By Cynthia Richie Terrell on March 07, 2015
By Claire Schmidt, Staff Writer
Since Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were barred from attending the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840, women in politics have made much progress. However, many still say that women haven’t come far enough in terms of equality.
“Why does the U.S. still have so few women in office,” Steven Hill from the online magazine The Nation questions. The U.S. now ranks 98th in the world for percentage of women in its national legislature, down from 59th in 1998 – that means the U.S. is just behind Kenya and Indonesia in ranking, and barely above the United Arab Emirates. While there are leading women politicians, like Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Secretary of Health Kathleen Sebelius, there are still only a few women in a political world dominated by men.
Kankakee Mayor Nina Epstein, the first female and current mayor of Kankakee, thinks that numbers are increasing for women in politics. During her political career of 14 years working for the Kankakee school district, two terms on the Kankakee city council, and now on her second term as mayor, she said that she has seen changes. When she was on the council, there was just her and one other woman – now there are around four or five.
Although it was difficult as a woman, as Epstein said, she does “feel that you truly had to prove yourself for respect.” She also added that you have to “be very prepared, and know issues that you talk about.”
But while numbers may be increasing in certain parts of the country, there is still not full equality.
At the rate of progress today, “women won’t achieve fair representation for nearly 500 years,” says Cynthia Terrel, chair of Fair Vote’s “Representation 2020” project, which released a recent study on women’s representation.
But when asked about what she thought about this statistic, Epstein said she doesn’t “really care for statistics – not every female wants to be in politics. Nowadays women have far more opportunities for careers.”