As my colleagues have noted, women have made history this election. I have been thinking a lot about the fact that 20 women will be serving in the U.S. Senate starting in January. This is the largest number of women ever to serve in that august body.
These are not empty numbers. Study after study has shown that female elected officials are more likely to prioritize issues that impact women. It is no accident, for example, that it was Senator Barbra Mikulski (the Dean of the Senate Women) who introduced the ground-breaking Women’s Preventive Services Act which now provides coverage for birth control, breast-feeding support and supplies, domestic violence screening and many other critical health services for women with no co-pay.
Not to be a downer about such a happy topic, but I can’t help but note that as terrific as this is, it simply isn’t good enough. Read more »
Here in D.C. and across the country, election results consume the headlines, even as many of us breathe a sigh of relief that the long campaign season is over. But in addition to the big-ticket races on Election Day, there were a number of ballot initiatives in cities and states that are less publicized nationally but no less important to the people affected. These include three municipal ballot measures – in Albuquerque, San Jose, and Long Beach – to raise the minimum wage. All three passed with substantial majorities, meaning many low-wage workers in these cities will soon find it a bit easier to make ends meet. Specifically:
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, the minimum wage will rise from $7.50 to $8.50 per hour in January 2013, and will automatically adjust in future years to keep up with inflation. New Mexico Voices for Children estimates that 40,000 workers (one-seventh of Albuquerque’s workforce) will see higher paychecks as a result – generating about $18 million in consumer spending and helping to create new jobs as businesses expand to meet the increased demand.
While we only know of one woman who made sure to cast her vote even though her water had broken and her contractions were five minutes apart, she was far from alone in her determination to make her voice heard at the polls yesterday in an election season where women’s health, reproductive rights, and fair pay were frequent flashpoints. Women made up the majority of the electorate on Tuesday—53 percent. Unmarried women were 23 percent of voters, up from 20 percent in 2008. And women’s votes were key to yesterday’s results.
With a few races too close to call, there will apparently be between 75 and 79 women in the House of Representatives, up from 73 currently serving. There will be 20 in the Senate, up from 17 currently serving. This means that women will comprise about 18 percent of the next Congress, up from under 17 percent in the current Congress.
Other historic achievements last night:
Senator-elect Mazie Hirono (D-HI) became the first Asian-American woman to be elected to the Senate and Hawai’i’s first female Senator.
Senator-elect Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) became the first openly gay person to be elected to the Senate and Wisconsin’s first female Senator.