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Support diversity in Iowa Legislature

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | NOVEMBER 13, 2012 6:30 AM

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The 2012 elections, 20 years after the “Year of the Woman” in 1992 when a record number of women were elected as legislators, brought about a huge win for the women of America.

Starting in January, 20 women will serve in the Senate, and at least 77 will represent their constituents in the House.  This is quite magnificent and shows that we, as a nation, are making progress toward achieving the true equality that we stand for.

However, though we are doing well, Iowa needs to continue to promote diversification of political candidates — such as sending a woman to Congress.

In terms of the number women in state legislatures, Colorado ranks first in the nation with 40 percent, while South Carolina ranks 50th with 10 percent. While 21.3 percent of Iowa’s Legislature is female, the state still ranks in the lower half at 33rd. Furthermore, the state has never in its history sent a woman to either the House or Senate, according to the Center for American Women and Politics.

Iowa joins Delaware, Mississippi, and Vermont to be one of the only states that have never sent a woman to congress. When nearly all 50 states have done so, at least once, this shows Iowa’s need to promote and encourage diversification. Even neighboring state Wisconsin stepped up its game and elected Tammy Baldwin, who is also the first openly gay individual to serve in the U.S. Senate.

But we can’t simply blame Iowa. Why is it that women don’t run for office in the first place?

According to a report published earlier this year by American University’s Women & Politics Institute, women are much less likely than men to think they are qualified to run for office.

Women are not only less likely than men to consider running, but they are also less likely than men to take any of the steps required for launching a real political campaign. Why would they? After all, the chances of a women being suggested to run for office — by anyone — are less than those of men.

If we are giving our women the impression that they aren’t wanted in the government, why would they bother to try to be a part of it?

However, there are phenomenal positive repercussions of recruiting female legislators. During 1992, having female candidates on the ballot was associated with higher levels of political involvement, political efficacy, and media use by both men and women in the electorate. Female city councilors spend more time doing constituency service than their male counterparts. The presence of more women in legislative positions also allows for more protection of reproductive rights and other legislation that directly affects women.

If we Iowans wish to see change in our communities and our lives, we need to step forward and encourage and elect officials who have different outlooks on issues and thus will promote and procure the change that we so long for.


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