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By Carmen

I think it goes without saying that I love voting for women. Really, it runs deeper than that: I love watching women win, and watching them compete. Unfortunately, many of us — and especially those of us who reside in the United States — don’t get many chances to do so. And without some big changes we may never see a substantial increase in the number of women running for office, getting elected, and breaking more barriers in politics. (In fact, if things remain on the track they’re on right now, we might not see gender parity in politics for five hundred years.)

For those of us who believe in, say, equality and feminism and women’s rights, that’s dismal and depressing news. But the damage of gender imbalance in politics cuts even deeper than the surface of women’s empowerment. It has shaped — and continues to shape — political discourse and political outcomes in this country.

Research shows that electing women means an increase in progressive policy around environmental issues, macroeconomics, family rights and individual rights, violence, and incarceration, and that women politicians across party lines introduce more bills in the areas of civil rights and liberties, education, health, labor, and other key social justice issues. When women are elected to key national offices in ethnically diverse and divided nations, their economies perform better — and grow extensively.

If all this sounds unreal and impossibly good, it’s because we’ve had little experience watching these kinds of changes unfold. The United States is ranked 98th in the world when it comes to the percentage of women in its legislature, where women hold 102 of the 535 seats in the House and Senate. (That’s a depressing 19 percent of Congress representing over 50 percent of the population.) 24 states have ever had a woman governor, and only 5 states currently do. Less than 25 percent of the people who hold state legislative and statewide offices are women. Only 12 of 100 major cities in the country currently have a woman mayor. Though a handful of women have run for the nation’s two highest offices, only one has ever won a primary or caucus.

In the end, it is likely that most of us reading this piece — and its author — see voting for women candidates as novel, rare, and outside of the norm. And the reasons why are as varied as the potential solutions.

It goes without saying that women running for office in a patriarchal country and a sexist society are going to face a unique set of challenges in climbing to victory. Just the act of declaring candidacy is, after all, still quite transgressive for women in this country — and there’s a lot of backlash that comes with asking for a promotion in the most public way possible.

Hillary Clinton’s approval rating in 2013 was 69 percent. She was the second most popular Secretary of State since 1948. Her approval rating now, after her campaign launched? 40.8 percent. Sady Doyle recently explored this pattern, which has been mostly consistent throughout Clinton’s career: People love Hillary when she holds political offices, but despise her when she runs for them. Her experiences run parallel to the often-hailed Elizabeth Warren, who is lionized now but was seen as “unlikeable,” inauthentic, and robotic when she ran for Congress.

Those patterns also fit into the results of a Harvard study on backlash against women politicians. The 2010 research report found that people were equally likely to perceive of women and men running for office as power-seeking, but that the impact of that perception differed along gender lines. Basically, when men sought power they were seen as strong and competent — and when women did the same, they were seen as less supportive and caring. Across lines of sex, participants in the study expressed “moral outrage” at power-seeking women.

We live in a culture where women are still mostly absent from leadership positions, and glass ceilings abound across sectors. We also live in a country where women asking for power, or demanding it, makes us largely uncomfortable — even if women having power doesn’t. As Doyle put it: “We can accept women in power, but not women’s desire for more of it.”

All studies on covert bias, though, contrast with the findings of researchers who have concluded that there is no overt gender bias holding women back in politics. In fact, studies show that women fare just as well as men once they run. People who are asked bluntly if they’d ever vote for a woman often say they would, and women candidates have obviously won and lost elections just like the men who came before and would come after them did.

Those studies complicate the question of why women are so vastly underrepresented in our government, mostly because they force us to confront an ugly reality: It’s not that women are more likely to lose based only on their sex, it’s that women simply aren’t running.

American University’s Women & Politics Institute’s (WPI) unprecedented Citizen Political Ambition Panel Study set out to examine the place where our pathetic statistics on women who hold public office and the realm of political ambition collide. It didn’t make sense, in the eyes of its Director Jen Lawless, that the numbers on how many women held office had been static for a decade by 2008. Through mail surveys and interviews with men and women who were, in the eyes of the institute, qualified to run for office at various levels and who worked in fields most likely to lead to a political career (law, business, education, and politics), WPI’s CPAPS delved into what they call the “political ambition gap.” In other words, they asked questions of evenly matched men and women with the skills to run for office hoping to uncover a little bit about why women weren’t running.

WPI’s study revealed that men are 35 percent more likely to think of themselves as potential candidates at different levels — across lines of political parties, income, age, race, profession, and region — whereas women are less likely to consider running for office and take concrete steps toward launching a campaign. 65 percent of men reported they felt they were qualified to run, whereas women were twice as likely as men to say they weren’t. 80 percent of men felt they could do the job of someone who held elected office, whereas less than 2/3 of women felt the same way. Women in the study also often considered different positions than men when they did reveal political ambition: Most notably, women were more lilely to be interested in school board positions and men were instead twice as likely than women to express interest in federal positions and 50 percent more lilelty to run at the state level.

