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On Capitol Hill

Women’s representation in U.S. federal government is falling behind globally

August 21, 2016

“Everyone made fun of Romney when he talked about binders full of women,” Jennifer Lawless, a political scientist at American University, told Vox in a story published this week about how few women there are in the United States Congress. “But if parties actually made binders of female candidates, that would not be a bad thing. You wouldn’t call it that, obviously, but having a pipeline could really help.”

Those are strong words from Lawless, but they are indicative of just how magnified the gender gap in American government at large — not just Congress — has become over the last 19 years. Consider that in 1997, the U.S. ranked 52nd globally in terms of female representation in government. What’s happened since that year is that the country has experienced a precipitous decline in where it ranks in female government participation worldwide. Vox put together a handy GIF, which you can see below, that really illustrates how female representation in the U.S. has plummeted compared with other countries over nearly the last two decades. The U.S. made great progress indeed this year by nominating a woman from a major party to be president for the first time. But the country also bottomed out in 2016 and is now 97th worldwide in terms of women participating in government, with fewer than 20 percent of those in Congress being women.

Some countries in Europe are literally leaving the U.S. in their dust, with as much as 40 percent female representation in government. The disheartening stats go on and on. In fact, women’s participation in government has increased over the last century, but the pace at which it’s risen has been glacial. And if it continues at that pace, none of us reading this will ever see true equal gender representation in U.S. government. “We calculated this at some point, and at the same rate we’re going, it would take about 100 years to get an equal share of women in Congress,” Heidi Hartmann, an economist at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, told Vox. “It would be nice if we could do it faster than that.”

So, why is the U.S. lagging so badly behind other countries? Turns out, there are several contributing factors and Vox’s in-depth report identifies those factors and highlights the potential solutions.

Read the full story at Vox.


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