Commentary: The U.S. is just too far behind the remainder of the world on the subject of ladies in authorities


Girls gained key congressional races throughout the U.S. in 2020.

Kamala Harris will grow to be the primary lady, and particular person of colour, to be Vice President. Excessive-profile ladies of colour gained their election bids, together with the 4 representatives—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib—generally known as “The Squad.” New Mexico elected all women of color to its Home delegation. Cori Bush will function the first Black congresswoman for Missouri. And the 117th Congress will boast a file variety of Native American women.

Republican ladies are additionally within the highlight, with some calling 2020 the “Year of the Woman” for Republicans.

The 2020 election has yielded essential milestones, together with record numbers of women candidates and an all-time high variety of ladies elected to the Home of Representatives. However these beneficial properties, whereas significant, are inadequate for assembly the objectives of a consultant democracy.

The Heart for American Girls and Politics at Rutgers College stories that women’s share of seats in the House of Representatives will improve from 23.2% to a mere 25.5%. Within the Senate, ladies’s seat share will lower following Martha McSally’s loss to Democratic challenger Mark Kelly in Arizona.

Girls of colour make up simply 10% of the Home and 4% of the Senate—and this might lower to three% if a lady of colour isn’t chosen for Harris’s vacated Senate seat. Solely 24 Republican ladies had been elected to the Home—an all-time excessive—and simply two of these are ladies of colour. And that record-breaking variety of Native American congresswomen? It’s solely three.

These numbers aren’t very spectacular.

Girls make up 51% of the U.S. population, however have by no means exceeded 25% of Congress. This units the U.S. far behind not solely Western Europe, but in addition a lot of the creating world in rankings of women’s legislative representation.

Girls’s persistent underrepresentation is problematic for a lot of causes. First, analysis exhibits that congresswomen prioritize women’s policy interests and congresswomen of color play a big function in maintaining ladies’s pursuits on the agenda. It’s arduous to say that ladies’s pursuits and coverage preferences are absolutely represented within the U.S. when so few ladies have a seat on the desk.

Second, ladies’s management issues for the COVID-19 disaster. Girls elected officers are likely to champion the kinds of insurance policies and companies that may support everyone by way of the pandemic, like entry to health care and social assistance. Along with curbing the virus’s unfold, ladies politicians additionally prioritize the pandemic’s social consequences and ladies of colour have proven that they are tuned in to the wants of their hard-hit communities.

Third, analysis identifies a link between ladies’s illustration and belief in authorities establishments. Gender stereotypes of ladies as sincere and fewer corruptible, mixed with ladies’s historic exclusion from politics, make ladies look like a viable various to the discredited (male) establishment. Belief within the U.S. federal authorities has been on the decline for over a decade, so growing ladies’s illustration would possibly assist enhance this.

Lastly, even when ladies politicians behaved the identical as males politicians, their presence in governing establishments issues for democratic legitimacy. In any case, how consultant is a democratic authorities if it fails to reflect the variety of the individuals it’s meant to characterize?

A lot of the world has acknowledged that ladies’s underrepresentation is problematic and has taken concrete steps to ameliorate this. Over 130 nations worldwide now use some type of gender quota law for his or her governments or voluntary political occasion quotas.

Globally, the political discourse is converging round gender parity. Mexico, for instance, reached gender parity within the nationwide legislature and most of its state legislatures in 2018. Rwanda and Bolivia’s legislatures at the moment exceed 50% women.

The U.S. has much to learn from these examples. Growing ladies’s presence in Congress, in addition to in state and native governments, issues not just for ladies’s rights and illustration, but in addition for mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic, restoring belief in authorities, and fulfilling the beliefs of a consultant democracy.

Kendall D. Funk is an assistant professor of political science at Arizona State College. She researches ladies’s equality and political illustration. Follow her on Twitter.

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