And when WPI did their survey all over again, reaching out to the same pool of candidates years later during a time of political sea change, those gaps remained. Later data from the institute echoed these findings as well. One study revealed that young men were more likely to be socialized into considering politics, whereas women were less likely to be exposed to political information and discussion and less likely to think they’d ever be qualified for public office. Another pinpointed women as less competitive, less confident, and more risk-averse than men.

None of this is to say that women don’t dream of a life in politics. Men and women in the WPI survey were about equally likely to report that they harbored thoughts about running for office in the back of their minds over time. “Considering a candidacy,” Lawless concluded, just seems “beyond the realm of possibility for many well-credentialed, politically-interested women.”

Whether women actually suffer for their gender in elections doesn’t matter, really. What does matter is that women perceive of the political landscape facing them as potential candidates as more complicated and complex than their male counterparts do. 12 percent of women in WPI’s major study flat-out reported that they felt they were “the wrong sex” to run, which I wrote in my notes next to a huge sad face. Only 28 percent felt they would win their first race, and 29 percent felt it was unlikely. Other data from the institute also showed that Hillary Clinton’s primary bid in 2007 and Sarah Palin’s VP run in 2008 aggravated women’s feelings of gender imbalance in politics.

Now, everyone has doubts — and certainly those who run for office are no exception. But for women, those doubts are compounded by perceived political bias. Women’s self-doubts play almost two times as big a role in their decisions about whether or not to run than they did in men’s. (That means women are twice as likely to be held back by their doubts — even though some of the women who expressed those doubts had advantages against the men in the other survey pool.)

And what really sucks is that in some ways, these women were — and still are — right. They aren’t evenly matched to men, even if voters aren’t committed en masse to preventing them from holding office based on their sex. Covert biases manifest in ways beyond approval ratings and the strange expectations we have for women in public life, and they have deep impacts on the gender balance in our political system.

WPI found that women evenly matched to men are less likely to be encouraged to run by activists, political and party officials, and the people in their social circles. Some young women don’t receive encouragement to go into public life or politics at all by the time they graduate college. Being encouraged to run doubles the likelihood that someone will run for office.

In addition, women still do a disproportionate amount of domestic labor, whether or not they work full-time or in very tough positions. They’re also likely to view losing privacy and family time negatively when evaluating whether or not they’re ready to run, according to WPI’s research.

Rutgers’ Center for American Women in Politics found that the cost of winning a congressional office has nearly doubled over the last few years, and that gender disparities in giving might aggravate gender disparities in leadership because of it. It now costs $1.6M to win a seat in the House and $10.35M to win in the Senate. Men give more and more often to politicians and the groups that support them. Women candidates are more likely to utilize public financing, which puts them at a disadvantage.

Women also suffer from the sexism ingrained in our society, whether or not they’re power-seekers and politicians; the well-documented confidence gap comes to mind. A 2003 study by David Dunning and Joyce Ehrlinger, for example, found that women were more likely to self-rate their skill levels lower than men despite ultimately being evenly matched in skill to those men, and they were less likely to compete in a skill-based activity than their male counterparts. Women are also more likely to be perfectionists; whereas men report they will apply for a job if they feel they meet 60 percent of the qualifications, women will hold out until they hold 100. We know that women are less likely to see themselves as qualified candidates, even in contrast to men at or below their skill or accomplishment level. If success is about competence and confidence, it’s clear which half of the equation is holding women back in politics and across the board in other sectors.

Some solutions to the gender imbalance in our political system are widely recommended. CAWP and WPI both agree that formal training programs for women candidates about campaigns would help close the gender gap in political leadership, especially for women of color. The Nation‘s Steven Hill, when writing about gender and political leadership from a broader perspective, noted that countries that prioritize recruiting diverse political candidates and have quotas in place tend to see more varied political leadership emerge from that work. He also observed that if America were to shift our electoral politics — if we were to truly change up how we elect political officials — we could see an increase in the number of women elected to those offices. And WPI also noted that groups like EMILY’s List, Eleanor’s List, and the Feminist Majority — groups that support women candidates, prepare them for candidacies, and equip them with the tools to live out those campaigns in the back of their heads go a far way in closing the political ambition gap between men and women. These recommendations and observations are all echoed by Representation 2020’s State of Women’s Representation report from 2015, which took a closer look at gender parity and the path our political system is on — and found that it’s not within reach without big structural changes along the way.

But ultimately, what is stark to me about the underrepresentation of women in American politics is how clearly sexism has impeded women’s progress in the arena of political leadership. Women don’t see themselves reflected in our political system, and they see the intense rigor women must possess in order to survive political campaigns. Women are also more likely to encounter sexism as they grow older, meaning that the lack of political ambition they seem to have out of the gate will only be compounded and deepened as time goes on. In order to get more women into political office, we need to convince more women to run — and that they are truly capable of winning, leading, and succeeding once they do.

