Last week several women across the country were elected into political office. But in Louisiana the number of female elected officials remains low. Lauren Vizza talks with experts across the state and shares what factors need to change for the political landscape to do the same.
The 2016 presidential election is one the world will remember for many reasons, but part of what made it historical was the first female nominee of a major political party. Suddenly women in public office became a dinner conversation.
Nichole Baur has a PHD in political science and spends her time specifically researching how voters evaluate women running for office. She shared with me the national and local outlook.
Baur, “Looking at the dynamics of congress which has more women in it than it ever has before it has 105 women and if you add the house and senate together that’s 105 out of 535. That’s not a very impressive number and its only changed by 3 or 4 percentage points in the last decade.”
On the state level Louisiana ranks towards the bottom when it comes to female representation in the legislature at just 15.3 percent.
Baur, “That comes from a couple of factors. The partisan dynamics here in Louisiana don’t always favor female candidates. When women run for office they tend to run for democrats and this is not a very democratic state. There aren’t a lot of districts that women can safely run in as democrats and there are women who run as republicans and win elected office in Louisiana. And in order for them to get into elected office they have to overcome dynamics in local party networks within the republican party that might not always think right away “oh a woman, we should be fielding her for public office”
Locally and nationally the numbers haven’t really moved that drastically. The reason? Some would say prejudice against female candidates.
Dr. Mark Leeper, “It’s not voter prejudice that hold women back studies show that women are better candidates are better prepared realise more money when you control for everything and win more against male counterparts. So that’s not the answer. It’s just that they don’t run, but the explanation is complex.”
Possibly the most difficult obstacle.
Nichole Baur, “Women have to be recruited. Someone has to knock on their door and say we want you to run for this political office. Men don’t need to be recruited. Women need to just throw themselves into the political arena. They need to sign up for political office and don’t wait for the local party to recruit them. Show the local party they are viable candidates. And once they take that first tep it gets much easier for republican and democratic women to get in the door.”
Recently elected district 9 state representative Dodie Horton worked as Henry Burns legislative assistant for 8 years.
Dodie Horton, “And so he chose to run for the senate and I was encouraged from not only family but constituents to run because they trusted me.”
These three showing that no matter the political party the best way for these numbers to change is for women to take the leap and run.
Dodie Horton, “Everything you have been through is directing you. Go with it. Don’t question it. You are who you are and you have so much to bring to the table. Do not let gender stop you. You are just as qualified.”