This year, there will be nearly four times as many women running for the same number of seats. And following a trend across the nation, women will be better represented on the ballot than in at least a decade – and likely ever.
Female lawmakers say women bring a different perspective and tone to the often-contentious world of lawmaking. But Oklahoma’s gender disparity in the Legislature, which is among the most heavily male dominated in the country, is likely to continue despite movements such as the Oklahoma teacher walkout, the #MeToo movement and liberal opposition to President Donald Trump that have motivated more women across the country to enter politics.
An Oklahoma Watch review of legislative candidate filings for the 2018 elections, social media pages and campaign websites shows that women make up 32 percent of this year’s field. That’s a significant increase over the past four election cycles, when female representation among legislative candidates ranged from 15 percent to 22 percent.
The increase has the potential to bring more gender parity to a Legislature that has 21 female lawmakers, or 14.2 percent of the 149-member body. The proportion of female legislators is the 49th smallest in the country – second only to Wyoming, where women make up about 11 percent of the Legislature – and well below the 25.4 percent representation of women in legislatures nationwide.
Governor races might be a little different than state legislature or congressional seats. While members of Congress and state assemblies are representatives, and viewed as such by their constituents, the title of governor (like president) is more synonymous with power and leadership, two concepts that tend to conflict with notions of femininity and womanhood, with which women are implicitly associated. In their book, Governing Codes, Karrin Vasby Anderson and Kristina Horn Sheeler effectively make this point:
It follows that for women, representing is less a violation of the masculine political culture than leading. After all, (in stereotypical terms, at least) leading requires aggression, initiative, expertise, and reason. Representing requires concern and deference to the public good, connection and concern for humane rather than personal interests.
The empirical evidence for gender stereotype effects on women who run for governor is limited, given the few cases we have to study. However, in her book, When Does Gender Matter, Kathleen Dolan finds gender stereotypes indeed hurt women who run to lead their state.
Beyond implicit gender bias, women running for governor in 2018 face institutionalized hurdles as well. Although more than half (16) of the 31 governors races with women running are open races, even if women secure their party’s nomination, they will likely be running as the challenging party’s nominee. Moreover, many of these races still have their primaries ahead of them, and the field is competitive. For example, in California, Gavin Newsom is his party’s front-runner, well ahead of Delaine Easton. Similarly, Cynthia Nixon is running in the Democratic primary in New York against incumbent Andrew Cuomo.
In sum, while the wave of women running for office in 2018 may not upset the century-long underrepresentation of women in congressional and state executive offices, women’s increased interest in public service suggests that many of the barriers women typically face, like encouragement disparities and their own perception that they lack qualifications, are being eroded. Whether this is due to actual or perceived changes to the political landscape remains under-explored. But as women continue to enter high profile races like those for governor, we will see trickle down role model effects that will have an impact on future races, regardless of the immediate outcome. And this is a win for women.
Articles about the “pink wave” — the record number of women who have entered midterm congressional races — are appearing regularly in top media outlets. And as this month’s primaries in Pennsylvania suggest, female candidates are winning. As Danny Hayes has noted here at TMC, when women run in larger numbers, they win in larger numbers. This year appears set to repeat 1992’s “Year of the Woman” — but with an even larger leap in women’s representation.
So what difference might women make? A lot. We examined experiences across the globe and learned that when women enter politics, governments change their spending priorities — shifting money away from the military and toward public health.
Here’s how we did our research
We looked at how government spending changes after countries implement electoral gender quotas that require a certain minimum proportion of women in political institutions. Most countries in the world have adopted electoral gender quotas, with the majority doing so in the past 25 years.
Governments and parties implement quotas in different ways. In some countries, such as Uganda and Morocco, citizens vote for female candidates to fill special district seats reserved for women. In other countries, where parties field many candidates for districts with several representatives, quotas require parties to have a certain minimum proportion of female candidates on their slate. By requiring this, a government can ensure that every party sends more women to parliament. Most countries in Latin America have candidate quotas like this.
To see whether female representatives change government spending, we looked at annual government budget data that the World Bank collected from 139 countries from 1995 to 2012 in three categories: public health, education and the military.
During this period, 65 countries adopted new electoral gender quotas. On average, we find that women’s representation doubled — from 10 to 20 percent — after quotas were implemented.
