In the past century, since the passage of the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, Americans developed nuclear bombs, traveled to space and invented the Internet. But the country has not come even close to achieving equal representation for women and men in politics.

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Women in office

Democratic

Republican

All parties

Independent

U.S. Senate

U.S. House

Lt. Governor

State legis.

*100 largest cities.

Source: Center for American Women and Politics

at Rutgers University

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Women in office

Democratic

Republican

All parties

Independent

U.S. Senate

U.S. House

Lt. Governor

State legis.

*100 largest cities.

Source: Center for American Women and Politics

at Rutgers University

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Women in office

Democratic

Republican

Independent

All parties

U.S.

Senate

U.S.

House

Lt.

Governor

State

legis.

*100 largest cities.

Source: Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University

The United States is 83rd in a global ranking of women in the lower house of the legislature, right between Tajikistan and . Here’s how it compares with other Group of Seven countries:

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

G-7 countries

United States

Source: Inter-Parliamentary Union’s rank of

women in the lower house of the legislature.

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

G-7 countries

United

States

Source: Inter-Parliamentary Union’s rank of women in the

lower house of the legislature.

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

G-7 countries

United

States

Source: Inter-Parliamentary Union’s rank of women in the lower house of the legislature.

Men have dominated U.S. politics for most of the country’s history, and remain in control of the vast share of elective offices long after women secured the right to vote.

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Share of men and women

in the U.S. Congress

Source: Center for American Women and Politics

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Share of men and women in Congress

Source: Center for American Women and Politics

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Share of men and women in Congress

Source: Center for American Women and Politics

Only in 1992 did women start to make a dent in that reality. That year, a record number of women ran for office, prompted in part by the treatment of Anita Hill during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas the year before — by the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee. In what became known as the Year of the Woman, more than two dozen women were elected to Congress.

Since then, the number of women in Congress has continued to grow, a development largely led by the Democratic Party. Nonetheless, women still hold a disproportionately small share of seats:

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Percentage of women in each party

U.S. House

U.S. Senate

Source: Center for American Women and Politics

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Percentage of women in each party

U.S. House

U.S. Senate

Source: Center for American Women and Politics

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Percentage of women in each party

U.S. House

U.S. Senate

Democratic

Republican

Democratic

Republican

Source: Center for American Women and Politics

“If you think that women have had the right to vote for 100 years, and we are still living in a situation where women make up less than 25 percent of members of Congress, [then] this is a process that is painfully slow,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

A painfully slow process

After women earned the right to vote starting in 1920, men and women have tended to vote in similar ways. But a fundamental shift began in 1980, when, for the first time, more women turned out to vote in the presidential election than men. That trend has continued since, year after year. The paradox of women in politics is that they vote in greater numbers than men but remain so dramatically underrepresented in elected office.

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Registered voters

Source: U.S. Census

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Registered voters

Source: U.S. Census

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Registered voters

Source: U.S. Census

Women’s turnout is just part of the story of how their voting behavior has evolved. A noticeable — and, in recent years, widening — gap emerged between how women and men voted. Since 1980, women have been more likely to support Democratic candidates and to endorse more liberal policy positions, while men have generally favored Republican candidates and more conservative positions.

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Share voting

Democrat for

president

Share voting

Republican

Source: Center for American Women and Politics

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Share voting

Democrat for president

Share voting

Republican

Source: Center for American Women and Politics

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Share voting Democrat for president

Share voting Republican

Source: Center for American Women and Politics

In presidential elections, when Democrats won, female voters provided the winning margin.

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Percentage voting for the winner

in presidential elections

Source: Center for American Women and Politics

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Percentage voting for the winner

in presidential elections

G. H. W.

Bush

G. W.

Bush

Source: Center for American Women and Politics

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Percentage voting for the winner in presidential elections

G. H. W.

Bush

G. W. Bush

Source: Center for American Women and Politics

The difference in party preferences is mirrored by differences on key issues, with women tending to be more liberal than men. The chart below compares men’s and women’s preferences on several issues.

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Gender difference on key issues

More liberal

More conserv.

Gun Control

Health care

Millionaire Tax

Gay Rights

Immigration

Source: Analysis of 2016 data American National

Election Studies by Tiffany D. Barnes,

University of Kentucky, and Erin C. Cassese,

University of Delaware.

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Gender difference on key issues

More liberal

More conserv.

Gun Control

Health care

Millionaire Tax

Gay Rights

Immigration

Source: Analysis of 2016 data American National Election

Studies by Tiffany D. Barnes, University of Kentucky,

and Erin C. Cassese, University of Delaware.

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Gender difference on key issues

More liberal

More conservative

Gun Control

Health care

Millionaire Tax

Gay Rights

Immigration

Source: Analysis of 2016 data American National Election Studies by Tiffany D. Barnes,

University of Kentucky, and Erin C. Cassese, University of Delaware.

