407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481  NJLM logo 
William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director

Woman in Politics
The Glass Ceiling

By Ingrid W. Reed

One of the many programs at the League's November 2003 conference in Atlantic City was titled "Why Aren't There More Women in New Jersey Politics?"

Nothing has happened since then to change the appropriateness of asking that question again in 2004. But, it is a loaded question. The use of the word "more" implies that there are not enough women in politics and that there might be a right or adequate number. Each person could probably come up with a different assessment.

How Many More? 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.

Why Do We Need Women in Government? 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: it is fair; society needs their talents; and, they make a difference.

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...." (See www.cawp.rutgers. edu for research studies).

What Women Do to Increase the Numbers 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.

The strategies to do so take three main courses: focus on younger girls in high school and college to introduce them to women who are role models and encourage their involvement in politics; provide opportunities for women to get information, training and support for running for office; and, promote the appointment of women in politics and government to give them experience and visibility for pursuing elective office as well as political leadership. In New Jersey, many different groups have taken up the cause. For example, Republican women organized the Christy Todd Whitman Excellence in Public Service Series to train about 20 women each year to become active politically. Eagleton's Center for American Women and Politics has programs that focus on all three ways of improving women's participation in political life.

The new leadership program educates and empowers college women to participate actively in politics and public policy making through a well structured week-long session. Begun in New Jersey, the concept has spread to a number of other colleges around the country.

Ready to Run is a day-long program to help New Jersey women get the political skills they need to run for office. The next session is scheduled for Saturday, April 24.

And, since its inception in 1980, the Bi-Partisan Coalition for Women Appointments, staffed by CAWP, has encouraged women to submit their names for appointment to State government positions, boards and commissions and brought names to the attention of the Governor. It has also advocated for the appointment of women and assessed the record of appointing women.

What are the Barriers? 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 imbedded in our political structure.

The strength of incumbency and inherent difficulty for challengers to achieve change affects all newcomers, women prominently among them. Since incumbents overwhelmingly are men, there is not much of a chance for women to break in unless they are willing to be forceful challengers and some examples of success exist.

In addition, New Jersey still has both a strong tradition and laws that leave the decisions of who runs to the chairs of the county political parties, nearly all held by men. Women report that without women in leadership roles, the old boys' network will continue to favor those with whom they are familiar and in many cases have groomed. The nature of campaigns themselves nasty and negative may discourage women's participation. They wonder why anyone would want to be part of the current mode of political campaigning. Consequently, women are seeking other routes for public involvement through non-profit organizations and issue-oriented campaigns.

Finally, raising money has often been cited as a reason women don't enter into politics or don't succeed at it, but recent studies by national organizations, Emily's List (Democrats) and Wish List (Republicans), show that if women are given the chance to run, they get financial support and they generate it successfully.

The "More" Question Gets Different Answers For the moderator of the November League program, Phyllis Marchand, the Mayor of Princeton Township and the panelists, State Senator Shirley Turner, Kim Ricketts, former member of the Highland Park Council and former Assemblywoman Ginny Weber, the answer was clear. Yes, women elected officials are critically important participants in New Jersey's political life and there should be more. The same response came from the large and enthusiastic crowd that made up the audience. The response from outside the room at Convention Hall, while not heard and documented, is probably not as firm or committed to change and clearly plays a big role in answering the "more" question.