And in order to do that, we need to squash a whole lot of sexism.

Fostering political ambition in women means seeing young women and girls as just as likely and able to run for office as our society does young men and boys. It means encouraging women to run, even if we think it might be abundantly clear to them that they’re qualified and competent. It means political parties and elected officials need to put more time into concerted efforts to create more gender diversity in the candidate pool. It means cultivating a political landscape that women don’t see as lopsided and turned against them. It means closing the confidence gap, shutting down imposter syndrome, and quieting the messages women and girls are bombarded with every day that tell them they can’t, they won’t, they shouldn’t, and they don’t want to break barrier and smash glass ceilings.

In the end, voting for women, it turns out, isn’t enough. (Not that it isn’t exhilarating, as well as important.) True gender parity won’t be reached by those means alone, because most of the women who should be running the world will never see their names at the ballot box.

The Philadelphia Citizen

By Roxanne Patel Shepelavy

emember how the 2012 election was called the “Year of the Woman?” Women, the story went, were critical to carrying President Obama to a second term. A historic number were elected  to various offices that year. And the 113th Congress that started soon after had more female senators than ever in U.S. history. There was even a heartwarming photo-op in front of the Capitol building of the female Democratic caucus, looking Congressional and power-suited and myriad.

Ah, for the small victories we celebrate. That historic number of female Senators? Only 20. Another 81 in the House. (The numbers are the same for the 114th Congress.) This despite the fact that women make up over 50 percent of the U.S. population, that we graduate from college at a higher rate, and that we vote in higher numbers than men.

According to Representation2020, a project of FairVote, the United States ranks 95th in the world for the percentage of women in its national legislature. That puts us below Albania, Kenya and Saudi Arabia (where women are not even allowed to drive on their own). And it represents a slide backward: In 1998, we were 59th in the world.

Pennsylvania is among the worst in a nation of bad: Representation2020 ranks us 46th of 50, noting we have never had a female Governor or Senator, and only seven Representatives, most recently Democrat Alyson Schwartz. In Philadelphia today, only 15 of 68 elected officials are women.

Why does it matter? Aside from the fact that a representative democracy should actually represent the democracy, as a story in The Nation pointed out last year, studies have shown that both Democratic and Republican women introduce more of the types of legislation that affect regular people’s lives—education, health, labor, civil rights and liberties—as well as more progressive policies on the environment, violence prevention, incarceration and support for families.

Plus, they show up to work:

For years, groups like Emily’s List and Feminist Majority and National Organization for Women have tried to enlist and elect women, of varying political backgrounds, to local, state and federal offices. They have had some success. And, there is, of course, the very real possibility of a President Hillary Clinton. But there are still too few women running for local offices to fill the pipeline that will eventually even out the numbers in federal offices.

That starts with ambition: A recent Brookings study noted that while 62 percent of men surveyed said they had considered running for office, only 45 percent of women said the same.

“Young women are not seen as leaders, particularly in politics,” says Jessica Grounds, co-founder of Running Start, an organization working to inspire young women into politics, in the documentary Raising Ms. President. “We have to get more young women to become those leaders to be A, role models, and B, really change the dynamics. They need to be at the table making policy, need to be discussing what their lives are like.”

Raising Ms. President, which screens at International House on Sunday at 4:30 p.m, delves into where political ambition comes from, why women seem to have less of it (spoiler: it’s not because of children), and how society can change that. The event, hosted by Penn’s Women of Fels, is a fundraiser for Girls on the Run Philadelphia, an after school program that fosters self-confidence in 3rd through 8th graders around the city. The movie will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by political consultant Rebecca Katz with Grounds; state Representative Donna Bullock; City Councilwoman Cherelle Parker; and former mayoral candidate Melissa Murray Bailey.

Go. Bring a young woman. And please, can you let her know? We need her.


The online platform ‘Representation 2020. A Century from Suffrage to Parity’ works to raise awareness of the under-representation of women in elected office, to strengthen coalitions supportive of measures to increase women's representation, and to highlight the often overlooked structural barriers to achieving gender parity in American elections. This work is designed to complement the important work being done to: reject gender stereotypes that suggest that men are more effective leaders than women; recruit, train and fund women candidates; and encourage more women to run for high-profile offices.

Representation2020 focuses on three structural reforms that increase women's electoral success. They include: new recruitment practices that ensure political parties and 'gatekeepers' recruit and nominate more women candidates; fair representation voting plans with multi-member districts to increase the likelihood of women running for office and being elected; and improved legislative practices that ensure the day-to-day operation of the legislature or city council is not biased against women serving in office.

Please visit directly the online platform by following this link (link is external).

Providence Journal

By Jennifer Bogdan and Katherine Gregg Providence Journal

Former TV reporter Margie O'Brien has been hired by the General Assembly to interview legislators on-air in a role that the late Dave Barber had on Capitol TV until his unexpected death last summer.

