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Women In Politics: The Facts and Figures

First Posted: Aug 16, 2014 05:30 PM EDT
Woman Voting

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After the 1920s, the women's suffragist movement that gave them the right to vote perhaps led to the influence and galvanization of the rise of female politicians then and now. How far has the suffragist movement taken women from having voting rights to actually becoming politicians?

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Germany's President Chancellor Angela Merkel are two of the most prominent female politicians that exist today. As it stands for the U.S. there is recent data and facts that indicate people want to see more female politicians involved in the decision-making process of Congress.

At the moment, Congress has 20 women serving in the Senate, and 82 that are serving in the House of Representatives. According to a recent Gallup poll, released late last month, it is suggested that most Americans think that the country would be better served if more women were in office, Policy.Mic reported.

At least 63 percent of people felt that America would be better governed by having more women in politics. This is a 5 percent increase from 57 percent in 1995 and 2000 that were in favor of having more women involved in government, Policy.Mic reported. There was, however, a 14 percent split between genders: 69 percent of women favored more women in government, while only 55 percent of men felt similarly.

While there are 20 women serving the Senate and 82 serving the House of Representatives, the data further highlights the small percentage of women actually involved in U.S. government. At the moment, six out of 23 cabinet-level positions are held by women; women make up 18.5 percent of Congress; and at the state level, 22.6 percent of women hold executive positions, including governor and lieutenant governor, Policy.Mic reported.

For some people,  women are still underrepresented. Some women are less likely to run for any kind of political office at both the local and national levels of government. A research paper that was published by the Brookings Institution, also released last month, indicated that family roles had perhaps no impact on their decision to run.

Jennifer Lawless, a Brookings senior fellow who analyzed the data based on a 2011 study that surveyed well-qualified women and men who worked in law, business, education and politics, illustrated that 62 percent of male respondents had considered running for office. But 45 percent of female respondents had stated that they actually did, Huffington Post reported.

Family structures and their related family roles had only impacted the respondents by 17 percent. Women as much as the men who had children under the age of 7 and were heads-of-the-household were no more or less likely to run for office, the Huffington Post reported.

"Family roles and responsibilities exert no impact on potential candidates' decisions to run for office, and that is the case for both women and men," Lawless concluded about the research.

Does the media prescribe sexism when it comes to women and politics? Lawless suggested that there is a perception that family impacts women in politics. For example, there was speculation if Hillary Clinton would run in 2016 after Chelsea Clinton's pregnancy announcement in April.

However, Vice President Joe Biden who is also a potential 2016 candidate, the argument of whether or not he would run because of family obligations was never raised, even though he has five grandchildren, the Huffington Post reported.

Generally, female politicians are asked more questions about family issues than their male counterparts. Lawless states that this reinforces to the public that women consider the family more than their actual job.

Lawless also adds that the woman's burden of managing her family and household is not the reason that impacts their run for office; it is the lack of support and encouragement of women to become politicians, the Huffington Post reported.

One female politician in Australia is doing something about that. Nicola Quin, who is running for office, was disillusioned with the lack of women in parliament at both the Federal level and in her home state of Victoria. At the moment, women only hold 30 percent of parliamentary positions, Women's Agenda reported.

With the lack of female representation, Quin decided to launch her own organization called Women for Change. She hopes that this organization will become a registered political party in Victoria. Quin has to recruit 500 members first.

"It came through from the personal recognition that there was no incentive for the major parties to change," Quin said about the opponents lack of support for women in parliament, according to Women's Agenda. "I don't think that as a society we're holding them to account on [the representation of women]. In my dream, if we're able to get this party up, then it would become an accountability mechanism."

The Gallup poll also suggested that potential presidential candidates such as Hillary Clinton and Senator Elizabeth Warren could see more support than anticipated.

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