The Lack of Female Representation in American Government

     Just a little over 100 years ago (1917), Jeannette Rankin became the first woman to be elected into the US Congress, serving in the House of Representatives. From then on women have achieved milestones in earning seats in Congress, but really compared to other countries The United States is not as progressive as it should be. As of 2019 American women only comprised 23.4% of the seats in the house and 25% of the seats in the Senate. For a nation that prides itself on progressiveness, we tend to fall behind in the representation of women in government globally. As of 2018, the Inter-Parliamentary Union ranks the United States at 76 in terms of women in national parliament, lagging behind countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, and the Middle East. In fact, we even trail behind our neighboring countries Mexico (number 4) and Canada (number 59). Speaking of Canada, almost half (46.7%) of the Senate seats are filled by women (again compared to the US with only 25%). So why does the US so badly lack representation of women in government?

     Last semester in October, Coastal Carolina University hosted a panel with 3 local Horry County mayors that gave some insight on why it is more difficult for women to run for office. Brenda Bethune––Mayor of Myrtle Beach, Barbara JoBlain-Bellamy––Mayor of Conway, and Marilyn Hatley––Mayor of North Myrtle Beach came together to discuss challenges they face as women in government. Mayor Bethune specifically had to overcome gender roles when taking over her father’s business. This business had also previously been almost completely dominated by men. Her success in the business eventually gave her more confidence when campaigning and lead to her success as a politician. Mayor Hatley reflected on criticisms from citizens about her gender, many dealing with the belief that women are too emotional to be put in a position of power. However, all three mayors agreed that showing emotion is authentic, passionate, and real.

     Many of the hardships they dealt with were assumptions based on a woman’s ability to control her emotions and her ability to lead others. Although there is obvious progress to be made, the good news is in some sectors, such as mayoral elections, women are winning more than before. Mayor Bellamy expressed that “women are powerful because they turn their insecurities into Strengths.” No one hands women positions of power, but rather they earn their right to “sit in the big seat’’ (Bellamy) and work hard to be represented in government.