For instance, before implementing a gender quota in 1999, Belgium’s national legislature had 13 percent women. After implementing the quota, that percentage climbed to 23 percent. Some examples are even more dramatic. When Namibia’s ruling party implemented a voluntary gender quota in 2014, women’s representation increased from 24 percent to 42 percent in one election cycle.
Countries that adopt quota policies — increasing female representation — spend more on public health in the years that follow.
What’s more, health spending increases as the percentage of new women who have entered politics through the quota policy also goes up.
Countries whose quotas increase women’s representation by more than 10 percentage points see the most dramatic increases in health spending — jumping, on average, from 10.3 percent of total government expenditures in the budget years before quotas to 13.1 percent in the budget years afterward. That increase is more than a full percentage point higher than in countries that did not implement quotas during comparable periods.
BEIRUT: Leading women’s rights activists called Tuesday for a quota on women’s representation in government to be implemented in Lebanon’s next general elections, in four years’ time, after only six women took parliamentary seats in the 2018 race.
President of the National Commission for Lebanese Women Claudine Aoun Roukoz “requested ... a share in the next government,” including a mandatory quota to increase women’s participation, according to a statement released by Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s press office, following a meeting between Hariri and Aoun Roukoz.
Aoun Roukoz’s comments come after her group, as well as a number of other women’s rights bodies, gathered Tuesday morning with caretaker Minister of State for Women’s Affairs Jean Ogasapian for a seminar on female government participation following the May 6 parliamentary elections.
Though a record 86 women registered as candidates in the race, only six were elected to office: Paula Yacoubian, Rola Tabsh Jaroudi, Bahia Hariri, Strida Geagea, Inaya Ezzeddine and Dima Jamali. Four women served as members in the preceding, 2009-era Parliament.
Ogasapian said at Tuesday’s seminar that he had “submitted a draft amendment to the current parliamentary elections law,” according to a statement released by his press office, though it was unclear whether the amendment included a quota.
“It is now clear that nothing prevents women from participating in political decision-making, as many women have proven their abilities and competence to be essential participants alongside men,” Ogasapian said.
Nellie Bly, born Elizabeth Jane Cochrane in 1864, arrived in New York City at age 23 in 1887 and talked her way into a job with Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World by accepting one of the first stunt journalism assignments ever: she went undercover at New York’s Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell Island. The ensuing story gave her a foothold in journalism’s boys’ club and established her career: “Bly made herself into the most famous newspaper reporter in the United States,” writes Jean Marie Lutes in the introduction to the new book, Around the World in Seventy-Two Days And Other Writings, “by embracing the idea that a woman writer was, by definition, a bit of a spectacle.”
A year after the Blackwell Island exposé, Bly traveled around the world in “seventy-two days, six hours, eleven minutes and fourteen seconds,” inspired by Around the World in Eighty Days (“I need a vacation; why not take a trip around the world?” she would write). When she died in 1922 at the age of 57, her longtime friend and editor Arthur Brisbane called her “the best reporter in America.” Around the World in Seventy-Two Days — the first edited volume of Bly’s work — includes the following interview with the suffragette Susan B. Anthony.
“Champion Of Her Sex: Miss Susan B. Anthony,” originally printed in The New York World, Feb. 2, 1896.
Susan B. Anthony! She was waiting for me. I stood for an instant in the doorway and looked at her. She made a picture to remember and to cherish.
EQUAL RIGHTS WITH MEN
“Now you want to know when I first heard of woman suffrage,” she resumed. “I will tell you. In 1848 I came home at the end of my school term to visit my family. Mrs. [Elizabeth Cady] Stanton and Mrs. [Lucretia] Mott had just been in Rochester, and my family could talk of nothing else. I didn’t understand suffrage, but I knew I wanted equal wages with men teachers. However, I had no idea between voting and equality. I went back to my school and forgot all about it.
“In 1849 I heard Abby Kelley Foster, the Quaker Abolitionist, and I read the reports of a great convention that gave me the first clear statement of the underlying principles of woman suffrage. The next year I went to an abolition meeting at Seneca Falls where I met Mrs. Stanton, who was head of the Daughters of Temperance society… A little later the Sons of Temperance held a convention at Albany, and they invited the Daughters to send delegates. I was one of the delegates. They were assembled in the hall and something was under discussion when I arose to address the Grand Worthy Master. ‘The sister will allow me to say,’ he shouted me, ‘that we invited them here to look and learn, but not to speak.’