O'Brien has worked as a news reporter and anchor in the Providence and Boston media markets for close to two decades, including stints as a reporter and anchor for WLNE/ABC 6 from 1997 to 2000 and at WJAR/NBC 10 from 2001 to 2006. More recently, she has produced and hosted local programs for Rhode Island's PBS station.

She was also the spokeswoman for then state Treasurer Frank Caprio's 2010 run for governor.

In her new $70,577-a-year role as program manager for the Assembly-run Capitol TV, O'Brien "will take over and expand the programs once hosted by the late Dave Barber," according to House spokesman Larry Berman. She starts next Monday.

"She will be hosting a regular show called 'Legislative Insight,' which will offer viewers a more in-depth look at pending and approved legislation and further explain the effects and ramifications to all Rhode Islanders," Berman said.

O’Brien will also package the "Capitol Spotlight" stories "in a more compelling manner with on-site visits to community events held by Representatives and Senators," and work with both Capitol TV and the Legislative Press Bureau "to provide a greater level of information through social media," Berman said.

"Margie is greatly respected and has more than 20 years of experience in the broadcast field," said House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello. "She will be a wonderful resource for the General Assembly and for the state’s citizens to disseminate important information they need to know about the legislation we are working on."

While some call these taxpayer-financed broadcasts by the Assembly's $1.8 million-a-year TV arm informative, others over the years have said they’re little more than infomercials for legislators.

When Barber was hired in 2008 as the Assembly's first-ever TV personality, Republicans railed against the leadership’s decision to add thousands of dollars to the Assembly's budget amid a multi-million-dollar deficit. Each election year since, this taxpayer-funded showcase for lawmakers has prompted questions about election rules, fairness and advantages of incumbency.

State election laws dictate that candidates may not use public funds "for any publication, advertisement, broadcast or telecast" within 120 days of any primary or general election.

There is, however, one exception: candidates are not prohibited "from appearing on regular Capitol Television programming operated by the General Assembly or on television stations operated by the Rhode Island public telecommunications authority during the period of time or programming of regular or special meetings of city or town councils or any local governmental board, agency or other entity."

"Regularly scheduled means when the House meets, not when the leadership chooses to promote its candidates," said then-House Minority Whip Nicholas Gorham. But House leaders contended that Barber's on-air interviews with lawmakers were part of "regular Capitol Television programming" and therefore exempt.

In 2008, the legislature's vastly outnumbered Republicans vowed a boycott. Now they, too, are Capitol TV regulars.

O'Brien has a bachelor’s degree in political science and pre-law from St. Anselm College and a master’s degree in communications/broadcast journalism from Emerson College. She lives in Barrington with her husband, Todd Reed, and three children.

Barber’s $73,543-a-year job has been empty since his death on July 4, 2015.

Travel tally

Winning a seat in Rhode Island's part-time General Assembly comes with more than a few perks, beyond the $15,414.26 salary for most lawmakers (double that for the House speaker and Senate president).

They include the occasional expense-paid trip.

And Political Scene takes a look every year at where Rhode Island's lawmakers have gone at taxpayer expense. The latest tally:

In the last year, Rhode Island legislators have run up state-paid bills totaling $5,798 for airfare, hotel and registration expenses paid, at least in part, out of the Assembly's $15,300 travel budget.

That does not include the trips much farther afield that House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed and state Rep. Joseph McNamara — who doubles as the R.I. Democratic Party chairman — took in recent months to destinations farther afield, such as Israel and Taiwan.

(As previously reported, the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island financed the expense-paid, week-long trip that Mattiello and Paiva Weed took to Israel in November, and Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Boston paid for Paiva Weed and McNamara to go to Taiwan earlier this month. The cost of those trips will come to light when the lawmakers file their next annual financial-disclosure reports with the state Ethics Commission in April.)

Here is the breakdown that House spokesman Larry Berman provided, in his dual role as spokesman for the Joint Committee on Legislative Services (JCLS) chaired by Mattiello:

— Representatives Jean Philippe Barros, D-Pawtucket; Carlos Tobon, D-Pawtucket; Robert Phillips, D-Woonsocket; and Marvin Abney, D-Newport; attended the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) annual summit in Seattle from Aug. 2-7. The Joint Committee on Legislative Services paid $615 registration fees for Barros, Tobon and Phillips and $549 for Abney, who qualified for a reduced fee because he registered early.

In addition, JCLS paid $988 for Barros’ air fare, $536 for his hotel and $226.77 for his other travel expenses (fees, parking, taxis, etc.). There were no other state payments for the other three representatives, who tapped their campaign funds for their other expenses, according to Berman.

— Abney also attended the National Black Caucus of State Legislators’ annual meeting in Los Angeles from Dec. 2-5. JCLS paid $350 for his registration fee. There were no other state-paid expenses.

