Gender Gap: 4 States Yet to Send a Woman to U.S. Congress

The U.S. is a striking example where women’s equality, particularly in Congress, is still suffering. In Rwanda, women comprise almost 60 percent of their congress, while in the U.S. it is only 18 percent.

Posted on 03/12/14
By Debbie Sharnak | Via IVN
(Photo by European Parliament)
(Photo by European Parliament)

With International Women’s Day this past weekend, across the world there were displays of support for women. In Montevideo, Uruguay, the government dedicated a stamp to Luisa Cuesta, who has fought for truth and justice in the country. In Buenos Aires, Argentina, restaurants gave female patrons discounts on their meals. And in the U.S., there were various celebrations, including Hillary Clinton’s statement before the United Nations where she asserted that equality for women is “the great unfinished business of the 21st century.”


While the holiday was celebrated around the world, the U.S. is a striking example where women’s equality, particularly in Congress, is still suffering. In Rwanda, women comprise almost 60 percent of their congress, while in the U.S. it is only 18 percent.


However, across the country, the level of representation varies. Ranking at the bottom are Iowa and Mississippi, two states that have never elected a woman as governor or to Congress. However, Vermont, and Delaware have also never sent a women to Congress, but have had female governors.


This year, Iowa has six women on the primary ballot and hopes to shift their female-less record.


While California has the greatest number of congressional seats, they also have the best record for electing women. The state has elected a total of 37 women to Congress. The next 4 states to round out the top 5 are New York, Illinois, Florida, and Ohio, in that order.


(The full ranking can be found below.)


To date, 298 women have either been elected or appointed to the U.S. Congress , starting with Jeannette Rankin in Montana for the 1917-1919 term. Montana has yet to elect another female representative.


The women have split along party lines at 194 Democrats and 104 Republicans, while most of them — 254 of the 298 — served in the House of Representatives.


The U.S. ranks 77th in the world by percentage of legislative seats held by women.


Possible reasons for this discrepancy vary. A recent report by American University argued that the “fundamental reason for women’s under-representation is that they do not run for office. There is a substantial gap in political ambition; men tend to have it and women don’t.”


Some commentators also ascribe the gap to sexist media coverage.


Various political organizations across the country are dedicated to training women to run for office and decrease the gender gap such as EmergeEmily’s List, and Elect Women, among others.


So far, their efforts have had some effect as the current Congress currently has the highest female representation in U.S. history. Iowa , launching its own efforts such as 50/50 in 2020, hopes to add to that number in 2014 and end their dearth of female representatives to date.


Total Number of Female Representatives by State (historical total)

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