Too Few Women Serve in State Legislatures – Think About Running


Written by Laurie Kretchmar

Not one state – not California, not New York – has women serving in half the seats in its state legislature. California’s is 28 percent, while New York’s is only 21 percent. South Carolina trails the nation at 9 percent.

Women are best represented in Colorado where they hold 41 percent of seats. Does the presence of women make a difference? Research says it does. Women tend to bring different agendas, content and processes. As The White House Project memorably says, “Add women; change everything.”

I asked Karen Middleton, president of Emerge America, a Democratic training organization, about serving as a state legislator in Colorado.

“I saw strong bipartisan support for some key issues affecting women and children,” Middleton said. “Laws around veterans’ families, domestic violence, cancer screening — we did great work in these areas. Women on both sides of the aisle led the way on important legislation, such as re-purposing coal plants with natural gas turbines–a new law that helped the environment and kept energy-related jobs in the state.”

Patricia Lindner, a Republican who served in the Illinois legislature, said, “Women are more willing to cut the partisan bickering and work with all sides to accomplish goals.”

To inspire more women to consider politics, the nonpartisan 2012 Project, where I work as media director, is working with dozens of allies including The White House Project, Emerge America and Rachel’s Network. The goal is to educate people about the low numbers of women in office today and ask accomplished women to consider running for state legislatures and Congress.

As USA Today reports, this year is a potentially record year for electing women – if women run. There are open seats in state legislatures and Congress due to redistricting in every state, 13 states with term limits and an expected presidential election year turnout.

Women and newcomers do best running for open seats. Of the 24 new women elected to Congress in 1992, known as the Year of the Woman, 22 won open seats. There is vast room for improvement. In 20 states today, zero women serve in congressional delegations.

How many women represent your state? Click on the map at Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics.

WATCH this PSA video with Aisha Tyler:



Laurie Kretchmar is media and social media director for The 2012 Project, a national, nonpartisan campaign of Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics to inspire record numbers of women to run for state legislature and Congress in 2012.


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Photo of the Colorado State Capitol from yosoynuts via flickr


Holly Lawrence
Holly Lawrence6 years ago

I agree. but how many women are given the chance? Sadly desire and being able to do the job are placed on the back burner .. it's all about the money and the damn political machine .. sad stuff!

LM Sunshine
James merritt jr6 years ago

Thank you.

Suzy D.
Reverend Suzy D6 years ago

Too many glass ceilings to punch through. Too many women lose opportunities long before they even qualify through college. I take it a woman would need at least a degree to work in the legislature, preferably in law? Am I right?

Lynda Harrison
Lynda Harrison6 years ago

A fine sentiment; however, with the political sphere being dominated and paid for by big money interests, the deck is stacked against many who would do a far better job of representing all people and not just a wealthy few.

J.L. A.
JL A6 years ago

Do the other trends, like cuts to preschool and child care funding, and the trend of mega-money contribute significantly to this result? In CA's last general election, two high profile women running for office were independently wealthy and contributed a disproportionate amount of their campaign funds from their personal funds. Is this a result the parties' campaign chairs want to perpetuate?

Vicky Pitchford
Vicky P6 years ago

pick people who will do a good job not based on gender..

Nina Anghel
Nina Anghel6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Claire M.
Claire M6 years ago

We really could use more maternal instinct helping to guard our country from abuse by its play boys.

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons6 years ago

too few even semi-normal people running for office all we have is a bunch of extremist on both sides.

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons6 years ago

There are way too few progressives running for office too.