Slow Growth Toward Equal Political Representation

Lorena Martinez — Blog Post #4

It was hoped for that 2013 would be the year that women gained significant representation in governmental positions as compared to previous years in order to make up for the meager percentages of women in politics in the United States today. However, it seems that the rise of female political representatives is taking its sweet, sweet time.

Female mayoral candidates still face stereotypical discrimination because “voters still expect women to concentrate on education and health care” (Greenblatt, 2013), rather than speak about important issues such as crime rates and the economy, making it difficult for many women to get elected into municipal offices as opposed to their male counterparts.

In all of the cities with a population of 30,000 and above in the United States, female mayors only comprise 217, or 17.4% of the total number of 1,248 mayors (Greenblatt & Center for American Women and Politics, 2013). The disparity between the male and female mayoral representatives is quite significant and disproportionate. However, the political action committee, EMILY’s List, hopes to change this disparity through the raising of funds in order to support the election of Democratic women political candidates who are pro-abortion rights (Greenblatt & EMILY’s List, 2013).

Though the EMILY’s List PAC is making strides toward progressive change, males continue to dominate the political sphere. This is not only the case for municipal offices, but throughout all governmental positions. As we saw in class on Tuesday, women only represent negligible percentages of political representatives in most of the world. For the most egalitarian countries, women still designate only small percentages. In the United States, women currently only comprise 18.3% of the Congress; 22.8% of the Statewide Electives; and 24.2% of the State Legislatures (Center for American Women and Politics, 2013).

Percentages of Female Representatives in Elective Governmental Offices from 1979 to 2013. Via Center for American Women and Politics

Percentages of Female Representatives in Elective Governmental Offices from 1979 to 2013.
Via Center for American Women and Politics

Although these numbers have increased 11 to 15% since 1979, the unequal representation is still greatly prevalent, especially when taking into account the number of women of color representatives. Women of color only constitute 4.5% of the total 535 Congressional members (32 women of color); 3.4% of the total 320 state elective executives (11 women of color); and 5% of the total 7,383 state legislators (367 women of color) (Center for American Women and Politics, 2013).

As we have discussed, it is difficult for women to achieve much success in their careers, especially in politics, due to the glass ceiling that exists. The same holds true for women of color, though it seems that their glass ceiling is significantly lower than that of their white counterparts. It may be difficult to overcome such barriers because people of color in general are subjugated by the notion of whiteness and the upper classes, which are predominately comprised of white populations. Furthermore, the people at the top doing the oppressing are mainly males, only adding to the subjugation of women and namely women of color, due to the perception of females as weak and subordinate to males in this patriarchal society.

Marcy Stech of the EMILY’s List PAC states that it is important for women to run for local offices because she knows that they’ll run for higher office positions in their political career (Greenblatt), and thus helping to narrow the imbalance between male and female political representation in the United States. However, as long as the subjugation of women and women of color exists by the upper classes, it seems that it might be increasingly difficult to achieve equal representation. Additionally, without strong women in politics, females in the lower classes may not have as many role models to aspire to be like, which may in turn limit their aspirations and educational and career goals, making upward mobility seem increasingly unattainable.

 

Greenblatt, Alan. “Slow Ride To City Hall For Female Candidates.” NPR. NPR, 17 July 2013. Web. 17 July 2013. <http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2013/07/16/202661676/slow-ride-to-city-hall-for-female-candidates>.

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