Statesman. Posted by Cynthia Terrell on December 03, 2015
By Brittany Tesoriero
New York is moving closer to achieving gender parity as the number of women who hold spots in state elected offices has increased, according to a report released last month.
In its second annual report, Representation2020 found that New York had scored 23.8 out of a possible 100 points and ranked 14th in the nation in terms of gender parity. This is an increase compared to last year’s numbers, where the state earned a score of 17.1 and placed 20th. New York has moved up from ranking 24th in gender parity among states in 1993.
Gender parity is reached when men and women are equally likely to hold spots in the state’s elected office. The scores range between zero (no women in office) and 100 (only women in office).
Representation2020 is an initiative of the nonprofit organization FairVote, which seeks to make elections more representative and well-rounded at every level of government. This project aims to create awareness about the issue of underrepresentation of women and seeks structural solutions for the disparity.
Cynthia Terrell, the project chair and a founder of FairVote, has a long history of campaign work and experience in battling the underrepresentation of women in legislature.
“Political actors are very likely to recruit candidates to run who are like them — that reality makes it hard for women and other non-traditional candidates to gain traction at the local level — and fewer women in county and state legislative offices means even fewer women being groomed to run for statewide and federal level offices,” Terrell said in an email.
New York has never elected a female governor, and New York City has never seen a female mayor. Only eight of its 27 House of Representative seats are occupied by women. On a broader scale, New Hampshire was the first and only of the 50 states to achieve gender parity, earning a score of 57.1.
The disparity seen in New York and across the nation translates to a larger issue in society—a greater under-representation of women, especially in the news.
Professor Steven Skiena of Stony Brook University’s computer science department teamed up with professor Arnout van de Rijt of the sociology department to research the persistent under-representation of women in the news.
Their study, “A Paper Ceiling,” explains that women are not seen as often in newspapers as their male counterparts because there are fewer women in positions of power. Since authoritative figures are seen and talked about in the news frequently, it makes sense that a majority of those names belong to men, as a majority of the positions are held by men.
Terrell said she believes that even women who are still in college have the power to help achieve gender parity.
“Young women should be encouraged to pursue leadership positions and envision themselves as vital voices in our democracy,” Terrell said. “Campuses provide a perfect environment not only to challenge cultural norms but also to embrace the structural changes that Representation2020 is advocating for.”