Is it a problem that California’s Legislature is losing women?

Posted in Sexual Harassment on January 31, 2014

It is often the case that the most productive and creative environments are also the most diverse. For this and other reasons, many are worried about an emerging trend within California politics: a noticeable decline in the number of female legislators.

To be sure, California’s Legislature has earned its reputation as being diverse in a number of ways. And California’s female lawmakers at the state and federal levels are generally considered to be strong leaders. But it is hard to ignore the fact that among the 120 seats in the state Legislature, only 32 are currently filled by women. This represents a significant drop from the 37 women who held seats in 2006.

According to a recent news article, California was sixth in the nation in 2004 in terms of its percentage of women in the Legislature. While our percentage is still above the national average, California’s rank has since dropped to 19th in the nation.

Women provide an important voice in politics, and those serving as lawmakers tend to be instrumental in passing laws that affect women in the workplace. These include laws on sexual harassment, family leave, child care, pregnancy discrimination, gender discrimination and pay equity.

This is not to say that such issues cannot be raised by men. In fact, many of California’s male legislators care deeply about issues that affect their female constituents; not to mention the women in their families. Nonetheless, ensuring that women have a significant voice in the legislative process is likely the best way to ensure that legislators are advocating for 50.2 percent of California’s population.

Commenting on the lack of female legislators, Senator Lois Wolk said: “Women are not stepping forward in the numbers that correspond to our place in the population. Until we break that 50 percent ceiling, we won’t be as effective as we’d like.”

Source: The Sacramento Bee, “Number of women dropping in California Legislature,” Don Thomson, Jan. 26, 2014