But that liberal tendency is not true of all women. Within party lines, both genders tend to think rather similarly, as shown here:

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Gender gap differences within

parties are relatively small

More liberal

More conserv.

Gun Control

Health care

Millionaire Tax

Gay Rights

Immigration

Source: American Party Women Redux: Stability

in Partisan Gender Gaps, by Erin C. Cassese,

University of Delaware, and Tiffany D. Barnes

and Victoria D. Beall, University of Kentucky.

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Gender gap differences within

parties are relatively small

More liberal

More conservative

Gun Control

Health care

Republicans

Millionaire Tax

Gay Rights

Immigration

Source: American Party Women Redux: Stability in Partisan

Gender Gaps, by Erin C. Cassese, University of Delaware, and

Tiffany D. Barnes and Victoria D. Beall, University of Kentucky.

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Gender gap differences within parties are relatively small

More liberal

More conservative

Gun Control

Health care

Republicans

Millionaire Tax

Gay Rights

Immigration

Source: American Party Women Redux: Stability in Partisan Gender Gaps, by Erin C. Cassese,

University of Delaware, and Tiffany D. Barnes and Victoria D. Beall, University of Kentucky.

Still, it holds true that the majority of women of all ages and education levels have identified with liberal policies and gravitated toward the Democratic Party in recent years:

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Party identification among women

Share who identify as or lean toward each party.

Democratic

Republican

Generation

Millennial women

Generation X

Baby Boomer

Silent Generation

College graduate +

Non-college grad.

Source: Pew Research Center annual survey.

The data from 2018 and 2019 years has been

combined. Don’t know responses not shown.

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Party identification among women

Share who identify as or lean toward each party.

Democratic

Republican

Generation

Millennial women

Generation X

Baby Boomer

Silent Generation

College graduate +

Non-college graduate

Source: Pew Research Center annual survey. The data from

2018 and 2019 years has been combined.

Don’t know responses not shown.

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Party identification among women

Share who identify as or lean toward each party.

Democratic

Republican

Generation

Millennial

Generation X

College graduate +

Baby Boomer

Silent Generation

Non-college graduate

Source: Pew Research Center annual survey. The data from 2018 and 2019 years has been combined.

Don’t know responses not shown.

In the 2018 midterm elections, the first after the election of President Trump, the share of women voting for a Democratic candidate for the House continued to move upward in nearly every demographic segment. The racial divide is particularly stark: 92 percent of Black women favored Democrats in 2018, compared to 49 percent of White women. Among White women without a college degree, 42 percent voted Democratic.

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Black women have been staunch

Democratic supporters

Share voting Democratic in 2018

Among women who

voted Democratic

Education

(White women)

Marital status

Married

women

Non-college

Source: National Election Pool exit polls,

2016 and 2018.

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Black women have been staunch

Democratic supporters

Share voting Democratic in 2018

Among women who voted Democratic

Education (White women)

Marital status

Married

women

Non-college

Source: National Election Pool exit polls, 2016 and 2018.

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Black women have been

staunch Democratic

supporters

Among women who

voted Democratic

Share voting Democratic in 2018

Education (White women)

Marital status

Black women

Non-college

Source: National Election Pool exit polls, 2016 and 2018

Today, there are nearly eight times more Democratic women in the House than Republicans.

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Women in the U.S. House

Democratic

Republican

Source: Center for American Women and Politics

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Women in the U.S. House

Democratic

Republican

Source: Center for American Women and Politics

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Women in the U.S. House

Democratic

Republican

Source: Center for American Women and Politics

So what will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

It will take some more time and a lot more effort to reach equal representation. I asked my colleague David Byler, a statistics expert, to estimate how long it would take for women to reach equal numbers in Congress at the current pace. His estimate: about 60 years.

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Percentage of women in the House

and estimated time to reach

equal representation

Democrat and

Republican

combined

Source: David Byler’s analysis of data from the

Center for American Women and Politics

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Percentage of women in the House

and estimated time to reach

equal representation

Democrat and

Republican

combined

Source: David Byler’s analysis of data from the

Center for American Women and Politics

What will it take to achieve gender equality in American politics?

Percentage of women in the House and estimated time

to reach equal representation

Democrat and

Republican

combined

Source: David Byler’s analysis of data from the Center for American Women and Politics

The idea of possibly waiting another half-century is disheartening. But concerted effort by both parties and some unpredictable factors could change that perspective. For example, Trump’s election motivated scores of Democratic women to run for office in 2018. This year, again, women are seeking office in record numbers, with Republicans also part of the push. As a result, a record number of women are running for House seats, with nearly 300 women securing their party’s nomination, including more than 200 Democrats and nearly 90 Republicans.

That’s progress, for sure. But it’s not enough — not even close. In fact, it is appalling that after a century we remain so far from equality, especially on the Republican side. It should not take another 60 years to fix that.

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