“I instantly left the hall, and Lydia Mott, cousin of Mrs. Mott’s husband, followed me. We hired a hall, and got Thurlow Weed to announce in his paper, the Evening Journal, that the Woman’s Temperance Society would hold a meeting that evening.
“Hon. David Wright and Rev. Samuel J. May…came to our meeting, and dear Rev. May taught us how to preside. I was made Chairwoman of the committee, and the first thing I did was to call a state convention…We held a two days’ convention and Mrs. Stanton was made President and I was Secretary. And it all came out of the men refusing to let me speak.”
SECRET OF HER WORK
“The secret of my work,” she said, “is that when there is something to do, I do it. I rolled up a mammoth temperance petition of 28,000 names and it was presented to the Legislature. When it came up for discussion one man made an eloquent speech against it. ‘And who are these,’ he asked, ‘who signed the petition? Nothing but women and children.’ Then I said to myself, ‘Why shouldn’t women’s names be as powerful as men’s? They would be if women had the power to vote. Then that man wouldn’t have been so eloquent against temperance, for he would have known that the women would vote his head off.’ I vowed there and then women should be equal…”
“Are you afraid of death?”
“I don’t know anything about Heaven or hell,” she answered, “or whether I will ever meet my friends again or not. But as no particle of matter is ever lost, I have a feeling that no particle of mind is ever lost. The thought doesn’t bother me…”
“Then you don’t find life tiresome?”
“Oh mercy, no! I don’t want to die just as long as I can work. The minute I can’t, I want to go. I dread the thought of being enfeebled. I find the older I get the greater power I have to help the world. I feel like a snowball — the further I am rolled the more I gain. When my powers begin to lessen, I want to go…”
SOME IDEAS ON PRAYER AND MARRIAGE
“Do you think women should propose?”
“Yes!” very decidedly. “If she can see a man she can love. She has the right to propose today that she did not have some years ago because she has become a bread winner. Once a proposal from a woman would have meant, ‘Will you please support me, sir?’ And I think woman will make better choices than man. She’ll know quicker what man will suit her and whether he loves her and she loves him.” …
“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling,” Miss Anthony said, leaning forward and laying a slender hand on my arm. “I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel. It gives woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. It makes her feel as if she were independent. The moment she takes her seat she knows she can’t get into harm unless she gets off her bicycle, and away she goes, the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
“And bloomers?” I suggested, quietly.
“Are the proper thing for wheeling,” added Miss Anthony promptly. “It is as I have said — dress to suit the occasion. A woman doesn’t want skirts and flimsy lace to catch in the wheel. Safety, as well as modesty, demands bloomers or extremely short skirts. You know women only wear foolish articles of dress to please men’s eyes anyway.”
WHAT WILL THE NEW WOMAN BE?
“What do you think the new woman will be?”
“She’ll be free,” said Miss Anthony. “Then she’ll be whatever her best judgment wants to be. We can no more imagine what the true woman will be than we can what the true man will be.” …
“And now,” I said, approaching a very delicate subject on tip-toes, “tell me one thing more. Were you ever in love?”
“In love?” she laughed merrily. “Bless you, Nellie, I’ve been in love a thousand times!”
“Really?” I gasped, taken aback by this startling confession.
“Yes, really!” nodding her snowy head. “But I never loved any one so much that I thought it would last. In fact I never felt I could give up my life of freedom to become a man’s housekeeper. When I was young, if a girl married poor, she became a housekeeper and a drudge. If she married wealth she became a pet and a doll. Just think, had I married at twenty, I would have been either a drudge or a doll for fifty-five years. Think of it!
“I want to add one thing,” she said. “Once men were afraid of women with ideas and a desire to vote. Today our best suffragists are sought in marriage by the best class of men.” …
Susan B. Anthony is all that is best and noblest in woman. She is ideal and if we will have in women who vote what we have in her, let us all help to promote the cause of woman suffrage.
From AROUND THE WORLD IN SEVENTY-TWO DAYS AND OTHER WRITINGS by Nellie Bly. Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Edition copyright © Penguin Books, 2014.