Women’s Representation & Diversity in Politics

Women’s representation in American politics has remained significantly lower than the representation of men. The pattern of women’s representation in national government falling below 50% is seen in most countries, with a few exceptions in countries such as Rwanda, Cuba, Nicaragua, Mexico, New Zealand, and the United Arab Emirates. In June of 2022, only 28% of seats in U.S. Congress were held by women. According to UN Women, there is growing evidence that women’s representation and leadership improve political decision-making processes and allow for cooperation across party lines through women’s caucasus and organizations.

Although the representation of women as a whole is critical for progress and the well-being of society, the representation of women of color and other marginalized groups allows for intersectional understandings and approaches to better address the challenges of marginalized groups and policy overall.

Descriptive representation, which is when representatives have similar backgrounds and experiences to those they are representing, promotes political efficacy, which can include citizens’ trust in the government and increased civic engagement. It also creates spaces for marginalized voices to be heard, as much of U.S. representation is made up of white voices. Even when white women occupy spaces of political power, oftentimes the voices of those in need are still suppressed.

“Adding to the number of powerful white women in no way ensures that the addition will back policies or candidates that are good for all women.”

Kendall, Mikki. “Hood Feminism,” 178.

According to the PEW Research Center, roughly 25% of registered voters who chose not to vote in 2016 did so because they “disliked candidates or campaign issues,” and 15% felt that their “vote wouldn’t make a difference.” For marginalized populations, voting is either not an option (due to discriminatory voter suppression policies and tactics) or has become unappealing due to the lack of action taking place regarding their populations and urgent interests. Although popular votes do matter and make a difference in some changes, most of that responsibility falls onto policymakers.

To create effective and inclusive policies, diverse representation is needed. I feel as though many U.S. officials who are white men often come from similar backgrounds and therefore undermine and ignore many of the issues a majority of our population faces. Additionally, white women who claim to raise issues related to healthcare, reproductive rights, childcare, gender-based violence, and poverty may do so without listening to the experiences of people who suffer from these issues the most.

It has been demonstrated that inclusive workspaces produce more innovation, commitment, and comfortability in sharing ideas and perspectives, which can encourage improved policy and culture. In spaces such as government institutions, constructive criticism and differing ideas may be frowned upon or not prioritized. Unless we continue to raise awareness and speak out against dominant voices in institutions, we cannot make prevalent changes for those most in need.

It is difficult to understand the extent of what is needed unless we listen to those who have experienced these issues firsthand. By electing people of color, those in the LGBTQ+ community, trans people, people with disabilities, indigenous people, and many other identities into our political system, not just women, we create spaces to prioritize marginalized voices and issues.

You do not have to be an elected official to generate change. As individuals, we can exercise power by advocating, uplifting, and supporting representatives, candidates, and movements that voice issues and challenge dominant narratives. It is our right and duty to be involved in our political society; if you have a voice, you should use it!

Photo by Kelly on Pexels.com

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