Linda Lowen, Will 2013 Be a Groundbreaking Year for Women?

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  • How are things shaping up for women in 2013?
  • Are the headlines from the first two weeks of the new year any indication of what’s to come?

Congress Kyrsten_Sinema_605_ap

We saw lots of firsts in the 2012 election, with most of them having to do with the religion, sexual orientation and gender of winning candidates. says The Fix, Chris Chillizza.

Below are the ones we have cobbled together. What did we miss? The comments section awaits.
(And we will include the best ones in future updates.)

  • First president since Great Depression to be re-elected with unemployment rate above 7.2 percent: Barack Obama
  • First openly gay person elected to the Senate: Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)
  • First Buddhist elected to the Senate: Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii)
  • First Asian-American woman elected to the Senate: Hirono
  • First Japanese-born person elected to the Senate: Hirono
  • First Hindu elected to Congress: Rep.-elect Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii)
  • First openly bisexual person elected to Congress: Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)

House-711Three stories that have topped the list: a new Congress chock-full of women — more than ever before, particularly in a Senate that’s now 20% female; a changing Cabinet where the notable women who have chosen to step down are being replaced by white males — appointments President Obama is being criticized for; and a departing Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, whose ill health has been the cause of much speculation.

U.S. House of Representatives

This new high of 78 female Representatives is 5 more than the previous record of 73 set between 2009 and 2012. Of these women, 59 are incumbents who won re-election (42D, 17R) and 19 are new to Congress (16D, 3R).

Of the newcomers, 15 won House seats that were open either by redistricting or retirement (12D, 3R) and 4 defeated incumbents in the House (4D). Three non-voting delegates from Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Washington, DC were re-elected.

The freshmen female Representatives in the House are as follows (listed by party designation and alphabetical order by states):

Democratic Newcomers to the House

  • Arizona – Ann Kirkpatrick, Kyrsten Sinema
  • California – Julia Brownley, Gloria Negrete McLeod
  • Connecticut – Elizabeth Esty
  • Florida – Lois Frankel
  • Hawaii – Tulsi Gabbard
  • Illinois – Cheri Bustos, Tammy Duckworth
  • Nevada – Dina Titus
  • New Hampshire – Ann McLane Kuster, Carol Shea-Porter
  • New Mexico – Michele Lujan Grisham
  • New York – Grace Meng
  • Ohio – Joyce Beatty
  • Washington – Suzan DelBene
  • Republican Newcomers to the House
  • Indiana – Susan Brooks, Jackie Walorski
  • Missouri – Ann Wagner

Nearly a third of the newcomers are women of color and all are Democrats:

1 African-American – Joyce Beatty
3 Asian Americans – Tammy Duckworth, Tulsi Gabbard, Grace Meng
2 Latinas – Lujan Grisham, Negrete McLeod
They help make up a record number of 28 women of color (26D, 2R) in the House:
13 African Americans (13D)
9 Latinas (7D, 2R)
6 Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders (6D)

U.S. Senate


HousewomenThe Senate also tops out with a record number of women — 20 (16D, 4R) in the 113th Congress, making that body fully 1/5th female for the first time in history. This was an increase of 3 from the 17 women serving in the Senate in 2012 (12D, 5R).

Of the 11 women (10D, 1R) who won Senate seats in the 2012 elections, 5 were newcomers and 6 were incumbents; they join the 9 women (6D, 3R) who were not up for election this year.

The 5 freshmen female Senators are as follows (listed by party designation and alphabetical order by states); all won open seats except for Elizabeth Warren who defeated an incumbent:

Democratic Newcomers to the Senate

  • Hawaii – Mazie Hirono
  • Massachusetts – Elizabeth Warren
  • North Dakota – Heidi Heitkamp
  • Wisconsin – Tammy Baldwin
  • Republican Newcomer to the Senate
  • Nebraska – Deb Fischer
  • Incumbents Re-elected to the Senate (all Democrats):
  • California – Dianne Feinstein
  • Michigan – Debbie Setabenow
  • Minnesota – Amy Klobuchar
  • Missouri – Claire McCaskill
  • New York – Kirsten Gillibrand
  • Washington – Maria Cantwell

Other Notable Female Firsts

maggie hassanThe ‘only woman‘ nominated for governor by a major party in the 2012 election, Democrat Maggie Hassan won in New Hampshire, making that the first state ever to have an all-female Congressional delegation as well as a female governor. The top five elected officials (governor, two Senators, and two House Representatives) are all women.

Four states — Hawaii, Massachusetts, North Dakota and Wisconsin –– elected a woman to the Senate for the first time, while in Nebraska the first woman elected to serve a full term in the Senate was Deb Fischer.

  • Tammy Baldwin is the first openly gay person ever elected to the Senate.
  • The first Asian American elected to the Senate, Mazie Hirono, is also the second woman of color to ever serve in the Senate as well as being the first Senator born in Japan.
  • Tulsi Gabbard is the first Hindu-American in Congress.

Two new women in the House are also military veterans: Tammy Duckwork and Tulsi Gabbard.

And finally, for the first time every state legislative body in the nation has at least one woman serving.

South Carolina broke that final barrier by electing its first woman to the State Senate.

