By Cynthia Richie Terrell on October 13, 2015
Electoral success for female politicians in the state of Georgia is rare, a recent study found.
Georgia received the second lowest score out of 50 states for its lack of female success in local, state and national elections, according to a study conducted by Representation2020 on the ratio of men to women in elected positions.
“Often you don’t aspire to something unless you see people like you in those positions,” said Audrey Haynes, professor of political science at the University of Georgia. “The women who do run are true pathbreakers.”
Georgia scored a 7.8, on a scale from zero to 100. That is down from 2014’s score, when the state ranked 44th out of 50 states, with a score of 9.6.
A score of zero means no women held a major elected office, and 100 means all offices were occupied by women. A score in the 50s meantsmen and women equally hold positions in the government.
The median nationwide gender parity score for the beginning of 2015 is 18.1.
“I believe there are plenty of women who would run and are qualified, but have trouble finding support, due primarily to stereotypes and the lack of support among men and other women,” Haynes said.
Martha Zoller, a former Georgia House of Representatives candidate, said qualified women do not win elections because of a general lack of financial backing for female candidates.
She said the biggest challenge during her candidacy was raising money.
Financial backing can really be a factor in a candidate’s success on the ballot, she said. And on many occasions, while women are taking time off to start families, they sometimes can suffer setbacks in their careers, resulting in a disadvantage against men.
“Women make up more than 50 percent of the electorate, and you want to see them involved in the decisions,” Zoller said.
Georgia uses a single-member district system, meaning that only one person per district can be elected. More women tend to be elected in states that elect more than one person to the state legislature.
There has never been a female governor of Georgia, and none of the 13 elected statewide executive offices are held by women.
Six of Georgia’s 30 cities with 30,000 or more people have female mayors, according to the study.
Cynthia Terrell, project chair for the Representation2020 study team, said citizens need to create a Gender Parity Task Force in order to increase women’s involvement and representation in politics.
“The founders of our country intended democracy to be a portrait of the people in miniature,” Terrell said. “Women bring extraordinary talent and perspective to the table of democracy. And new studies confirm that women legislators are more successful at working across the aisle.”
This Gender Parity Task Force could promote a multi-winner district approach to overtake the single winner districts.
Then, cities should employ ranked-choice voting, meaning that voters can rank candidates in order of their preference to encourage a more positive campaigning experience.
The task force could also arrange to meet with political parties to discuss target ranges of numbers of women to recruit.
“One-hundred nations have increased women’s electoral success by legislating or mandating quotas or targets," Terrell said.
The task force should evaluate the internal factors of various cities and states that affect a woman’s leadership capabilities, such as on-site childcare, telecommunicating, selection of committee chairs and timing of sessions and voting.