Women closing the gap with men in legislative functions

Women outnumber men in the United States by about two percentage points – somewhere in the range of 51% women to 49% men. In other words, it’s a difference of just over 3 million souls. Oh, the percentage fluctuates by a tenth of a point here or there depending on your source material and the time period the data was collected. But, it is pretty much a given that there are more women than men in this country. It’s been like that for a long time.

These statistics, however, are not reflected when breaking down the number of men versus women in state legislatures across the country. State-level law-making is still a man’s world.

According to an article in your newspaper last week, the legislative presence of women in state legislatures in the United States is 31%. And this is an absolute record.

“That’s still 20 points below the share of women in the population,” Janine Parry, a political science professor at the University of Arkansas, told the newspaper.

In Congress, the difference is clearer: 28% are women. It’s even more lopsided in the Arkansas General Assembly. Only 31 of the 135 members of the state legislature are women. It’s less than 23%.

And don’t even ask us about the percentage of women in governorships in the country. OK that works. We’ll say. It’s 18%.

“No other major demographic group is as vastly underrepresented as women,” Parry said. “So there are still a lot of kilometers to go on this point.”

Without a doubt.

It’s worth noting that, at the very least, women’s representation in the Arkansas Legislature is expected to improve in 2023, thanks in part to Northwest Arkansas.

Due to redistricting after the 2020 census, Northwest Arkansas will have four new seats in the state House of Representatives, and three of those will, in all likelihood, be held by women.

Here’s how the races in the new house districts break down:

• In District 9 (Springdale area), Republican DeAnna Hodges faces Democrat Diana Gonzales Worthen. There is also a Libertarian candidate in the race, Steve Stilling, but like all Libertarians on the ballot, he is unlikely to win.

• In District 10 (Bentonville), Republican Mindy McAlindon will face Democrat Kate Schaffer.

• In District 14 (Centerton), there are no women candidates. Democrat Brian Eaton takes on Republican Grant Hodges.

• In District 23 (western Washington County), Republican Kendra Moore defeated two men to win her party’s nomination. There are no Democrats in the race, but there is Ryan Hanson, a Libertarian.

Statewide, 54 women are running for legislative seats this year, more than double the number of women who ran in 2000.

Of course, not everyone will win. Still, an increase from the 31 seats currently held by women seems inevitable.

It also seems very likely that Arkansas will help improve the percentage of female governors this year. Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders is a prohibitive favorite to win the governorship of Arkansas in 2022. And, one way or another (with my apologies to Libertarian candidate Frank Gilbert), Arkansas will have a woman. in the office of the lieutenant-governor: Democrat Kelly Krout or Republican Leslie. Rutledge.

So, dear reader, you might think that the two major political parties specifically recruit women to run for office. According to the parties, you would be wrong.

“We’re not recruiting candidates,” said Sarah Jo Reynolds, executive director of the Arkansas Republican Party. But she added that Northwest Arkansas’ long history as a Republican stronghold makes it a good environment for women to become politically active.

“There are a lot of strong businesswomen in northwest Arkansas,” she told the newspaper. It makes sense to us.

“We didn’t go after them,” said Grant Tennille, chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party. But he said he believes women are motivated to run because they feel underrepresented on issues that are important to them, primarily education and support for families. It also makes sense, as does his argument that open seats like the newly created ones in northwest Arkansas have made the prospect of seeking office more attractive.

Parry surmised, we believe correctly, that seeing women in powerful leadership positions in government inspired more women to seek political office.

“We also know that high-level women in power — particularly U.S. Senate governors — measurably increase the number of runs that other women run,” according to Parry.

This is not to say that the women who seek these offices all think the same way. There are big differences in political positions among candidates running under different party banners, as you would expect.

But having more women seeking political office changes the political landscape. Although women may not agree on politics, they certainly bring different perspectives and experiences than most men when it comes to doing government work. More women running — and winning — for political office is a net gain for the communities they serve.

Comments are closed.