Women Gain Seats in Congress-Why We Need More

Although Hillary Clinton did not break the presidential glass ceiling, a few women made some significant cracks in the Congressional dome, specifically minority women. The newly elected Senate will have more women than ever with three of those new female senators being women of color. In the House of Representatives, women also made history when the first Indian-American woman, the first Somali-American Muslim woman, and the first Vietnamese-American woman were elected to serve. While gains were made, both houses are still heavily male dominated —  men still outnumber women four to one in Congress.

Electing more women to office is crucial to changing Washington. Evidence shows that more women in Congress will change the topics under discussion and the way the body governs. For instance, women politicians are more likely to introduce legislation that specifically benefits women and they succeed more at bringing funding back to their home districts.

A female legislator, on average, passed twice as many bills as a male legislator in one recent session of Congress.

In truth, they just get more shit done: A female legislator, on average, passed twice as many bills as a male legislator in one recent session of Congress. This fact should not surprise women, we are well aware that we have to jump higher, run faster and be twice as smart as the men, just to get in the room. We face far greater obstacles and are generally measured by a much steeper standard, not only by men but by other women. If this presidential campaign proves anything it is just that. Americans elected a man for President with no experience over a woman with arguably more experience than anyone who ever ran for the office.

Women bring much more than a feminine touch to Washington. The ones that make it, pack a fierce determination and laser focus on their community. They bring a different perspective to the table. Women face even more challenging obstacles to success than their male colleagues which shapes how they govern and what issues they choose to focus on.

Many expected the number of women in the Senate to grow from 20 to 24 or more, but the only one more woman was ultimately added to the count to bring the total to 21. While a record of 40 women ran for the Senate in the 2016 election, only 15 came out ahead in their primaries. Below is a complete list compiled by Fortune Magazine of all the women who made history this election cycle, all of whom are Democrats.

Senator Kamala Harris, California

Kamala Harris, California’s attorney general, won her race against fellow Democratic congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, becoming the second black woman ever elected to the Senate. She was the early favorite, earning endorsements from President Obama and former California senator Barbara Boxer, and she held on to the lead in the general election, earning about 65 percent of the vote.

In her victory speech, Harris promised to stand up for immigrants, even in the face of a Trump presidency. “I intend to fight for a state that has the largest number of immigrants documented and undocumented of any state in this country and do everything we can to bring them justice and dignity and fairness under the law,” she said, according to local station KPCC.

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, Nevada

Meanwhile, former Nevada attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto became the first Latina to be elected to the Senate, beating out Republican representative Joe Heck in a tight race. Supporters called her victory “the tiniest speck of light,” and in her victory speech Cortez Masto promised to champion equal pay, family leave, and immigration reform. “I will promise you this, I will be one hell of a check and balance on him,” she said in reference to Trump.

Senator Tammy Duckworth, Illinois

Tammy Duckworth clinched her victory early in the evening. She’d been favored to win over Republican incumbent Mark Kirk, but Kirk widened the gap between them even further when he insulted Duckworth’s heritage and military history during a debate last month (Duckworth is an Iraq veteran, and her mother is Thai).

According to ThinkProgress, Duckworth is the first female senator to have served in a combat zone, the second Asian-American woman ever elected to the Senate, and the second female senator from Illinois. “I will go to work in the Senate looking to honor the sacrifice and quiet dignity of those Illinoisans facing challenges of their own,” she said during her victory speech. “After all, this nation didn’t give up on me when I was my most vulnerable and needing the most help.”

Representative Stephanie Murphy, Florida

Stephanie Murphy, the first Vietnamese-American woman to be elected to Congress, defeated Republican John Mica in one of the closest and most expensive congressional races in the nation, according to the Washington Post. Murphy said she decided to run after the Orlando shooting, when polls showed Trump had made Mica vulnerable, despite his 23 years in the seat.

Murphy’s campaign spent heavily on ads linking Mica to Trump, particularly in the areas of women’s health and gun control. Although she served as a national-security specialist in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the wake of 9/11, Murphy doesn’t have any prior political experience.

Representative Ilhan Omar, Minnesota

In Minneapolis, Minnesota, Ilhan Omar — who’s a former refugee – became the first Somali-American Muslim woman to be elected to Congress. The 37-year-old came to the United States when she was a preteen, but said she was struck by the inequality and injustice she found here. She won with little contest, and in her victory speech said she’s “excited for our progressive values and to be able to be on the ground at the Capitol representing the diverse people of my district and being a champion with them and for them.”

Representative Pramila Jayapal, Washington

Pramila Jayapal became the first Indian-American woman elected to Congress when she beat out fellow Democrat Brady Walkinshaw in Washington’s “super-liberal” 7th District. In her victory speech, which she gave before results from the presidential election were in, Jayapal called her victory “a light in the darkness,” according to the Seattle Times.

“If our worst fears are realized, we will be on the defense as of tomorrow,” she told supporters. “We will have to fight for social justice as never before.”

 

_MG_3324Written by Jules Lewis Gibson, founder and editor in chief of GRAVITAS Magazine

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