— Rep. Robert Lancia, R-Cranston, attended a Toll Fellowship conference, sponsored by the Council of State Governments, in Lexington, Kentucky, from Aug. 28 to Sept. 2. The Assembly paid $377 for his airfare and $50 for other expenses. The state did not pay for his registration or lodging.

— Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Picard, D-Woonsocket, attended two conferences, with the Assembly paying for his registrations only: $375 for the National Conference of Insurance Legislators in San Antonio from Nov. 12-14 and $500 for a NCLS Capitol Forum in Washington, D.C., from Dec. 8-11.

Fundraising time

Speaking of campaign accounts, the new legislative fundraising season is about to begin.

In keeping with tradition, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello will host a kickoff fundraiser on Thursday, Jan. 21, at the Providence Marriott Downtown.

Next up come fundraisers for Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, on Jan. 28 (same location); House Majority Leader John DeSimone, Feb. 3 (same location); Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio, Feb. 4, at the Roger Williams Park Casino; House Majority Whip John Edwards, Feb. 10, at Camille's restaurant; and Rep. Chris Blazejewski, the House deputy majority whip, Feb. 24, at the Rooftop at the Providence G.

For Mattiello and Paiva Weed, the suggested contribution is $200; For DeSimone and Ruggerio, $150; Edwards and Blazejewski, $125.

Gains for women

Rhode Island is making strides in increasing the number of women in elected office, according to Representation 2020, a Maryland-based nonprofit that advocates for women in elected positions.

A new study ranks Rhode Island 16th out of the 50 states in terms of "gender parity in elected office." Last year, Rhode Island ranked 31st.

The biggest change since last year? The state now has nearly the same number of men as women in statewide office since the election last year of Governor Raimondo and Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

"Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the state legislature," the organization said. "Since 1993, the percentage of seats held by women in the [General Assembly] has increased by just two percentage points from 25 percent in 1993 to 27 percent in 2015."

In 1993, there were 11 women in the Senate and 26 in the House, according to the report. (By the start of the 2003 session, downsizing had reduced the House from 100 members to 75, and the Senate from 50 members to 38.)

Rhode Island's current ranking is based on a count of 10 women in the Senate and 20 women in the House, but that tally doesn't include Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee, who was elected in June to fill former Rep. Donald Lally's seat.

The state's other problem area, according to the report? Congress.

There are no women in the current congressional delegation. The only woman to ever serve in Congress representing Rhode Island — Claudine Schneider — left the House of Representatives in 1991 after an unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign.

By Tina Praino

The United Nations sent three women to the United States for ten days this month to analyze women’s rights and the state of gender equality in the country. They were appalled. The UN issued a report with strong language stating that the extreme polarization of US politics is “profoundly” affecting the United States government’s ability to guarantee woman their human rights. The women who visited said they were ‘horrified’ as they reported on what they called ‘missing rights’ for women in the country. Many of these rights are rights that women in other leading nations have currently and have had for some time. And one of the findings that surprised them was the fact that women in the US don’t even realize that they are missing out on rights that women in other countries have. The US government is failing women and US women don’t even realize it.

These three women were from Poland, UK, and Costa Rica and they visited Alabama, Texas and Oregon. Those are definitely tough states with respect to women’s rights and equality in general.

They specifically assessed wage equality, maternity leave, affordable child care, and the treatment of immigrants in the prison system. They cited their strong concern that women aren’t guaranteed maternity leave in the United States. The US is one of only four countries in the world that doesn’t guarantee that basic right. They cited their concern with the lack of accommodation in the workplace for pregnant women. They cited their concern for treatment of immigrants in the prison system. They also focused strongly on the rates of violence towards women and the rates of gun violence specifically stating there is a need for gun regulations.

One of the major topics of discussion after their visit was the amount of vilification women in the US receive with respect to reproductive rights. They visited an abortion clinic in Alabama and were harassed by protestors. One of the women called the harassment a form of terrorism and explained that in most European countries if a woman is going to have an abortion her general practitioner performs the procedure in a regular hospital where she receives full access to healthcare without harassment.

The US is one of only seven countries to choose not to ratify the UN women’s bill of rights

The UN has been focusing strongly on closing gender equality gaps worldwide. In 2010 they created UN Women, an entity for “Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women” whose mission is to ensure that women across the globe are given access to basic human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil arenas or any other field. They drafted a treaty for women’s human rights which requires countries that ratify it to focus on gender inequalities and put meaningful programs in place to bridge those gaps.  Unfortunately, the United States is one of only seven countries who have not ratified this treaty and the UN blames partisan politics in the US for this.


