In the 2021 ranked choice voting primary elections, women in New York City made history, securing a majority on the city council. Two years later, RepresentWomen sought to uncover the impact of a woman majority council, as well as which barriers persist despite these women being in office.
The questions we sought to answer include:
- What are the primary benefits of having a woman majority council? More specifically, who benefits from a woman majority and why?
- What challenges and barriers remain, despite a woman majority, and what needs to be done to sustain a gender-balanced council?
- Which legislation passed by women in the past session is most notable and why? Does this notable legislation disproportionately impact women?
- Why were women essential in getting these issues to the table? Would these issues have been addressed otherwise?
Our research found that a woman of color majority council had a significant impact on both women’s issues, such as maternal health, menstrual equity, childcare access, and reproductive rights, as well as gender-neutral issues, such as ensuring salary transparency, language access and cost-of-living adjustments for all New Yorkers. Having women in leadership positions as well as a built-in majority on the Women’s Caucus were both instrumental in creating this impact.
In sum, the impact of a woman majority city council includes:
- Women in leadership positions create a ripple effect, enabling women to uplift one another and reducing bias across the council.
- Diversity on the council leads to a shift in priorities; Since the majority women of color council better mirrors the demographics of the city, this allows for a wider variety of issues to be brought to the table.
- A larger Women’s Caucus has become more legislatively efficient, particularly regarding reproductive rights and maternal healthcare. With a built-in majority, the women don’t have to fight to explain why these issues are essential.
- Structural barriers persist, impacting the woman council members' day-to-day work. With dated buildings and protocols, women face barriers that are unique and more pervasive than for their men counterparts.
All New Yorkers benefit from a diverse council. The council’s shared lived experiences with their constituents, different legislative perspectives, and representation of their communities make its members prone to collaborate, understand one another, and support each other to serve both their districts and the city as a whole.