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Inglis: Let's shoot for 50/50

BY MCCULLOUGH INGLIS | NOVEMBER 30, 2012 6:30 AM

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Women have come a long way over the past decades. In higher education, top-ranked universities such as Harvard did not admit women on equal basis with men until 1975.

Women’s attendance at college now exceeds that of men’s in this country.

In the workplace, it was not until 1968 that sex-segregated help-wanted ads were outlawed, five years after the Civil Rights Act aimed to end such discrimination and 41 years before President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, continuing the work of that law.

Women now account for 45.8 percent of the workforce.

In Iowa, the “50/50 in 2020 Program” aims to continue this work and equalize women and men’s representation in state government. Its goal is a good one — Iowa has never elected a woman to the U.S. Congress or the governorship — but it runs the risk of denigrating women while attempting to uplift them.

Women are not a cohesive political bloc. While 55 percent of women voted for President Obama this past election, 44 percent voted for Romney. To suggest that a woman will vote for a candidate on the sole basis of her sex is not fair to women voters who have thought through their political positions in more sophisticated ways.

Likewise, while the goal of equal representation by 2020 makes sense in an historical light, given it marks the 100-year anniversary of women’s suffrage, the likelihood that this goal can be accomplished is slim to none.

As of this election, Iowa has 25 women in the 100-seat Iowa House and 10 women in a 50-seat Senate.  To achieve a 50-50 split by 2020 would require 40 more seats to open up in the next eight years and be won by women. In an attempt to accomplish this feat, the 50/50 in 2020 Program may risk nominating women without appropriate vetting, inadvertently hindering the goal of greater women representation by doing so.

Women need the structural support in politics that a program such as 50/50 in 2020 provides, but when it comes to Election Day, we should elect women based on their merit, not on their contribution to a quota. To do otherwise would undermine the very work of women’s rights this movement hopes to continue.


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