By: Zaida Diaz, Staff Writer
Although California is said to be one of the nation’s most progressive states, its local governments are being criticized for under-representing a major demographic group – women.
Women participation in government is essential in order to achieve gender parity. Legislation, in particular, could benefit from the female perspective, especially issues that address ongoing gender inequality.
A survey conducted by the Leadership California Institute showed that women comprise fewer than 30 percent of all county boards of supervisors; this includes elective city, county and state posts.
In addition, the survey found that across the state only 25 percent of females are county supervisors and 28 percent of city council members are female.
In Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley Councilwoman Nury Martinez is the only female official compared to 15 men.
Martinez told the Los Angeles Times, “In a city as large as Los Angeles, for me to be the only woman — it isn’t only disappointing but embarrassing.” Martinez also expressed that there are many capable candidates.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women represent about 51 percent of the populace, yet they are underrepresented at all levels of government, from local to national. There are currently 82 women serving in the House of Representatives out of 435, and 20 women out of 100 senators.
If the U.S. government more readily reflected the nation’s population, there might be a more comprehensive approach when passing legislation that directly affects females.
For instance, the 110th United States Congress had voted down the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, as it passed in the House but not in the Senate. At this time, there were only 74 female members in the House and 16 in the Senate.
The act permits persons who face pay discrimination recourse to federal anti-discrimination laws.
More recently, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that family-owned corporations with religious owners, cannot be obliged to pay for insurance coverage of contraception for their female workers.
This verdict is of considerable importance because, if we take a look at the composition of the Supreme Court, only three out of the nine Justices are women. The majority opinion in Hobby Lobby consisted of Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, John G. Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel A. Alito Jr. –all Catholic men. These Justices were approved by overwhelmingly male senates.
Now, if women represented almost half of the appointed seats in U.S. government there would be a more fair incorporation of opinions on women’s issues.