The United State of Women in Politics: From Stephen Colbert to State Senators
When Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic nomination last week, we celebrated the first female elected to a major party ticket, putting her on track to be the first female president of the United States. Stephen Colbert reminded us that this “is something you see in the sci-fi novel,” or aptly put, “something in any other country in the world.”
Humor aside, the United States ranks 97th for women’s representation across the world, after countries like Rwanda, Bosnia, Cuba and Spain. At the rate we are electing women to the US House and Senate, it will take 105 years for women to be half of the United States Congress. Our state offices won’t reach that mark for another few hundred years. While over 52% of the population, women are only a quarter of the state houses.
At the local level, cities and towns all across the United States still have no women on them. If we are lucky, they have one. And it’s not just in rural communities, where 30 year old powerhouse Dr. Katie Baker in Washington County, TN, is making waves as the one and only on a 25 member commission.
It happens in our urban centers. This is the Los Angeles city council: one woman, Nury Martinez, on a fifteen member board. Yep, that’s 2016.
For women of color, their political power might reign as voters this election cycle, but leadership posts are few and far between.
The Status of Black Women in America Politics, released by Higher Heights for America, shows that while Black women make up close to 8% of the U.S. population, they are only 3.3% of state legislatures. Four states have still never elected a Black woman to their state legislature: Maine, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah. But more importantly, while black women are almost 60% of the black electorate, they are no more than a 1/3 of black elected leadership.
Of the 8,236 state and national seats counted in the 2015 Latinas Represent report, Latinas make up 109. That’s just over 1%. Of the 435 seats in the US House of Representatives, there are 9 Latinas. That’s about 2%. We, the people, can do better.
With role models like Tina Chen, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady Michelle Obama, front and center at today’s United State of Women Summit, and powerful leaders like Miriam W. Yeung of National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, making sure Asian American women are seen and heard, we are on our way to increasing political power. But the numbers can still be counted on one hand. There are 5 Asian American women in the house, and the first and only governor of Southeast Asian descent is South Carolina’s Nikki Haley.
Diane Humetewa is the only Native American to sit on a federal bench, of 875 judgeships, and her name was brought up for a Supreme Court nomination, too. Denise Juneau, Superintendent of Public Instruction in Montana, is the only Native American woman in statewide office in all 50 states. Local leaders like my friend Nevada Littlewolf are committed to increasing Native American’s women’s leadership with RAIL and walking the talk as a local city councilor. But, sadly, unless it’s Donald Trump’s racist invocation of Pocahontas, Native American women are almost absent from our political discourse.
We, the people, must stand together. We are not done.
In my 35 years, I’ve seen American women increase our numbers in almost every profession, last year the military allowed women to serve in all combat roles — from Army Rangers to Navy SEALs to Air Force parajumpers — and, every May, women are graduating college at faster numbers than our male peers. We know that no matter what the obstacles, we stand stronger when we stand together.
Together, let’s change the state of women in politics because we we know that when women do better, we all do better. We know that more women in power means more a more transparent government, better services, safer and cleaner communities, a re-imagination of childcare, more and safer choices for health care, access to quality education, equal wages for women, real food by real farmers, and will shape a world where everyone believes in the power of women, in the power of diversity, in the power of our united states.
In honor of The United State of Women Summit happening today in DC, we’ve made it really easy for you to ask a woman to run. Research tells us that to fuel women’s ambitions, we must fan the flames of her leadership. The talent pool is there. All we have to do is ask, to encourage, and to stand with her. The culture of politics still tells women no. You change that the culture by telling her “Yes!”. With so many folks telling her to wait her turn, she needs you to tell her she’s got what it takes.
At Dare to Lead — an historic one day women’s leadership training — this Saturday, over 700 women are turning struggle into strength. We’re turning one into many and we’re not turning back. Stand with us. Authorize yourself. Empower yourself. Invite yourself to run. Then invite your whole squad to dare to lead. The entire VoteRunLead community is here to help you and her every step of the way. The 5000+ women gathered in the DC convention center are ready to support. Millions more, according to poll after poll, are ready to vote for qualified women.
Check it out: https://invite.voterunlead.org/stateofwomen
Think of one woman. Just one. Don’t leave the page until you do. Ask her. Encourage her. Change the state of women’s representation forever.
Better together. For a better tomorrow.