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Office of Her Own: Female Lawmakers Defy Hurdles

House Education and the Workforce Committee member Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., attends a conference of House and Senate negotiators try to resolve competing versions of a rewrite to the No Child Left Behind education law, on Nov. 18, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin / AP, file It is a problem that goes far beyond …

Image: Rep. Frederica Wilson

House Education and the Workforce Committee member Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., attends a conference of House and Senate negotiators try to resolve competing versions of a rewrite to the No Child Left Behind education law, on Nov. 18, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin / AP, file

It is a problem that goes far beyond politics.

Women are doing well at building their own campaigns but the lower numbers of women running for office is a reflection of a glass ceiling of across professions, said Michele Swer, an American government professor at American University.

“You seem to have more women that are college graduates but very few women that are on the boards of fortune 500 companies,” Swer said. “So at the highest levels, there seems to be this ceiling where you get smaller percentages of women.”

PARTY SUPPORT

The few who do seek office often run into issues netting broader support for their candidacies, political experts and lawmakers said.

In 1992, the year Maloney initially ran for Congress, heralded a sudden increase in the number of Democratic women in federal office.

According to the Center of American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, of the 100-seats in the Senate, there are 16 Democratic women and four female Republicans.

There are 62 Democratic women and 17 female Republican lawmakers in the 435-seat House.

Swer believes the partisan disparity is because of the polarization of American politics”.

“Since the 1970s, women’s groups have become a more important part of the Democratic activist base and Democrats rely on specific segments of women voters to help them win elections,” Swer said. “These voters and the Democratic base of feminist groups value diversity in politics and want to see more representation of women in Congress so they are more willing to support and donate to women candidates and are more responsive to calls to elect more women and minorities.”

Women often also “have to build (their) own campaign and convince local parties that you are a valid candidate by raising a certain amount of money” Swer said.

Democratic groups, such as Emily’s List, which supports pro-choice Democratic women running for congressional and gubernatorial office, can offer influential support which is a defining factor for success of a candidacy. Republicans have groups that advocate for female candidates such as Maggie’s List, a political action committee focused on electing conservative women, and Susan B Anthony List, a group which back pro-life candidates.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, believes that the differences in the numbers of Republican and Democratic women in Congress partly has to do with personal choices.

Image: Rep. Marsha Blackburn

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