Despite recent gains in the U.S. Congress, women remain underrepresented in our state and federal legislatures. Luckily, though compiling a complete photo essay of every single face in government would mean hours spent on Wikimedia Commons, Rutger's Center for American Women and Politics has come up with an awesome infographic detailing just how exactly the political gender gap plays out across America.
Colorado, the state which recently legalized marijuana, leads the way. While Colorado has no female senators (the state only has two representatives in the U.S. Senate), and only 1 out of Colorado's 7 House representatives is a woman, women make up 40% of the state legislature. Most of these women are Democrats, especially in the State Senate, but the State House boasts a more equitable 14 Democratic women to 9 Republicans. Colorado's number is actually down from last year, when women made up 41% of the state legislature; the Centennial State has boasted the most women in its legislature since 2010, and been in the top 10 since 1975. Pretty impressive.
South Carolina comes in last, with women making up only 10% of its legislature. Out of the 5 women who have represented South Carolina in Congress, 4 won the spot following special elections to fill seats their husbands left behind.
(Side note: When it comes to the "fairer sex," my own home state of Arizona fares pretty well in 2012. Score.)
The number of women elected to office has quintupled since 1971. Nonetheless, CAWP reports, women often need to be encouraged to run, and are discouraged from running for office when they do run. In a 2009 report on women in the state legislature, CAWP notes that "one-third of women say that someone tried to discourage them from running — most often an officeholder or political party official," further finding that women are more likely than men to cite party support as instrumental to their own political success.
While numbers alone do not address the question of equality and the importance (and limitations) of a representational government, taking stock of these electoral trends over time is important to understanding the ways in which our governmental institutions are evolving as our society evolves. And, after all, there are always the Janis Lanes of the world, actively campaigning against women being involved in politics in any way.