2022 Elections, Elections, Features

Women are running for office in increasing numbers across state and nation

Women's March
Ariana Aghill, co-organizer of the Women’s March, points her microphone to the crowd during her speech on Oct. 8, 2022. The number of women running for office in Massachusetts and around the country has increased. CLARE ONG/DFP STAFF

Governor-elect Maura Healey will be leading Massachusetts as the state’s first female governor and behind her, female Democratic candidates were elected as lieutenant governor, attorney general, state auditor and state treasurer.

More and more women are running for political roles across the nation. While the political stage is still largely dominated by men, in 2017, 27% of the seats were held by women counting both the House of Representatives and the Senate, indicating a 50% increase from a decade ago, according to the Pew Research Center.

A record 148 women were initially sworn in for the 117th Congress, which holds a total of 156 female members including representatives, delegates, resident commissioners and senators — the current largest number of women in political roles, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

Shauna Shames, an associate professor of political science at Rutgers University, said 2018 saw an increase in women running for political roles, mimicking the former jump in 1992.

“Particularly for women of color, it was kind of an explosion of younger and non-white women running which was a really exciting moment,” Shames said.

Shames said she expects fewer women will run as Republicans and more will run as Democrats because as the Republican party gets more “increasingly conservative” or “polarized,” women as a whole are less likely to move towards that end.

“They are pulling from an ideological base which are more likely to be white and male,” Shames said of the demographic Republicans target.

Women account for 40% of House Democrats and 32% of Senate Democrats, compared with 14% of House Republicans and 16% of Senate Republicans, according to the Pew Research Center.

Democrats also have more funding for women, Shames said, notably through political action committees and fundraisers such as Emily’s List. Shames said “there is nothing like it on the Republican side.”

Isaac Killilea, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Science, said he thinks the two main motivations for women to run for office are “representation” and “institutional change.”

“Being able to be a format of leadership for representing who you are as a person, having that identity role is really important and being able to kind of show that influence,” Killilea said, “and then there’s also the aspect of having more of that, wanting to set up precedents and wanting to have institutional change on the way that things are run.”

Ogechi Ukwuoma, a sophomore in the College of General Studies, said, given recent events, certain issues like abortion are affecting women more.

“When you think about abortions and how that’s been politicized, things like that [are] things that affect us personally,” Ukwuoma said.

Aman Shahzad, a sophomore in CAS, said female politicians often don’t get the same amount of recognition and respect as male politicians. While white male political candidates are subject to the most online abuse, female candidates are most subject to racial and violent verbal abuse, including misinformation, according to a study by the Center for Democracy and Technology.

“Without women in politics, change won’t be made,” Shahzad said. “A lot of men don’t really put an effort to make changes because the system already benefits men.”

The same study states that women of color women are subject to the highest form of misinformation. Killilea said that there should be programs to build up women, specifically Black women, to ensure they have a strong support system.

Ogenna Oraedu, a sophomore in CGS, said women in politics “are treated much more harshly” because of how “society views women as irrational.” For example, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was called a “b—” by another representative, who was male.

“She not only had to use that and try and twist it in a positive way for herself, but she had to face that one of her coworkers was so comfortable with calling her a b— in the workplace,” Oraedu said.

Oraedu said she hopes Black women and girls interested in politics know they deserve a spot in politics as much as a white man does.

“It’s really hard to want to actively change [and] better a system that has been keeping people like you down for generations,” Oraedu said.

Ukwuoma said it’s important to have more representation in office.

“It makes me feel a lot better to see a lot more women,” Ukwuoma said. “They’re mainly fighting for causes that I personally care about.”

Oraedu said she thinks people in politics should actually represent the demographics of the country.

“I would like to see more people of color, more queer people,” Oraedu said. “Not that politics is a show that needs to be diversified. I think politics represents the people, and the people are diverse.”

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