Dismal statistics on the number of women in politics took center stage last week as the women’s and gender studies department invited three prominent women in politics to discuss politics in New Jersey and encourage students to become involved.
The speakers were alumnus Kelly Baden of Planned Parenthood Association of Bucks County, Sarah Brewer of Women & Politics Institute and Susan Markham of EMILY’s List, both of Washington, D.C.
Ann Marie Nicolosi, professor of women’s and gender studies, said this year was the start of a new program for Women’s History Month, the alumnus spotlight. Baden was one of the first graduates of the women’s and gender studies program in 2001.
Baden disclosed that there are 14 women in the U.S. Senate and 66 women in the U.S. House of Representatives. There are no women in Congress from New Jersey. She also said that New Jersey has never sent a woman to the Senate.
There are six women in the New Jersey Senate and 13 in the state Assembly. New Jersey ranks 41st, for the amount of women in the state legislature.
“To see how we rank in comparison to other countries, especially compared to Iraq, a nation we are in the process of helping to rebuild, is just in one word upsetting,” Rachel Donohue, junior political science and women’s and gender studies major, said.
To improve the situation, the panel discussed the “pipeline” theory of women in government. The idea is to get more women in lower levels of government to run for office and eventually move up the ladder. These women would then encourage other women to take their place in the lower ranks.
Baden said that the pipeline theory has not worked out as well as people hoped it would. The country has a greater focus on security and women are not viewed as strong, she said.
Brewer said that the numbers are sobering and that there needs to be more networking.
“Political parties need to do a better job at seeking out new women candidates,” she said. She also said that a lot of women have not been replaced by other women.
“I’m not as discouraged about the ‘pipeline’ theory as some of the panelists were,” Daryl Fair, professor of political science, said. “Maybe the results have not been as good as we might like, as of yet, but if there are no candidates in the pipeline, then it is difficult, if not impossible, to elect more women to office.”
“Having candidates in the pipeline is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for getting more women elected. We need to identify the other conditions that must be present as well, and then work to bring them about,” he added.
Baden said that the United States ranks 52nd globally with regards to female representation. “There are more women represented in places where the U.S. has made democracy,” Baden said. “There is 35 percent female representation in Iraq after the election,” Baden said.