I can say honestly that this writer is not at all surprised that the UN representatives weren’t happy with their findings on their visit. Women’s rights have never been on par with men in this country or anywhere else to be honest and have been taking a hard beating here specifically for the last fifteen years. In 1998 the United States ranked 59th in the world for women’s representation in legislature. That isn’t a good number given that we are 3rd in population. And things are not moving in the right direction. We currently rank 95th, according to Representation 2020, a non-profit organization whose mission is raise awareness about the underrepresentation of women in legislatures.


Position Percentage
Cabinet 30%
Congress 19%
State Legislature*

*Varies drastically by state

Governor 10%

Looking at those numbers of course there are issues with women’s rights being focused on here. When women account for a little more than 50% of the population this kind of underrepresentation is unacceptable.


If you want to look at one glaring example of how men and women are treated differently in the US, look at wage. We currently rank 22nd for wage equality in the world with a gender wage gap of 21%. In other words, women in the United States make 79 cents for every dollar a man makes in the same job. And this is an improvement. In 1955 women only made 64 cents on the dollar in the US. Unfortunately; at the current mathematic rate of improvement it will take more than 100 years for women to be on equal wage footing with men in the United States.

And like most issues in the United States partisan politics plays a huge impact on what this looks like across the nation. Wage inequality in the United States varies drastically from state to state and ranges from women making less than 69 cents on the dollar for the same work men do (Louisiana) to making 82-89% (NY, FL, NC, NV).  There has been a focus on this issue since President Barack Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law in 2009 making wage discrimination based on sex illegal.  The UN commended the current administration for it’s focus on changing things for the better for women.

As a woman who has held positions with full hiring responsibility for most of my career; I can say that there has been improvement but things aren’t moving fast enough. I still find myself reviewing payroll statistics where I point out a gender wage gap and recommend the business level those wages or remain exposed to litigation. I have even consulted with businesses here in the south who don’t hire women for varying reasons that are never good enough.


The gender equality debate is a hot one. The 2016 candidates have different positions with respect to women’s issues; however, the democrats have historically been more receptive to creating meaningful change. Here are the official positions of both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party according to Crowdpac, a political information resource.

Official Republican Party Position

“We support military women’s exemption from direct ground combat units and infantry battalions”

“The Republican Party opposes the UN Convention on Women’s Rights because its “…long-range impact on the American family is ominous or unclear.”

^According to Crowdpac the 2012 Republican Party Platform does not include other language on issues related to gender equality.


Official Democratic Party Position

“We Democrats will continue to support efforts to ensure that workers can combat gender discrimination in the workplace.” The Party supports the Paycheck Fairness Act and broadening the Family and Medical Leave Act. The Party supports ratifying the UN Convention on Women’s Rights and the Equal Rights Amendment. The Party opposes charging women more for healthcare and believes women should have “…free access to preventative care, including…contraception.”


The reality that women’s rights are lagging in the United States should not be a surprise. The topic of women’s rights whether it be healthcare or wage has been debated for as long as women have had a pulpit to stand upon. The views of the 2016 candidates vary so greatly on these issues I am certain the next president will have an impact on whether we see the gender equality gap increase or decrease. I urge women and anyone else who think women’s rights are human rights to educate themselves so that they aren’t voting against their own best interests or the best interests of the women in their family.

Rutland Herald

By Emily Cutts

For every five men who serve on a town or city governing board in Vermont, there is one woman.

That number hasn’t changed much in the past six years, according to the Governor’s Commission on Women.

In a data analysis, the Rutland Herald and Times Argus found 211 women serve on the state’s 246 civic boards.

The last time the Vermont Commission on Women looked at gender representation on boards was in 2009, when 19 percent of the people on select boards were female, said Cary Brown, the commission’s executive director.

Six years later, that number is now 21 percent, calculated using a Vermont League of Cities and Towns listing of names of town and city board members, and applying gender norms to first names. In a few cases town clerks or online sources were used to verify gender.

“The representation of women on select boards hasn’t changed, which is concerning,” Brown said. “That is kind of a pipeline to higher office. Women will often start out on some very local form of elected government, and that helps them move into the higher levels.”

In a country and state where numbers of men and women in the population are almost equal, there is a large disparity between those who govern.

“I think it would be a great thing for Vermont and, frankly, for the country, to have more diversity on all of our boards and have more women in leadership positions,” said Christopher Winters, Vermont’s deputy secretary of state. “Having a diversity of voices and perspectives makes for better group decision-making. Ultimately, it’s up to the voters to select the people they think best represent them.”

Vermont ranks low

The secretary of state’s office doesn’t track gender demographics of boards, but Winters said he wasn’t surprised about the small number of women who are elected to local offices.

Representation 2020 — a project of FairVote, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on structural changes to make elections more participatory and representative at every level of government — ranked Vermont 41st out of 50 states on its gender-parity index.

It is apparently not geography; adjacent New Hampshire takes the top spot for having the highest female representation in the country.

“We tend to be a progressive state that tries very hard to value all voices, but we don’t do well at electing women,” said Ruth Hardy, executive director of Emerge Vermont, a national training program for Democratic women.

