In Eight Years, Practically No Progress For Women Policy-Makers
In the last eight years, the number of women with policy-making posts in state government has barely budged, says a new study from the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society (CWIG). Between 1998 and 2005, the percentage of women in policy-making positions - such as state legislators, elected officials, high court judges, department heads, and top governor’s advisors - went up only 1.6 percentage points, from 23.1 percent to 24.7 percent. The gender gap is widest and most persistent in state legislatures, where the number of women has hovered around 22 percent since 1998.
Experts say multiple factors may be slowing women’s gains in government. First, political institutions are “formally and informally inhospitable” to women who have childcare and eldercare responsibilities, says Judith Saidel, CWIG‘s director. Meanwhile, leadership opportunities for women opening up in other fields – like philanthropy, business, and higher education – may be drawing women away from government.
Women running for legislative positions face an additional set of challenges. Term limits and redistricting tend to disproportionately punish women legislators, forcing them out of hard-won positions. Moreover, says Saidel, organizations like National Women's Political Caucus that support women’s campaigns — organizations that were instrumental in making 1992 “the year of the woman” in national government - have dwindled in size and scale since the early 1990’s, as public attention has been diverted to other issues. “One thing is for certain,” says Saidel, “[Gender equity in government] will not happen only by itself, at least in the foreseeable future.”
Slow progress for women in state government has national implications, says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers. State and local office serve as a “pipeline” to draw women into national politics. Not to mention, adds Walsh, state legislatures themselves are “making a tremendous amount of policy” –- in 2005, 48 state legislatures considered over 500 anti-choice bills.
For more information, see "Wanted: Women in the House (and Senate)" in the Ms. Winter 2006 issue, on newsstands now.
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10/31/2014 Women of Color in Tennessee Are United in Opposition to Amendment 1 - Just days before the general election in Tennessee, a coalition of community leaders, clergy, and advocates led a press conference encouraging women of color to vote no on Amendment 1, a dangerous and far-reaching measure on the state's ballot.
SisterReach, a grassroots organization focused on "empowering, organizing, and mobilizing women and girls in the community around their reproductive and sexual health to make informed decisions about themselves," organized the press conference "to call attention to the unique concerns Black and poor communities throughout Shelby County and across the state of Tennessee face on a daily basis" and to emphasize how the upcoming election "could further limit [black women's] reproductive, economic, political, and social autonomy."
"We assemble today to impress upon black women and women of color, many of whom are heads of households, to get out and vote," said SisterReacher Founder and CEO Cherisse Scott at the event.
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The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, together with a local abortion clinic in Tulsa, challenged HB 2684 in September, arguing that the law was an unconstitutional restriction on non-surgical abortion in the earliest weeks of pregnancy. . . .