Democracy doesn’t promise equal representation, but it is something that we hope for. Despite all the movement forward by women across multiple industries, the statistics for female representation in politics is still uneven in both political parties.
The 2018 election brought record numbers of women running and winning political offices, so much so it was coined the “Year of the Woman.” These female candidates and voters were partially motivated by the sexual assault allegations against Justice Brett Kavanaugh earlier that year.
This follows the same pattern of the other “Year of the Woman'' in 1992 when California became the first state to elect two female senators among a few other historic wins for women. The year prior, the nation heard Anita Hill’s testimony against Justice Clarence Thomas, which motivated women to participate in the next election.
In 1992 and 2018, well under half of the seats in Congress were held by women, even though it was a year supposedly built for them. Today, we are slightly closer to a 50-50 split. There are 107 female Democrats and 40 female Republicans, making up about 27% of the seats in Congress.
Over 100 years after white women gained the right to vote in 1920 and over 50 years after the Voting Rights of 1965 made this right to vote accessible to all women, we are just a bit over halfway there to equal representation. This history begs the question, will women always have to struggle to get equal representation in politics on the national and local levels in the United States?
The Forum for Research on Eastern Europe and Emerging Economies has identified a gender gap in political ambition, bias from both voters and party leaders as the primary reason women are underrepresented in politics worldwide.
There is some hope for women from the 2022 election results. There is now at least one female representative from every state in the country in Congress. The decision made by the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization was supposed to motivate women to go to the polls again, but for the most part, the status quo of unequal representation has been maintained.
Cheri Beasley’s loss in the North Carolina Senate race means there is still no representation for Black women in the U.S. Senate. Her campaign lacked support from the national Democratic party, which critics have cited may be because of her race and gender. They also worry that, without Black female voices in the Senate, decision-makers will lack the perspective of a very important and marginalized group of people.
Latinx women face similar challenges even though there is one Latina member of the Senate. They make up the second largest group of women in the labor force behind white women, but feel unheard in national politics.
Before this past election, there were only four openly LGBTQ women out of 11 total LGBTQ representatives. Even within groups with relatively few representatives, women are underrepresented.
Not everyone has been happy with the decisions made by the current Supreme Court, but it is one of the only places of power in the country where women have an almost equal voice to men. There are four women currently serving on the nine-member court, two of which have made history as the first Latinx Justice and the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.
Justices on the national level are appointed and elected. This may be why the court has come closer to equal representation far quicker than other branches. These women didn’t have to weather the misogyny still present in elections in the United States.
The recent female additions to the court have not changed the political makeup of the court. Experts still say having the demographics of the court more accurately reflect the demographics of the United States as a whole will increase the court’s legitimacy. These women also bring a different perspective to court cases.
Identity politics are not everything, it’s possible to have a representative that you have nothing in common with that still does a great job legislating. On the whole, it is still disappointing to see so many groups, women especially, that have representatives that are not truly representative of their identity. Women from both political parties deserve a place in politics and everyone could benefit from their input on important decisions.
There are a few policy changes that can help make politics more inclusive for women and other marginalized groups. The Center for American Progress recommends political parties recruit candidates outside their typical networks, especially for local seats.
As correspondent Koen Rodabaugh noted, we also underpay many of our representatives, which prohibits many underprivileged groups from serving in office. Governments can also become more family-friendly workplaces to attract more women and young people into races.
Unfortunately, we may have a long time to wait for equal representation for women and other minority groups in politics. In the meantime, with our current slate of newly elected politicians, you can contact your representative to share the perspective of underrepresented groups — we can work to make politics more inclusive for everyone.