The 117th United States Congress will see a record number of women serving in the chambers of the Capitol. With 122 women in the House (92-D, 30-R) and 25 women in the Senate (17-D, 8-R), this Congress advances the slow and steady progress towards gender equality in democratically elected positions across the nation.
In just over 100 years, women have run increasingly successful campaigns to bring the number of women in the House and Senate from zero to around one quarter of its members. Among the slow and steady progress, Democratic women have made particularly great strides. Since the 101st Congress in 1991, women have increased from 5.6% of the party members in office to now 40.5% of the party elected to the House and Senate.
In the United States, we rely on the evolution of societal norms and bottom-up deconstruction of institutional barriers that impede the success of women in democratic elections. This is a useful analytic to recognize our agency in this evolution: Society only evolves at the hands of some internal or external pressures and the greater the pressure, the greater the change.
So this year, while our team is celebrating this record number of women serving in the 117th Congress, we think the current rate of change is too slow.
As such, this team is undergoing its own evolution. In the last year, The Candidate Information Action Team aimed to raise awareness with DA members of the fantastic women running for Congress–particularly in difficult districts where Trump had won in 2016. Team researchers interviewed a number of Representatives who had won Republican seats in 2018 as well as Democratic candidates running to flip other Red districts Blue. Their work on these candidate profiles was published on the GWC website and several panels were held with thousands of DA members listening in. We also advised DA members how they could attend virtual “Town Halls” to directly ask important questions to candidates in their voting districts.
In 2021, we plan to have a recurring ‘Capitol Women’ series to hear what is happening in Congress and talk to Representatives about the issues that DA voters care most about. We also plan to continue working with women running for office, namely for legislative seats in Virginia and New Jersey this November and in upcoming special elections. We are eager to speak with them on issues of critical importance including voter suppression, reproductive justice, climate change, and racial justice.
With this work, it is our aim to continue to engage DA voters in supporting women currently serving and seeking to serve in publicly elected positions across the nation. As we relish in the recent victories of women–and Democrats of all genders–and stand strong against those who aim to threaten our democracy, we must remember that the work of fighting for women is never done.
Let’s get to work.