“I think it’s really important for Vermonters to think about this, especially coming up on Town Meeting Day,” Hardy said. “I really hope that people think about making sure their local boards are as diverse and representative as possible.”

Experiences vary

Of the 246 boards surveyed, 13 percent of those boards are led by women such as Amy Scharf. As chairwoman of the Duxbury Select Board, she has the unique experience of leading a female-dominated board — seen in only 5 percent of the local boards in the state.

Scharf said her leadership style is different from her male predecessor.

“I had said to the board when they were nominating me for chair, it’s not my board — this is our board,” she said. “This is not the Amy Scharf Show, I have no ego or agenda with anything associated with the board.”

Scharf said she’s never really felt that she’s been treated differently because of her gender, but some people within any community that still may harbor an old-school idea about women.

“I haven’t had anybody disrespect me at all,” she said. “I’m sure there is a certain word to be used for me because I am a woman, but I’m not going to be worried about that.”

While Scharf doesn’t feel she has been treated differently because of her gender, not all the women who serve feel the same way.

Hardy is chairwoman of the Mary Hogan Elementary School Board in Middlebury. In her experience, she said, she has “absolutely been treated differently.”

“I’ve literally been yelled at in public, told to stop talking by male members in our community. I’m the chair of our board — I’ve had my authority as chair questioned by men, asking why I thought that I was in charge when I’m the chair,” she said. “I’m assertive, and I’m confident, and I think that some men are challenged by that.”

Not all the women who serve have noticed a difference.

Benson Selectwoman Sue Janssen said the days when gender made a difference are gone.

“I’ve not ever felt that my opinion was worth less or not listened to,” she said. “Quite frankly, I think most real Vermont men know very well what the value of women is and they’re not messing with that. Especially in rural communities, the women have pulled their weight for centuries.”

County numbers

County by county, the percentage of women who serve varies from 8 percent in Essex County to 32 percent in Chittenden County.

“It’s important that the people who are being governed are adequately and appropriately being represented,” Brown said. “We’re going to get better decisions, better public policy if we have a range of perspectives and the diversity that represents the diversity in our population.”

Brown said that from research, she knows women tend to need to be asked specifically to run for office.

Rutland City Alderwoman Melinda Humphrey and Montpelier City Councilor Anne Watson were approached by friends or colleagues about running.

Watson is one of four women who hold a seat on the Montpelier council. She said it wasn’t like that when she was appointed.

“I was replacing a woman. The person who I was up against was a guy, so it would have gone from two out of six, that number, to just one,” she said. “For the appointment, I’m sure the fact that I am woman had to do with the fact that I was appointed. I think ‘good on them’ recognizing that a woman is going to bring a different perspective.”The high number of women on a board like Montpelier’s is still an anomaly, as 42 percent of all boards in Vermont have no women at all.

Watson said that in her time on the council she has seen it change from a male-dominated panel to a female-dominated one, but otherwise hasn’t noticed much difference.

“I can’t say that it is very different,” she said. “I think that our group, whether it was mostly guys or mostly women, I think, has been a very consensus-building, thoughtful group, a group that likes to hear each other and respectfully disagree.”

Watson added that she did notice fewer interruptions occur during meetings now.

“There was a trend I did notice early on in the process, where we did use to interrupt each other more,” she said. “The mayor has been tuned into making sure that does not happen. He is a guy facilitating discussion and he is conscious of interruptions. I really respect that a lot.”

She added,. “Interruptions in meetings are something that happen to women chronically. … I feel like I’m able to say what I want. I have probably done some interrupting as well.”

Benefit of diversity

Watson said while she felt there was less of a precedent for women to be involved in politics, there is a change happening.

“I feel like there is an increasing number of young women who feel empowered, want their voice heard and are ready to step up, and it’s just awesome,” Watson said.

One place where women are in the majority is school boards. A quick look at names of all those who serve on school boards across the state show that women turn out in much higher numbers to be involved in school affairs.

Frederick Schmidt, founder and director emeritus of the University of Vermont’s Center for Rural Studies and a past member of the Shelburne Board of Civil Authority, said, “I’d like to see more women in more positions everywhere.”

He also would like to see more young people joining their older neighbors on civic boards, arguing that diversity makes for a more effective and democratic government.

“Local government is not very sexy, but it’s pretty essential,” Schmidt said.

Detroit News

The Detroit News

Mich. slips in public office gender equality

Michigan has slipped from No. 8 to 11th in its gender-parity rank for electing women to public office, according to an analysis by the group Representation 2020.

The index considers the number and proportion of women elected to office at the local, state and national levels.

The group noted that only three of the 14 members from Michigan serving in the U.S. House are women and that Sen. Debbie Stabenow is the first female senator elected to Michigan. Only one woman has ever served as governor of Michigan, and one of the four statewide elected offices is held by a woman.

