Women outnumber men in all but one of the 5 largest cities in the United States, but there’s no contest when it comes to representation in local government. There, women are nowhere near men’s ranks.
LA (2nd largest city in the U.S.)
The most shameful example of the lack of female representation on a city council is in Los Angeles. As of today, there is only one, ONE, female city council member out of 13. Yes, Monica Rodriquez just won a seat, but she hasn’t started work yet. When she does, women will represent about 15 percent of the total number of seats on LA’s City Council. There are almost 5 million women in LA. Come on ladies, can just 5 of you get elected?
Population: 3, 976,322 (as of July 2016)
NEW YORK (ranked #1 largest city in the U.S.)
New York has 51 council districts representing its five boroughs (Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island). Only 13 of the 51 council districts are represented by women, that’s about 25 percent. Way to put the “Man” in Manhattan NYC.
Population: 8,537,673 (as of 2016)
CHICAGO (ranked #3)
There are 12 women out of 50 alderMEN elected from 50 wards. Women make up about 24 percent of Chicago’s city council even though women out number men in the general population.
Population: 2, 704,958 (as of July 2016)
HOUSTON (ranked #4)
Okay, Houston does have a few more men living in the city than women, but still out of 11 city council members only 3 are women. Based on population, it should be more like 5 or 6. Houston, we have a problem.
Population: 2,303,482 (as of July 2016)
PHILLY (ranked #5)
Rounding out the top 5 largest cities in America is Philadelphia. There are 10 council members in Philadelphia and 4 are women. That’s 40 percent. But, women make up more of the population and are therefore still underrepresented.
Population: 1,567,872 (as of July 2016)
SAN FRANCISCO (ranked #13)
SF didn’t make the nation’s top 10 list, but the city by the bay is killing it with the ladies. SF has more women on its board of supervisors (they don’t have a city council) than men, in spite of the fact that men out number women in the general population. The Board consists of 11 members and 6 are women.
Population: 870,887 (July 2016)
AUSTIN, TEXAS (ranked #11)
Sorry SF, things are bigger in Texas. Austin has 11 members on its city council and incredibly 7 are women, even though there are more men in the general population. Yeehaw!
Population: 947,890 (as of July 2016)
City councils have the power to directly effect people’s lives in small ways like banning plastic shopping bags to raising taxes on cigarettes, soda, and gas, to bigger issues like approving development projects that can transform cities for the better or the worse. The New York City Council is expected to propose a subsidy to help pay the subway fare for low-income workers. That could help a lot of people.
IF WOMEN RULED THE WORLD
If more women were in city government would they govern differently than men? Some research from around the world shows that women tend to be more collaborative and bipartisan. They advocate for policies that support women, children and social welfare. And they, allegedly, interrupt less and listen more. If women out numbered men in government, would it change anything?
“Women have the great potential to govern differently. But my expectation is that’s going to be less overt than behind the scenes, because the reality is you have to play the game as the game’s played.” – Lyn Kathlene is a political scientist and director of the Spark Policy Institute
We can’t know what impact women can have until their numbers are more accurately represented in government. There are five female governors in the U.S (out of 50) and only 104 women in Congress (19 percent of seats). It’s unclear why more women don’t run, but that trend may be changing.
EMILY’S List helps women get elected. In 2015 and 2016 about 920 women reached out to EMILY’S List for assistance obtaining public office. Just since Election Day, over 13,000 women in every state across the country have contacted the organization. Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’S list told the New York Times:
“We’ve never seen anything like it.”
It may be just a matter of time before more women step up to the plate and take the opportunity to lead. If you’re interested in running for office, here are a few groups that can help.
“[W]hen I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]? And I say ‘When there are nine.’ People are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”- Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
*Most recent population information available for gender.
Feature image courtesy of kleferpix – iStock.