Source:Record Number of Women Will Serve in Congress; New Hampshire Elects Women to All Top Posts.” Press Release from the Center for American Women and Politics, Rutgers University, CAWP.rutgers.edu. 17 November 2012.

 
debra whiteMy former colleague Deborah White, who recently left as About.com’s Guide to Liberal Politics to blog at Liberal Politics USA, asks whether more women in politics means more protections for women.

She focuses specifically on VAWA (the Violence Against Women Act which failed to be authorized by the House in 2012); the Paycheck Fairness Act; House hearings on birth control and women’s health; and whether bills that will benefit women will be passed this year.

Her conclusion is not heartening: “[U]ntil women hold 50% of Congressional seats, and not 18.3% as in the new 113th Congress, the presence of a handful more Congresswomen does not portend more bills passed to provide protections, security, and equal opportunities for women. ”

At The Broad Side, Joanne Bamberger addresses criticism of Obama’s most recent Cabinet appointments to point out that throughout U.S. history, only 26 women have been members of a presidential Cabinet. She writes, “It’s not unusual for cabinet-level appointees to leave the White House in a second term. Those jobs have high burnout factors,” and shares some facts about the women who’ve served in Cabinets past and present through an info-graphic courtesy of NerdWallet.

Women in the Presidential Cabinet

Via: NerdWallet

As for Hillary Clinton’s poor health at the end of her time as U.S. Secretary of State eclipsing her accomplishments, syndicated columnist Froma Harrop praises Clinton while also condemning her for failing to “show more dedication to self-preservation.”

In her most recent column “Can Hillary Pace Herself?”

Harrop observes:

clinton back at workThe football helmet that State Department staffers presented Hillary Clinton upon her return to the office was cute, but only sort of. Same went for the “Clinton” football jersey bearing the number 112. That’s how many countries she’s visited since becoming secretary of state….

No secretary of state had gone to that many countries. In her nearly 1,500 days as America’s top diplomat, Clinton traveled on 401 of them.

During one famous 48-hour period, she met with Palestinian officials in Abu Dhabi, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and, after doing an all-nighter in Morocco, a group of Arab leaders.

Of course, she got sick. Who wouldn’t?…

What’s not cute about all this is the underlying — shall we say? — irresponsibility of so over stuffing the agenda. This blows against Clinton’s reputation as the ultimate Responsible One. It’s thus disturbing that many of her admirers portrayed the resulting sickness as a tribute to her work ethic.

About that work ethic…my biggest issue with Harrop’s piece is that she conveniently ignores the fact that gender bias remains an inherent part of the political system.

A female political figure, whether elected or appointed, has to struggle against criticism of whether she’s fit for the task because she may possibly be distracted/compromised because she’s a mother of children still at home, a wife with a husband whose job is demanding, or a ‘crazy woman’ whose menstrual cycle makes her unfit during her time of the month.

Every successful woman I know has a work ethic that far outstrips the majority of her male colleagues. She has to…otherwise she wouldn’t succeed because the deck is stacked against her.

This is the same work ethic that put more women in the House and Senate and got them appointed to Obama’s first-term cabinet in record numbers. Criticizing Clinton’s work ethic — and saying it may make her unfit for a presidential run in 2016 — is a form of gender bias. Would Harrop feel this way about a man?

We’re still within the early weeks of 2013, still feeling our way forward in a year that looks like it may bring greater opportunities than ever before. Here’s hoping that they pan out.

RELATED: In 2009, Obama Appointed More Cabinet Women Than Any Other Incoming President

 

linda lowenLinda Lowen, About.com

A former radio/TV broadcast journalist, Linda has won national awards for her coverage of women’s issues. She’s been featured on ABC’s Good Morning America and NPR’s Talk of the Nation, and has been interviewed by the New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle.

Experience:

Linda is a 2009 recipient of the Exceptional Merit in Media Award (EMMA) from the National Women’s Political Caucus for her article on gender biased media coverage of 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. She was also honored twice by Women in Communications with the Clarion Award for Best Women’s Issues Programming.

During her career as a broadcast journalist, she created, produced, and hosted women’s issues radio and television programs for NPR and PBS station affiliates including the award-winning talk show Women’s Voices. Linda is also a member of the Women’s Media Center Progressive Women’s Voices program and the National Cancer Survivor’s Day Speaker’s Bureau.

Education:

Linda attended single sex Wells College (now coed) and graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in English. Her undergraduate studies included coursework in communications and broadcasting at Cornell University and graduate studies in communications design at Syracuse University.

From Linda Lowen:

Although women make up over half the US population, we’re rarely included as experts, commentators, or talking heads on TV news shows. Why is it rare to see women at the table discussing substantive topics? Because we aren’t media decision-makers; in fact, only 3% of media ‘clout’ positions are held by women. Yet when given the chance to speak out, women have plenty to say.

Every Woman I’ve ever interviewed has been reluctant to end the conversation, even after the mic was turned off. It’s our response to centuries of silence. For generations, women have been seen but not heard. Not anymore. Every woman needs to find her voice…to realize her thoughts have value just as she has value.

Perhaps we only earn 77 cents on every dollar men make. But my goal is to help us all embrace two truths:

  • We’re worth every penny.
  • It’s time for a raise.

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