WOMEN IN POLITICS

While the diversity in gender in politics has been increasing slowly, it’s still a bit of a struggle for women to launch a successful political campaign and hold an office. 

As of February 2019, only 24.3 percent of parliamentarians across the nation were made up of women. This number reflected an increase that started at 11.3 percent in 1995, according to UnWomen.org. Worldwide, only 27 States house less than 10 percent of female parliamentarians, and as of February 2019, three of those chambers don’t house women at all, according to the website. 

“The 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, and the organization and support of the bill in order to get it passed as a Constitutional Amendment was critical,” Political Science Professor, Frank Thames said. “There were states that allowed women to vote before that, but this was the first time there was a Constitutional Amendment requiring it.”

The ratification of the 19th Amendment meant that women themselves could also run for office and be listed on voting ballots.

“This was the first time that there would be a national ballot and a woman could be on it,” Thames said. “At the time, there were also restrictions placed on property and divorce for women and allowing women on the ballot and allowing them to hold office could change that. It was really a key moment for America.”

As women made advancements on the ballots and toward offices, their viewpoints on political activities began to evolve.

“Women used to be reliably conservative voters up until the late 1950s and 60s,” Thames said. “Now they tend to skew leftward, and that’s been true for a while. Things are definitely changing. Women used to have trouble getting elected in the United States, but now that seems to be less the case, though that’s relatively recent. 2016 and 1992 were big years for women in office.”

Thames said that he believes young women seeing female politicians can be inspiring and can bring in more voters and potential politicians.

“We used to associate women with the leftward policies, but a lot of what women represent is what their constituency is from,” he said. “We don’t tend to think that gender really matters much in a political sense, but that women politicians do tend to push policies on women’s issues, as well as healthcare and childcare. I think that seeing a successful woman in a politician’s office will definitely spark some imagination and make an impact. By electing more women, you encourage more women to run.”

When it comes to the man in politics, and to the woman in politics, stereotypes typically tend to run rampant, especially during elections. 

“I think the question is how many stereotypes still exist and how much they matter,” Thames said. “Recent research shows that the stereotypes that surround women don’t necessarily affect voting when it comes to female candidates as much as we thought. Women do still tend to win, and there’s no clear discrimination toward female candidates from voters. There’s this disjuncture where we know that there’s lots of stereotypes that votes have, but it’s not clear that affects their vote totals.”

An example Thames used to make his point on stereotypes was Hillary Clinton.

“She had lots of stereotypes that surrounded her political campaign, and yet she still won 3 million more votes than Donald Trump, and the only reason she lost was because of the electoral college,” he said. “It’s very complex to see how those stereotypes actually translate into voting outcomes.”

On a more local scale, City Council Representative for District 6 Latrelle Joy said that even though the City Council is non-partisan and don’t really label themselves as any party, some citizens wish they did.

“When you look at the ballot, you won’t ever see any party,” Joy said. “The City of Lubbock has a charter, and it gives us our responsibilities and our duties, and what we can and can’t do. We are also subject to legislative action from time to time. For example, they changed the percent that we could increase property taxes in a year. We are also subject to any orders the state legislature might have. Governor (Greg) Abbott has made numerous orders regarding the pandemic, and all of them are binding on the city.”

The role of being a City Council member requires actions regarding policymaking and laws.

“We don’t really oversee the day-to-day operations of the city,” Joy said. “We leave that up to the City Manager. There are three employees of the city that the City Council hires and fires. The City Manager is one. The City Attorney is in charge of legal, and the City Secretary is in charge of permits, elections, and taking records and minutes of meetings. We’re the policy makers, and so if somethings come before us, we have the power to make changes.”

Even though the City Council is strictly non-partisan, citizens of Lubbock would still like to see candidates’ parties listed on the ballots for voting purposes.

“They want us to take a stand on a state issue, or just a personal issue,” Joy said. “However, we simply can’t always do that. We need to be true to the charter, which mandates that we maintain all ordinances necessary to protect life, health, and property. Those are our basic charges underneath the charter. We do those on a local level for the city of Lubbock. We cannot be in conflict with laws that have been passed by Texas Legislature.”

Despite efforts to keep issues non-political, occasionally politics will get involved.

“Sometimes it can be impossible to control political issues, and though it’s not appropriate, politics will try to get involved with local policies,” Joy said. “I’m elected, in my opinion, to do two things: one is to represent the citizens in my district, and the other is to do what’s in the best interest of all of the people in Lubbock, including Texas Tech students.”

The representation of women on councils have begun to increase, the City Council of Lubbock currently only has two women serving as council members.

“I’ve always hoped that people would vote for those who are most qualified for the position they’re running for,” Joy said. “What we’re finding now is that more women are actually qualified for those positions, and I don’t think the citizens in general are saying that they wouldn’t vote for a woman simply because she’s female.”

Joy is also a lawyer and said that it’s never been her goal to be better than all the male lawyers in her field.

“I became a lawyer to be the best lawyer in my field,” she said. “Not just the best female lawyer, but the best lawyer. I feel the same way about the City Council positions. I think it’s good that we have women on the council. I think we bring a different perspective to some of the issues we’re confronted with. I think seeing more women has become a very positive thing and has had a positive impact. It’s not just a good old boys’ club.”

To anyone seeking office in the future, Joy provided some advice on how to run a successful campaign, and on how to run a successful term in office.

“Anyone wanting to be in an office position for the City of Lubbock should definitely educate themselves on the City of Lubbock,” she said. “They should get to know their city from all sorts of perspectives. Unfortunately, many of our citizens now don’t read the newspaper or listen to the radio. Sometimes the information they get in social media isn’t correct, so people need to be careful. They need to educate themselves and make sure they know the facts.”

Joy went on to say that the City Council is an excellent source of education for those seeking office positions.

“You can pick up the phone and call our office at any time, and the staff with connect us with you,” she said. “We will answer any questions, and we like to get out and see the community and see what’s going on. So, I think it’s important that if you’re seeking political office, or even if you’re not seeking political office, you still need to educate yourself.”

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