“The Future Is Female”: Women In Politics


U.S. Senate Photographic Studio

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar ranks first on list of all 100 senators with bills signed into law in the current congress, according to data from GovTrak.

By Cari Spencer, Orono High School

It was January of 2017 when women in pink “pussy” hats marched across Washington, demanding their rights ensured and their indignation at Donald Trump’s election be heard. There were around 4 million Women’s March participants across America that day, according to an estimation by The Washington Post, so it comes as no surprise that the post-2016 election “pink tide” had enough strength to move on from the streets and onto ballots across the nation.

“Coming out of the 2016 election, I think women realized that their rights are being negatively impacted at the federal level and women also realize that they are their own best advocates to protect and strengthen their rights,” Women Winning advancement associate Taylor Anderson said, “I think that’s why we’re seeing so many women stepping up to run for office at all levels and why it’s important that we get them elected this year.” Women Winning is a bipartisan organization that encourages and endorses pro-choice women to all-levels of office in Minnesota.

2018 has seen a record number of women running for legislative seats, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. In 2016, 272 women ran for House of Representative positions in the primaries, as compared to 476 women in 2018. Of those record numbers, 237 will progress to the general elections on Nov. 6. These numbers are staggering, and considering the antiquated times when women were not even permitted to vote, the nation has come a long way.

This is not to say that these numbers are anywhere near where they should be or that adequate progress has been met, however. For all of the 237 women progressing to the general elections, there are still significantly more men progressing. There are 435 House seats, but only 84 are currently held by women. Furthermore, only 33 states have female representatives at all. The existence of fair representation can hardly be argued when only 19.3 percent of state representatives are female.

But as laptop stickers, protest signs and t-shirts across the United States say, “the future is female.” Record numbers of women running in general elections could mean records winning, and the effects of that will surely be felt.

In Minnesota, the state’s first-ever all female Senate race is underway. Monumental too is the projected win of Ilhan Omar as not only the the first woman of color to represent Minnesota in Congress but also the first Muslim-American woman in Congress. It’s a progressive time for politics, and this new, shifting demographic will inevitably lead to cultural and policy shifts as well.

Senior Jordan Case, co-leader of Women In Leadership with Emma Kosek, said that this year a large focus of the club will be on discussions about women in politics, including positions across the globe.

“Looking into how women have different leadership styles in different cultures also opens up the mindset to how women have a different leadership style in general,” Case said, “Any opportunity that is put in the press for high schoolers to see women in power will just expand upon the outreach that younger girls think that they are able to have. Having an expansion of role models really broadens the opportunities that girls even believe that they can pursue.”

Just as Black Panther or Crazy Rich Asians allows minority Americans to see the possibility of pursuing a Hollywood career and to have their identities affirmed; seeing, hearing and reading about women in politics lets young, impressionable girls know that their aspirations are not limited by their sex. It sends a message that they are just as strong, just as capable as their male counterparts and that they can aim equally high.

“I think that women going more into office has really changed my opinion on my options for careers,” junior Isa Chavez said, “I always thought that politics were out of my league, but now with the recent trend I definitely feel more confident.”

As more women participate in and win elections, there will be better representation, and therefore better legislation, in the United States government. During the 114th Congress, Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics, Political Parity and the Center for American Women and Politics conducted qualitative research on women in politics, based off of interviews with 83 of the 108 female senators, representatives and delegates in power. What they found was a majority of female politicians reporting that they were more likely to collaborate and work across party lines than men, due to their personal relationships with one another and shared experiences as women; the research also found that women seemed to bring perspectives, priorities and agendas that would otherwise be absent if women could not represent women and other voices often neglected in policymaking spaces.

In other words, America is supposedly a government “by the people” and “for the people,” but if female voices are not part of the legislative process, it’s hardly representing half of the population.

“I think it is important for more women in office because it gives a more equal representation through the government,” junior Ella Nordlie said, “As we’ve been taught in school, working as a team not only brings new ideas but also brings different perspectives and that is one thing that is beneficial part of having women in office.”

Villages in India with female leaders have increased female participation as well as responsiveness to female policy concerns, according to research published in India Policy Forum. It’s a logical conclusion that those same benefits would come and will come with more women in American office.

Certain issues directly affect women, so it only makes sense that women are involved in designing legislation regarding these issues. However it’s not just policies on reproductive rights or traditional “female areas” like education reform that more female voices will impact, it’s policies that affect all people.

“There are so many women running for office across the country and here in Minnesota,” Anderson said, “It really is an incredible year of women stepping up to run, but it’s important that when we wake up the day after the election, when we wake up on November 7, that the headlines that we’re reading are not telling just the story of women running for office but of women being elected to office.”

This story was originally published on The Spartan Speaks on November 6, 2018.