The sorry state of female representation in Congress just got slightly better

Published on Thursday, 4 January 2018 20:31
Written by Amber Phillips

Here’s a pathetic statistic for you: By the end of the day Wednesday, the number of women serving in the Senate at once will hit a record high of 22. Out of 100 seats.

Put another way, slightly more than a fifth of U.S. senators are women; four-fifths are men. This record is hardly a representative ratio, and it underscores women are still a long way from equal representation in Congress.

Tina Smith is the reason there are more Senate women serving now than there ever have been. The former lieutenant governor of Minnesota was nominated to replace Al Franken, D-Minn., who resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations.

She is getting sworn in Wednesday and will be Minnesota’s junior senator, making Minnesota the fourth state to have all-female senators. She could stay Minnesota’s junior senator if she wins an election in November for the seat.

Women have made incremental gains in Congress over the past decade, but they seem to have plateaued at 20 percent at all levels of government, according to data gathered by the nonpartisan Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University:

      The House of Representatives: 19 percent of lawmakers are women. Two states - Mississippi and Vermont - have never sent a woman to Congress. Ever.

      Governors, lieutenant governors and other statewide election officials: 24 percent are women.

      Mayors of the 100 largest citis: 22 percent are women.

      State legislatures: 25 percent are women.

The irony is, when women run, they tend to win at the same rate as men. That’s impressive, given women have to overcome tricky gender dynamics: Research consistently shows women need to come across as likable to get voters to choose them, whereas male candidates do not.

Experts say the real problem is there just are not enough women running for office. The 2016 election was historic for one woman at the very top getting her party’s nomination, but female representation in Congress stayed at around 20 percent.

That could change in a big way in 2018. A record number of women are running for office at all levels of government next year. The numbers, tallied by the Center for American Women in Politics, are astounding.

      There are 22 women serving in the Senate; 46 are running in the two major parties in 2018.

      There are 84 women serving in the House; 383 are running in 2018.

      There are just six female governors; 79 women are running to be governor in 2018.

Amber Phillips writes about politics for The Fix.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Editorials on Thursday, 4 January 2018 20:31. Updated: Thursday, 4 January 2018 20:34.