By Katie Ziegler
Preliminary results indicate that this election means fewer women will serve in state legislatures in 2015 than this year.
Approximately 1,750 women legislators will be in office in 2015, compared to approximately 1,784.this year. The national percentage of female to male legislators will be approximately 23.7 percent, a slight decrease from the 2014 figure of 24.2 percent.
Colorado will likely have the highest percentage, 43 percent, of women serving, and Oklahoma the lowest at 12.1 percent. While some races in Colorado are still being tallied, several of them feature two women running, so the final outcomes shouldn’t affect the state’s overall percent.
South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming will each have only one woman serving in their senates. Visit the Women in State Legislatures 2015 page for complete information, which will be updated as contests are finalized.
The national percentage of female state legislatures reached 20 percent in the 1992 election, but has not grown more than 4.5 percentage points since then.
Experts point out that the number of female state legislative candidates has not increased significantly to explain the slow growth in women officeholders. Many groups have been founded in recent years with the explicit goal of recruiting and training women to run for office, at any level. The fact that the number of women in legislatures has not increased, even with these efforts, is proof that politics is a long game.
Conventional wisdom has held that one reason women are less likely to run for office is because of greater family caregiving responsibilities. A recent study, however, found that family situation had no effect on a potential candidate’s ambition to run for office—and this held true for both women and men. Other factors that may be at play include women’s perceptions of their qualifications (women tend to think they are less qualified than men), and political party systems of candidate recruitment.
Katie Ziegler is the program manager for the Women’s Legislative Network of NCSL.