We Need More Women in Government
Posted by Paul
January 8, 2015
Across the world, women make up less than 25 percent of all national parlimentarians or congressional representatives. Women are rarely elevated to a role of Head of State.
As we examine political leadership roles in different countries, one might expect that the United States would have some of the highest levels of women as political leaders. This is because we might like to believe that our society has moved beyond sexism, and that we see equality in our political system. However, many would be easily surprised by what they would find with such a search.
The United States currently has 79 women out of 432 total seats in the US House of Representatives, good for 18.3 percent. We also have 20 women out of 100 total seats in the US Senate, which is 20 percent.
In case you were wondering where that ranks in the world, that puts us tied for 83rd best. That means there are 82 countries in the world with more equitable representation. We are not only below the global average for both Houses of Congress, but we are 83rd!
In 2014, 9 Women served as Head of State for their country, and 15 served as Head of Government. Although women have held prominent leadership roles in our government, we have never in our history elected a woman to President of the United States.
Even when considering the number of women in State Legislatures, the US still falls behind on the issue of equal representation. In 2014, the average state legislature was 24.3 percent women. This number ranged from 12.5 percent in Louisiana at the lowest end of the spectrum to 41 percent in Colorado, at the highest. But even if this 24.3 percent were to be the number in our national Congress, that would still only be good enough for 57th.
Some countries put in place certain measures to ensure women have better representation in government. The United States does not have any sort of formal quota system, instead relying on the progress of society and voters preferences to ensure equal representation. Still, barriers remain for equal representation. Women seeking public office have a difficult time getting elected. This could be due to everything from societal expectations of a woman’s role in society to the incumbency effect to difficulties gaining support from donors.
In the last several years, we have seen a huge increase in laws aimed at restricting reproductive freedom. These laws affect women disproportionately. It stands to reason that if women had more equal representation in our government, we would have more success in defeating measures such as this. There are also many other issues that equal representation would improve, such as the availability of maternity leave, assistance for young mothers, and better options for education.
Women make up more than 50 percent of our population. There is no reason for any country to have governmental representation at 20 percent or less, let alone the United States. We cannot continue to think of ourselves as a world leader in equality while having this massive injustice in equality of representation. And the numbers I mention don’t consider race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, ability or other things that can also play a factor when we consider equal representation.
However, even with all of these issues with representation in our system, it is worth noting that we are moving in the right direction, albeit very slowly. We have quadrupled the number of women in Congress since 1988, and nearly doubled the amount since 1996. If we can continue at a pace similar to this, it may not be too much longer that we struggle to reach equality of representation. But considering that the total number has not changed much in recent years, the road ahead may still be a difficult one.