By Lynn Yeakel
As we all have happily heard by now, a record number of women were elected to the U.S. Congress in the November 6 elections. At least 125 seats will be held by women (some close races are still being decided) when the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives convene in January, representing 23% of the total seats. This brings us nearly halfway to the Vision 2020 goal of 50-50 shared leadership among women and men in Congress. And the diversity of the women who won in terms of age, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation will bring important new perspectives to our national government.
Vision 2020 applauds all the women who won AND all those who ran – many for the first time – at both the federal and state levels. Our home state of Pennsylvania, with an 18-member congressional delegation, went from zero women to four, and a record number of women also were elected to the Pennsylvania legislature, which has ranked among the bottom 10% of states in terms of women’s representation.
So although men still outnumber women by more than four to one in Congress, these numbers represent a great step in the direction of gender balance at the tables where decisions are made, priorities set and resources allocated that affect all our lives. This matters for many reasons that are described in a New York Times article entitled Women Actually Do Govern Differently. I encourage you to read this!
Other good news from this year’s election is that there are early indications that turnout boomed among women, Latinos and young people. Vision 2020 intends to build on this momentum with its voter mobilization plans for 2020!
In many ways, 2018 delivered on predictions that it would be the “Year of the Woman 2.0.” But this year’s increase in women’s civic engagement shouldn’t be seen as unusual. Women running, winning and voting should be the norm. As Kelly Dittmar of Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics said, “I have suggested we get rid of this moniker all-together in order to normalize women’s political success instead of characterizing it as an anomaly.”
Dittmar added that we should think about 2018 as a launching point for continued gains for women.
I couldn’t agree more. Vision 2020 is committed to working in partnership with its many bipartisan Allied Organizations to support and sustain women’s increased civic engagement.
We have much to celebrate in this season of giving thanks. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.