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Historic Numbers of Women Running for Office

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Have you ever looked at a room filled with hundreds of old, wrinkled, rich white men (and maybe five women)? Chances are you were looking at a group of government officials.

For a long time, there has been a large disparity between the number of men and women running for political office. As a result, a very small proportion (about 20% in Congress and 22 percent in statewide elective offices) of elected officials are women, and these numbers have not significantly increased since the 90s.

However, this year, we can anticipate big changes in the proportion of women in government as more than 500 women are running for office in the midterm elections in November.

The number of women challenging incumbents in the House is up by 350 percent. 390 women are likely to run for the House, and 49 women are running for the Senate. And this means a lot for those voting this November.

The outcome of women simply running for elections means a shift in women’s role in government. Students have a general consensus that the increased number of women running will have long term impacts.

“I think it means that having women in government is becoming normalized,” senior Sarayu Rao said.

Senior Mizuki Kadowaki believes that the increased number of women running means better representation. “It’s almost impossible for those who benefit from discrimination to stand against it because they don’t realize it’s there in the first place.”

“Having more women in leadership means that there are more people in power who can shine light on the inequality and bring a more holistic perspective to the government,” Kadowaki adds.

Though women have been aching for representation for a long time, not many women serve in office. Currently women make up about 19.3 percent of the House and 21 percent of the Senate despite making up about 50 percent of the population. There are also only six female governors currently in office.

And it’s not because they’re not winning. (In fact, women are just as likely as men to win elections.) It is because they don’t make the decision to run in the first place. Women often don’t consider themselves viable contenders even when they are the most qualified for the job.

So why have women decided to start running now? The most likely reason is because of the shocking turnout of the 2016 election and the widespread disappointment in the direction in which the country has headed.

And for these same reasons, students are looking forward to this election, especially since this is the first time they will be able to exercise their voting rights.

Senior Alice Mathew is a strong supporter of youth voter participation. “People our age are very aware of the political world, but judging by the demographics of the 2016 elections, not many younger people voted,” she said.

The voter turnout for young people has historically been lower than that of other generations. Though the turnout increased during the 2016 election (from 46.4 percent to 49.4 percent), less than half of the generation’s voters are still not voting.

Mathew wants the younger generations to take advantage of their political power in addition to their other common forms of activism. “I think it’s important for us not only to be political on social media, but to take advantage of our right to represent ourselves by voting,” she said.

Overall, we have a lot to look forward to this November. Whether we can anticipate more women elected to office than ever before or simply the normalization of women running for office, history is being made.

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