"To be too certain of anything is the beginning of bigotry." -- Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah

Friday, December 7, 2012

Women's Pipeline Problem

     An item this week that caught my attention, and might catch yours . . .

     According to The Week magazine the results of the recent election will bring the number of women in the U. S. Senate to 20, up from 17 in this past session, and the number of women in the House of Representatives up to 80 from 78.

     In both cases, it will mean a record number of women serving in the U. S. Congress.

     Women have been making steady gains in politics ever since 1992, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, when controversial confirmation hearings embroiled Supreme Court candidate Clarence Thomas in sexual harassment charges brought by Anita Hill. Many women were disgusted by the hearings, and turned their anger and frustration into political action. The next election, dubbed The Year of the Woman, brought a then-record seven women into the U. S. Senate. And women have been making progress ever since.

Tammy Baldwin (D, WI)
      Among the new U. S. Senators is Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin, who won an impressive victory over former governor and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, with 51.5% of the vote. She will become the first openly gay member of the Senate when she arrives in Washington in January.

Elizabeth Warren (D, MA)
     Elizabeth Warren beat out Republican incumbent Scott Brown of Massachusetts. Warren, born in Oklahoma, is a bankruptcy specialist and Harvard law professor, who made a name for herself as the "Sheriff of Wall Street," pushing regulation in the financial industry. She survived charges that she had unfairly benefited from minority status after claiming she was 1/32nd Native American, and went on to win her seat with 53.7% of the vote, to Brown's 46.3%.

Mazie Hirono (D, HI)
     In Hawaii, where two women were vying against each other for an open Senate seat, U.S. Representative Mazie Hirono, a Democrat, defeated former Republican Governor Linda Lingle to earn the ticket to Washington. (In my state, New York, there were also two women facing off against each other. Incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand, appointed in 2009 to fill out Hillary Clinton's term, easily beat out Republican challenger Wendy Long.)

Heidi Heitkamp (D, ND)
      In a much closer race former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, defeated Republican U.S. Representative Rick Berg for an open seat. She overcame a 20% Romney win in the state's presidential contest to eke out the Senate seat by a 1% margin of victory.

     Nebraska told a slightly different story, as a Republican woman beat out her male opponent. State Senator Deb Fischer, a rancher and self-described staunch conservative, easily defeated Democrat Bob Kerrey, a former two-term Nebraska Senator who had been living and working in New York for the past ten years.

Deb Fischer (R, NE)
   Still, despite the record number of women in Washington, why is it that women make up over half the electorate, but only 20% of the U. S. Congress?

     "It's partly a pipeline problem," according to The Week. Women take up only about a quarter of the seats in state legislatures, which in effect serve as a farm league for Congressional candidates. But of course women also face the usual career impediments involving family issues. And according to some surveys a lot of potential women candidates are especially put off pursuing politics by the intense scrutiny and political partisanship of the media, with coverage that's too personal, too negative and too stereotyped.



Dick Klade said...

The rising number of women in Congress is a change that will benefit all of us. I think it's just a matter of time before legislatures become much more 50-50 in composition.

Galen Pearl said...

That pipeline information is interesting because you can keep going back upstream to see where these women are coming from. It takes awhile for the changes to move downstream. For example, my law school class was about 25% women. Now law school classes are generally 50/50 and sometimes with even more women than men. Same for medical school, I'm guessing. Thanks for the overview of our women leaders. I am glad to have the information.

Olga said...

At one time I was inclined to vote for a woman just because she was a woman. No more! However, I do think that it is a good thing that more women are gaining a place at the political table.

Linda Myers said...

I wonder how things will be different as women are more and more present in the places where things are decided.

Anonymous said...

More women=more leftism=more bankruptcy and weakness.

Granting women the right to vote was one of the worst mistakes men---that is, the people who built AND defended 98% of society, MEN---ever made.

Douglas said...

I think Olga's comment is significant. Though I do wonder if she understands why.

Answer this question in your mind:

Is it more racist to vote against someone because of the color of his skin than to vote for him for the same criteria? Change "racist" to "sexist" and "color of his skin" for "gender of the candidate" and answer it again.

Jono said...

Not surprisingly, the U.S. is way behind in female representation. Cuba, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and over half of the other countries in the world have more women representatives. Pretty sad.

schmidleysscribblins,wordpress.com said...

I wouldn't get my hopes up. A politician is a politician after all. Looking forward to President Hillary though. Dianne

Bob Lowry said...

Women may be too smart to put up with the horrible, degrading process to get elected and then spend every waking moment trying to keep that job.

I agree with Galen that eventually women will make up at least 50%. I just pray that they are not simply female versions of the males in there now.