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.
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .