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July 13, 2024

WANTED: More Women in Politics

A recent article in the Chronicle noted that California seems to have fewer women in politics than in past years. California is known for sending women to Congress, yet those female politicians are now being replaced by men. The March 5 Primary seemed to set the trend.

California has elected more women to Congress than any other state. In the last four decades, 41 women have been elected to California seats. Since 1923, there were 46 to the House of Representatives and four to the Senate. Our former Bay Area Senator Barbara Boxer is the only female politician to have occupied a seat in both legislative bodies.

It is anticipated that in January 2025, women will most likely occupy 16 of the state’s 52 House seats and neither of its Senate seats. This low number of women lawmakers is the same as in the year 2000. As a comparison, in 2009 there were 23 women lawmakers.

The Chronicle article by Shira Stein notes, “The fact that political pioneer Senator Dianne Feinstein will be replaced by either Adam Schiff or Steve Garvey has generated a wave of headlines. Congress is slowly moving toward gender parity overall, but California is facing the likelihood that its ranks of female members of Congress will shrink as women’s rights are being eroded.

Four of the five women leaving Congress at the end of the year—Sen. Laphonza Butler and Representatives Grace Napolitano, Anna Eshoo and Katie Porter—will be replaced by men. Retiring Representatives Adam Schiff and Tony Cardenas will probably be replaced by women.

People are not as attentive to women’s representation “because you think the battle has been fought and won. Yet the reality is that women are still underrepresented.” To quote Kelly Dittmar, director of research at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, “Just because you have a woman like a Nancy Pelosi or a Kamala Harris doesn’t mean you’re at parity.” The goal isn’t that every woman who leaves Congress is replaced by a woman. The goal is to ensure that women’s voices are at the table. Women’s representation is “already starting at such a deficit. And as a result, every loss is acutely felt in a way that it is not the same for men.”

When Nancy Pelosi was interviewed by the Chronicle, she expressed that she wants the strongest possible person for California and that she supported Adam Schiff. She said, “We want it all. We want the majority, so we have a woman having a right to choose, so that we have childcare and family and medical leave and a child tax credit and all the things that affect women enabling them to be in the workplace.” Adam Schiff told the Chronicle that he will fight for California’s women. For the first time in over thirty years, two male Senators will represent California.

There is discussion as to why this is the trend. Women in leadership must not shut the door behind them. They need to leave the door open to bring more women into the political world. Solutions can be found in organizations, such as the NAACP, and Emily’s List, that embrace leadership by women and work to elect women who support women’s rights. There needs to be a mentorship group as with the League and AAUW to mentor younger women majoring in political science to take on leadership roles in their community.

If you are a leader in your community, consider public office. We have very few women on our city councils, in particular in the city of Newark. Let’s see more women in public leadership!

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