In 1987, the Feminist Majority released a study on gender equality within political office. At the time, women comprised only 4.9% of Congress and 15.6% of state legislatures. Based on the rate of progress, it was concluded that parity with men in Congress would be achieved by the year 2333. Fortunately, there have been some breakthroughs that indicate equality may be a bit closer than 311 years in the future.
Currently, based on data from the Center for American Women and Politics, Congress consists of 27.5% women- far ahead of the study’s schedule! However, as shown in the graphs below, our state legislatures were estimated to reach equality by 2038, and with only 31% of women holding seats throughout the country, we are behind by about 7 years. Sadly, the percentage of women elected as mayors has also stalemated. The study expected women to achieve equality in mayoral positions by 2021, but with only 26% of women, we are stuck in 1995.
Despite these statistics, so much progress has been made and women continue to break records year after year. More women are running for governor and state legislatures in the 2022 midterms than ever before. We are slowly but surely making a difference.
For example, in 2019, Nevada became the first state to have women hold a majority of state legislative seats and an incredible number of bills were passed to improve the lives of Nevadans. The legislature passed universal background checks on gun sales, raised the minimum wage to $12 an hour, restored voting rights to 77,000 formerly incarcerated felons, passed clean energy and conservation policies, and of course, decriminalized abortion and ratified the Equal Rights Amendment.
In 2020, when women increased their numbers in the Virginia House and in its leadership, the VA legislature ratified the ERA, expanded Medicaid, eliminated the TRAP laws curbing access to reproductive rights, and passed gun reform legislation.
Women in political office tend to work across party lines, to be responsive to constituent concerns, and advocate for policies that make strides towards a more just future. Male dominated legislatures cannot continue making decisions on women’s reproductive health. In the upcoming midterm election, we have the opportunity to address the enormous gender imbalance in our government.
Sources: Center for American Women in Politics; CNN 07/26/2022; Nevada Democrats 06/04/2019