Lift the roof off of capitol hill and take a gander down on Congress. Do you know what you’d see? According to the Congressional Research Service, you’d see 102 women sitting amongst the 433 male members of the House and Senate, 20 percent in the Senate, and 18.8 percent in the House of Representatives as of February of 2014. So far there have been a total of forty-seven women of color in Congress, according to the Center for American Women and Politics, twenty-nine African Americans, nine Asian American/Pacific Islanders, and nine Latinas.
To begin, let’s be clear: better representation of minorities and women in Congress is something to be aimed for with all seriousness. A more representative legislature is a stronger one; diversity in policymakers and gender equality demonstrated in Washington is a vital end goal. The fact that a mere 19 percent of Congress is female is hardly grounds for celebration or satisfaction. However, while there are many arguments for increasing women’s presence in politics and in Congress, some are debateably more problematic than others.
There is something to be said in this situation for the simplest reasoning in this case. Occam’s razor takes the cake. Having a more equal representation of women in Congress makes the representation for the whole of the U.S. better balanced. It is indicative of greater equality in government elections — and this is good. A more balanced gender count in Congress demonstrates equal opportunity, while a limited turnout of female Representatives and Senators is potentially symptomatic of a restrictive or biased societal or governmental pathway. Are women not running? Are parties not recruiting women as readily? Are women less likely to be voted for? A 2010 study from Loyola Marymount and American University showed that women were 29 percent less likely to label themselves as “very qualified” to run for office compared to male counterparts with comparable experience.