Women Fill More Ohio Elected Offices, Disparity Persists

University of Dayton. Posted by Cynthia Terrell on December 02, 2015

By Julia Hall

Amidst the national debates
amongst  the  presidential  candi
dates, a question outside of pol
icy and quibbling has appeared:
Are  women  being  represented
sufficiently in elected offices?
    With two prominent female
presidential  candidates,  Carly
Fiorina and Hillary Clinton, our
nation cannot ignore the issues
revolving around this question.
    Even though women’s pres
ence  in  elected  office  remains
miniscule,  there  has  been  slow
but  definite  progress.  Over  the
last thirty years, the number of
women in elected office in Ohio
has increased.
In that time period, the num
ber of women elected to the
Ohio House of Representatives
changed from 20 to 84, resulting
in a 19 percent increase, and the
women elected to the Ohio Sen
-
ate has increased from one to 20,
a 20 percent increase, according
to former Ohio Gov. and current
UD professor Bob Taft.
“The majority of the seven
members on the Ohio Supreme
Court are women,” said Taft.
“I think we are seeing a lot of
movement on the courts.”
“Maureen O’Connor, who ran
with me for lieutenant governor
when I was elected governor back
in 1998, had established herself
in her career,” Taft said of the
current chief justice of the Ohio
Supreme Court. “[She] obviously
ent to law school, worked in the
county prosecutor’s office, ran
and was elected for county pros
ecutor.”
In addition to his praise of
O’Connor, Taft commented
more generally on women’s elect
ed positions: “I was a member
of the Ohio House of Represen
tatives back in 1977, and there
were only a handful of wom
en in the House or Senate then.
There may have been one woman
in the Ohio Senate when I was
there, and, now, there are seven
women in the Ohio Senate. I still
think there is a gender disparity
btween elected positions, but I
really believe that in the last 30
years, women have been on the
rise.”
Haley Roach, a double major
in political science and psychol
ogy, is the president of Phi Al
pha Delta, the law fraternity on
campus. In her elected leadership
position, she has confronted the
challenges of the role for two se
mesters.
“I don’t think it’s ‘can a woman
run?’” Roach said. “No, I think
we are way past that. I think that
it is once you get in office that
you run into the glass ceiling,
which makes it harder for women
to succeed.”
Taft agreed with Roach on the
point that women do not neces
sarily have a disadvantage in run
ning for office.
“The political analysts, experts,
really believe that [when] run
ning for an office like the Ohio
Supreme Court, there is an ad
vatage to be a woman in terms
of poll totals. It could be worth
as much as 2 or 3 percent advan
tage.”
Even though women seem to
be on the rise in elected posi
tions, a call for a greater equality
in numbers persists.
Representation 2020, named
such because 2020 is the 100th
anniversary of women gaining
the right to vote, is an organiza
tion dedicated to raising aware
ness of under-representation of
women in elected office.
The organization seeks to
achieve gender parity, which
means that it is just as likely for
a woman as a man to run and be
elected into office.
“I think we get caught up in
measuring progress in women’s
politics and the activation of the
women’s voting base by counting
women in office,” Roach said,
“and I think that is a mistake.”
“There is a lot of pushback
from people who say, ‘Oh, you
just want a quota. We just need
the best and the brightest,’” said
Cynthia Terrell, a founder of
Representation 2020, in an in
terview with Flyer News. “And,
that is true. We do need the best
and the brightest, and, currently,
there are structural obstacles to
having the best and the brightest
having a seat at the table.”
Representation 2020 mem-
bers conduct in-depth research
regarding the gender disparity in
elected officials nationwide.
They have developed a scoring
system that assigns each state on
a scale of zero, or no women in
major elected office, to 100, or all
women in such office. Ohio’s cur
rent parity record, or measure of
equality, is 14.6. In 1993, Ohio’s
parity record was 14.7.
With similar statistics across
the nation, Terrell and Repre
sentation 2020 are dedicated to
removing structural obstacles in-
stead of adjusting the ways of the
individual.
“The three main structures that
Representation 2020 focuses on
are recruitment targets for politi
cal parties and for PACs to set for
the number of women candidates
they support because there are
just not enough women actually
running,” Terrell stated.
Such programs, dedicated to
recruiting women to run for of
fice, have begun to spring up, in-
cluding in Ohio.
“[Former Speaker of the Ohio
House] Jo Ann Davidson was
very interested in recruiting fe-
male candidates where there were
qualified female candidates ready
to run,” Taft said. “She created,
back in 2001, the Jo Ann David-
son Ohio Leadership Institute for
the purpose of preparing women
to succeed in elected office.”
In addition to recruitment,
members of Representation 2020
call for improved voting process
es.
“The voting systems enable
more women to actually win,”
Terrell said. “Women do better in
the 10 states that have multi-win-
ner districts. There is also a sys-
tem called “ranked choice voting
system,” where voters can rank
candidates in order of prefer
ence.”
“There is a set of internal leg
islative measures many countries
have used that looked at rules
how legislatives operate to make
sure they are gender neutral or
gender conscious,” Terrell said.
“So, things like child care or tele
communicating if they have fam
ily responsibilities.”
On a similar note, Taft re
-marked, “It’s a challenge because
the state legislature is meeting
almost year-round. If they have
to leave home to do that, then it
is more of a challenge since we
are still in situations, for better or
for worse, [where] women seem
to spend more time in terms of
their family role.”

 http://ecommons.udayton.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1210&context=flyer_news

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