, by taking the party piece out of it," Allen said.