Dear Senator Menendez,
As students at Rutgers-Camden, we are working to raise awareness about women’s underrepresentation in politics, and we hope that you will join us in our campaign.
Throughout the last few decades, women have taken on more prominent roles in political offices on the local, state, and national level. Still, women today make up only 19.4% of the U.S Congress and 24.9% of the state legislatures across the country despite making up more than 50% of the U.S population. This gender imbalance among elected officials has persisted since the beginning of our nation.
Why do these numbers matter? You have a front row seat to women’s political representation in the U.S. Senate, where women have played key roles in policy debates and – just a few years ago – were credited with shutting down the government. Studies at both the state and federal levels show that women were most likely to introduce bills regarding “women’s issues.” In 1988, Sue Thomas surveyed legislators in twelve states and found that women were more likely to create bills dealing with women’s issues. In the early 1990s, Michele Swers found that women were more likely to sponsor bills regarding women’s issues in both the 103rd and 104th Congresses. Similar findings have persisted in more recent years, demonstrating the importance of gender diversity within legislatures.
Despite their successes, interview and survey evidence also reveals challenges women face in legislative institutions. In a survey conducted by the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University in 2001, 42% of women disagreed with the statement that “Most men in my legislature are supportive of moving women into leadership positions.” With a similar percentage of women not agreeing with the statement: “the leaders in my legislature are as likely to consult with the women in the legislature as the men when making important decisions.” More recently, even some of your colleagues in the U.S. Senate have referenced differential or sexist treatment within your chamber. (link)
Together, this research demonstrates both the positive impact women make when elected into political office and the challenges they face in entering and navigating legislative institutions that have long been dominated by men. Party leaders should do everything in their power to promote gender equality at all levels. Our question for you Senator Menendez is what have you done and what are you currently doing to ensure women have the support they need in getting the representation they deserve? One small thing you can do this week is share your support online using the hashtag #RepresentHer to post your thoughts on the importance of women’s political representation.
Samuel Tuero & Karanveer Pannu
Sources via Center for American Women in Politics
Rutgers Student studying Political Science & Government with a minor in Journalism who has an interest in the intersection of journalism and political movements.