As the list of front runners in the coming 2020 U.S. presidential election continues to assemble, the number of female candidates has surpassed the previous election by double. In the 2016 elections, only 12% of running candidates were female. In the current election race, 33% of 18 candidates are female, according to The Washington Post.
The U.S. isn’t the only country experiencing a rise of female politicians. In the current 116th Congress, 131 women currently serve in both the House and the Senate, compared to last year’s total of 115, according to Congressional Research Service reports. These numbers contradict polls which have shown some Americans are uncertain that the nation is ready for more women in politics, including a female president. The Pew Research Center survey “Women and Leadership 2018” about women in politics, conducted nationwide with 4,587 adults between 19 June and 2 July 2018, showed that “women are increasingly doubtful that voters are ready to elect more female leaders.”
In contradiction, Pew also posted as a result of the survey that a majority of Americans say they would like to see more women in politics and top business decisions. According to the survey, 69% say women will improve the quality of life for all Americans. In addition, women are also recognized as being better role models for children, as well as “stronger in most areas [of] politics and business.”
The 2018 midterm U.S. congressional election broke many records including most women candidates running and elected, number of non-white women running, first Native American congresswoman, first Muslim congresswoman and the youngest congresswomen elected, according to Business Insider, Los Angeles Times, Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics and HuffPost. Also, 45% of female candidates won their primaries and were their party’s nominees in the House races, and 63% of female candidates won their Senate party nominations.
This new rise in the number of female politicians is not limited to the United States. Globally, women now represent 24.3% of national parliaments in both upper and lower houses, as of 1 January 2019, according to the Women in National Parliaments archive. This is a 5.9 percentage point increase from the last 10 years.
Sociologists have been studying the impact of this increasing number of female politicians, finding that increasing the number of women elected into office provides an increase in policies emphasizing the quality of life for families, women and ethnic or racial minorities, according to the “Legislative Effectiveness of Women in Congress” journal.
In order for women to have any effect on public policy, they have to endure the scrutiny of being judged differently than men, including focus on their perceived attractiveness, according to a quote from Mary-Kate Lizotte, a political science professor at Augusta University, in Business Insider. Another issue that female candidates have to face is the “fitness” factor that 2016 candidate Hillary Clinton had to struggle against, according to Brandeis University professor Amber Spry as reported in Business Insider. The “fitness” factor was used to question Clinton’s ability to run and become a policy maker in comparison to a male candidate.