The percentage of women in the state Legislature hasn’t improved significantly since 1993 when women represented 20 percent of members. Today, the figure is 21 percent, with the state ranking 32nd for state legislative parity.

Contributors: Chad Livengood, Melissa Nann Burke and Gary Heinlein

Baltimore City

By Cynthia Prairie

LACKING WOMEN LEADERS: Two women serve in Maryland’s 10-person congressional delegation. No female holds one of Maryland’s four statewide executive positions. Of the state’s 10 largest cities, only two, Baltimore and Rockville, have female mayors. And none of the state’s five largest counties have executives who are women. Based on those figures, Maryland’s score has dropped in an annual ranking by Representation 2020, a project by FairVote, a nonprofit that researches how voting systems affect participation, representation and governance, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports.

Washington Post

By Ovetta Wiggins

Two women serve in Maryland’s 10-person congressional delegation. No female holds one of Maryland’s four statewide executive positions. Of the state’s 10 largest cities, only two, Baltimore and Rockville, have female mayors. And none of the state’s five largest counties have executives who are women.

Based on those figures, Maryland’s score has dropped in an annual ranking by Representation 2020, a project by FairVote, a nonprofit that researches how voting systems affect participation, representation and governance.

Maryland, which has in years past shown a progressive swing, placed 20th in the nation in a report released Thursday by Representation 2020 on gender parity.

“Once ahead of the nation on gender parity in elected office, [Maryland] is falling behind,” the report reads.

In 1993, the state ranked fifth in the nation and received a parity score of 20 in the project’s gender parity index. This year’s score was 19.1.

Cynthia Terrell, the chair of Representation 2020, said the percentage of women in the General Assembly peaked in 2005 at just under 36 percent. Over the last decade, the number has gradually declined. At 31 percent, the percentage is higher than the national average in state legislatures, the report found.

Still, Terrell said, the state has not had more than one member of its U.S. House delegation be a woman since 1995. Between 1979 to 1992, the state had at least three female members of Congress.

“That’s 20 years of underrepresentation,” the report reads.

The report notes that Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D) plans to retire next year. U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards and U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen are in a bitter battle for the Democratic nomination to fill Milkulski’s seat. One female, House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga, has entered the race for the Republican nomination.

Representation 2020 is pushing for Maryland and other states to level the playing field for women who want to run for elected office by enacting electoral reform, including the use of multi-member legislative districts; encouraging political parties to set up rules and procedures to recruit women and eliminating any internal practices that are biased against women lawmakers.

“Parties need to be held accountable and need to be agents for change,” Terrell said. “Then some of the states that we think are progressive will actually make some progress.”


By Brittany Tesoriero

New York is moving closer to achieving gender parity as the number of women who hold spots in state elected offices has increased, according to a report released last month.

In its second annual report, Representation2020 found that New York had scored 23.8 out of a possible 100 points and ranked 14th in the nation in terms of gender parity. This is an increase compared to last year’s numbers, where the state earned a score of 17.1 and placed 20th. New York has moved up from ranking 24th in gender parity among states in 1993.

Gender parity is reached when men and women are equally likely to hold spots in the state’s elected office. The scores range between zero (no women in office) and 100 (only women in office).

Representation2020 is an initiative of the nonprofit organization FairVote, which seeks to make elections more representative and well-rounded at every level of government. This project aims to create awareness about the issue of underrepresentation of women and seeks structural solutions for the disparity.

Cynthia Terrell, the project chair and a founder of FairVote, has a long history of campaign work and experience in battling the underrepresentation of women in legislature.

“Political actors are very likely to recruit candidates to run who are like them — that reality makes it hard for women and other non-traditional candidates to gain traction at the local level — and fewer women in county and state legislative offices means even fewer women being groomed to run for statewide and federal level offices,” Terrell said in an email.

New York has never elected a female governor, and New York City has never seen a female mayor. Only eight of its 27 House of Representative seats are occupied by women. On a broader scale, New Hampshire was the first and only of the 50 states to achieve gender parity, earning a score of 57.1.

The disparity seen in New York and across the nation translates to a larger issue in society—a greater under-representation of women, especially in the news.

Professor Steven Skiena of Stony Brook University’s computer science department teamed up with professor Arnout van de Rijt of the sociology department to research the persistent under-representation of women in the news.

Their study, “A Paper Ceiling,” explains that women are not seen as often in newspapers as their male counterparts because there are fewer women in positions of power. Since authoritative figures are seen and talked about in the news frequently, it makes sense that a majority of those names belong to men, as a majority of the positions are held by men.

Terrell said she believes that even women who are still in college have the power to help achieve gender parity.

“Young women should be encouraged to pursue leadership positions and envision themselves as vital voices in our democracy,” Terrell said. “Campuses provide a perfect environment not only to challenge cultural norms but also to embrace the structural changes that Representation2020 is advocating for.”