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Since women make up more than 50 percent of the total population, one standard might be that women should hold half the elected positions, but obviously there is no agreement on what is the right number or the number that might indicate progress in achieving better representation. Given its education and income level of the state's population, New Jerseyans might expect that women would comprise a larger percentage of elective officials in their state.
Another aspect is what appears to be the "pipeline problem." The low number of women mayors raises questions about how well the base is built for women to move on to higher office. On the other hand, more than a third of the county offices are held by women, but apparently this does not lead to moving on to the legislature.
In discussing numbers of women in office, the question arises about why we should care that more women serve in elected positions. Three ways of answering that question are:
The matter of fairness becomes particularly important when addressing the barriers to women achieving elective office and raises the questions of why they are not included in an affirmative manner. As for talent, this concept, which encompasses knowledge and experience, recognizes that women have a demonstrated track record of educational achievement, and leadership in political and civic affairs that is useful to society and therefore should not be ignored.
Making a difference means that having women elected officials shapes a different outcome in the public policy process. Research studies, including seminal studies conducted by the Center for American Women and Politics, show that "despite differences in party control, political climate, and ideology...., the presence of women made a difference in shaping the terms of debate and in the public policy outcomes."
The concept of "more" also implies that there are actions that can be taken to up the percentages of women holding elective office. Once women achieved the right to vote, the next effort was to promote the women's role in government and prepare them for public office. Read more about strategy and leadership on Increase the Numbers page.
Given all the efforts women have organized to attain political office and the evidence they have marshaled that women's involvement makes a difference, why doesn't it happen? The reasons are probably embedded in our political structure. Find out more on the Barriers page.