For many reasons, based on any given person’s ideologies, last Tuesday’s election was a disappointment. Perhaps you feel not enough voters participated in the process, not enough Democrats were elected or not enough Republicans were elected. Or, beyond the process, maybe you feel your issues were weren’t addressed or won’t be addressed based on who was elected.
One demographic of individuals certainly lost Tuesday in Wyoming — women.
As a result of Tuesday’s elections, women will only hold 11 seats in the Wyoming House and one seat in the state Senate. We’re lucky that one of those women — Rep. Rosie Berger, R-Big Horn — represents a portion of Sheridan County. But, she is just one voice of 60 in the Wyoming House.
In Sheridan County, the number of women holding elected office is better, but not great. Just two of seven on the Sheridan City Council are women, while two of the 12 elected county offices are held by women. School board seems to be the only place women outnumber men. In Sheridan County School Districts 1, 2 and 3, 12 of the 19 school board members are women.
Certainly, there are issues in Wyoming that impact individuals of both sexes. In fact, most bills making their way through the committees and Legislature are likely gender neutral.
But there are also issues facing Wyoming that will impact women to a much higher degree than men. For example, the Interim Joint Judiciary Committee is considering a bill regarding sexual assault protection orders. Women are statistically more likely to be victims of sexual assault than men. Yet women will have less representation on the issue than men given our state’s demographic of elected officials.
Other items typically considered women’s issues include affordable child care, women’s health, paid maternity leave and equal pay — none of which appear to be on the Legislature’s docket for the 2015 session.
There are issues facing women that perhaps only women will be able to solve.
Whether the issues on the table are women’s or global, though, there are certain things women bring to the table that men often do not. The first is a different perspective. But in addition to that, women often tend to be more inclusive and collaborative in their leadership styles, and focus more on policy goals than ambition.
In a form of government like ours, isn’t an elected leadership that mirrors the electorate ideal?
This isn’t to say women aren’t partially to blame for their lack of representation. More women need to get involved in the political process — run for office, campaign, lobby for certain issues and vote. But the blowback women face when seeking election for public office can be harsh. Just look at the coverage and opinions voiced about Hillary Clinton or Liz Cheney. Not exactly encouraging.
Until more women — and more of every underrepresented demographic — take initiative and take office, there will always be a little something missing from our democratic process.