Monday, November 17, 2008

Newspaper: Modest political gains for women in '08

Voters rejected Hillary Rodham Clinton for president in 2008. Voters rejected Sarah Palin for vice president in 2008. On the surface, it was not a very good year for female politicians.

While high-profile candidates for national office did not fare well, women did make inroads in Congress and in state legislatures, according to Linda Feldmann of The Christian Science Monitor.

But don't go popping that champagne yet. Women still have a long way to go to break the glass ceiling that both Clinton and Palin referred to in speeches.

Feldmann writes:
Even as the highest glass ceiling in American politics came the closest it ever has to being shattered, in Congress it was business as usual: Women made a net gain of one seat in the Senate, bringing the total to 17 out of 100, and three seats in the House, moving up from 71 to 74 out of 435 seats, or 17 percent.
When it comes to handing women political power, the United States trails much of the rest of the world, Feldmann says.

From her article:
As of Oct. 31, the US ranked 71st out of 188 countries for its percentage of women in the lower House, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union. "At this rate, it will take us till 2063 to reach parity," says Marie Wilson, president of the White House Project, an organization working to advance women in leadership. "I mean, come on! We have to speed things up."
The bright spots for women came mostly at the state level, Feldmann writes.

From her article:
A record number of women, 2,328, ran for state legislatures in a presidential election year, surpassing the previous presidential-year record of 2,302 set in 1992. (The overall record was set in 2006, when 2,429 women ran. More state legislative seats are up for election in non-presidential election years.) "So 2008 was a record, and it managed to get us from 23.7 percent of women serving in state legislatures to 24.2 percent," says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Another bright spot emerged in New Hampshire, where women now hold a majority in the state Senate, 13 out of 24 seats – the first state legislative body in US history to be majority female. New Hampshire, and New England in general, has a history of electing women to office, owing to a tradition of citizen part-time legislators. In New Hampshire, the annual pay for legislators is $100, plus travel reimbursement.

Overall, when the totals of each state's legislative bodies are combined, Colorado ranks No. 1 for female representation, with 38 percent. Vermont has 37.8 percent, and New Hampshire, 37.7 percent.
Read the full article at the newspaper's Web site.

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