By Katie Zoglin, Emerge California Class of 2013
On Monday, the California State Legislature will swear in its largest freshman class in over 70
years. This class will bring in what has been described as a “Democratic supermajority” but
also a reduction in the number of women representing Californians in Sacramento. The State
Senate and Assembly will see a total of 31 women — or 26% of the legislature — down 3 from
the previous session.
Which states have the greatest percentage of women in their state legislatures? As of last year,
Colorado topped the list with 40%, followed by Hawaii with 35%, and Vermont with 32%. At
the bottom of the list was South Carolina with 10%.
The United States, which in many respects is a trailblazer for women’s rights, has a poor history
when it comes to women in elected office, particularly at the national level. According to
the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the US ranks approximately 82 in the world, in terms of the
representation of women in the lower house of national legislatures. Most Americans would be
surprised to learn that Rwanda tops the list, with a majority of women in its lower house; even
Pakistan elects a higher percentage of women than does the US.
Through Emerge and other programs, we can work to change this state of affairs, state by state,
and election by election.