The Numbers

Here are the facts about the number of New Jersey women in politics, compiled by my colleagues at Eagleton's Center for American Women and Politics:

Level of Office

Women
Comments in 2004
Congress
0
As a result of the 2002 election, the New Jersey Congressional delegation does not include any women. This is the first time this has occurred since 1975. Before 1975, there was only a short gap in the 1950's when New Jersey did not have a woman in the US House of Representatives since Mary Teresa Norton (D-Hudson) served from 1925-1951. New Jersey has never had a woman US Senator.
Governor
0
New Jersey is one of 26 states that has ever had a woman governor. Christine Todd Whitman, New Jersey's first and only woman governor, was the second Republican woman in the nation to be elected governor. Currently, 8 states are led by women governors (Louisiana, Michigan, Hawaii, Montana, Delaware, Arizona, Kansas and Utah).
Cabinet
5
Governor McGreevey has five women serving in his cabinet. This represents 27 percent of his 19 member cabinet.
Legislature
19
Women make up 15.8 percent the New Jersey Legislature. New Jersey ranks 43rd among the 50 states in the proportion of women serving in its legislature. Women hold 6 of the 40 available Senate seats and 13 of the 40 available Assembly seats.
Freeholders
36
26.3 percent of New Jersey's 137 county freeholders are women. Five women serve as freeholder directors or chairs. Four counties have no women freeholders (Cape May, Hudson, Ocean and Warren).
County Officials
23
34.8 percent of the 66 elected positions known as constitutional officers are held by women. They include county clerks, registers, sheriff and surrogate.
Mayors
72
12.7 percent of New Jersey's 566 municipalities are headed by women. There are women mayors in all but three counties (Atlantic, Hudson and Salem).
County Party Chairs
4
Two women chair Democratic County Committees (Salem and Union) and two women chair Republican County Committees (Camden and Salem). In addition, The chair of the Democratic State Committee is a woman, Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman.

 

 

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407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481  NJLM logo 
William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director

Woman in Politics
The Glass Ceiling

By Ingrid W. Reed

One of the many programs at the League's November 2003 conference in Atlantic City was titled "Why Aren't There More Women in New Jersey Politics?"

Nothing has happened since then to change the appropriateness of asking that question again in 2004. But, it is a loaded question. The use of the word "more" implies that there are not enough women in politics and that there might be a right or adequate number. Each person could probably come up with a different assessment.

How Many More? 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.

Why Do We Need Women in Government? 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: it is fair; society needs their talents; and, they make a difference.

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...." (See www.cawp.rutgers. edu for research studies).

What Women Do to Increase the Numbers 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.

The strategies to do so take three main courses: focus on younger girls in high school and college to introduce them to women who are role models and encourage their involvement in politics; provide opportunities for women to get information, training and support for running for office; and, promote the appointment of women in politics and government to give them experience and visibility for pursuing elective office as well as political leadership. In New Jersey, many different groups have taken up the cause. For example, Republican women organized the Christy Todd Whitman Excellence in Public Service Series to train about 20 women each year to become active politically. Eagleton's Center for American Women and Politics has programs that focus on all three ways of improving women's participation in political life.

The new leadership program educates and empowers college women to participate actively in politics and public policy making through a well structured week-long session. Begun in New Jersey, the concept has spread to a number of other colleges around the country.

Ready to Run is a day-long program to help New Jersey women get the political skills they need to run for office. The next session is scheduled for Saturday, April 24.

And, since its inception in 1980, the Bi-Partisan Coalition for Women Appointments, staffed by CAWP, has encouraged women to submit their names for appointment to State government positions, boards and commissions and brought names to the attention of the Governor. It has also advocated for the appointment of women and assessed the record of appointing women.

What are the Barriers? 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 imbedded in our political structure.

The strength of incumbency and inherent difficulty for challengers to achieve change affects all newcomers, women prominently among them. Since incumbents overwhelmingly are men, there is not much of a chance for women to break in unless they are willing to be forceful challengers and some examples of success exist.

In addition, New Jersey still has both a strong tradition and laws that leave the decisions of who runs to the chairs of the county political parties, nearly all held by men. Women report that without women in leadership roles, the old boys' network will continue to favor those with whom they are familiar and in many cases have groomed. The nature of campaigns themselves nasty and negative may discourage women's participation. They wonder why anyone would want to be part of the current mode of political campaigning. Consequently, women are seeking other routes for public involvement through non-profit organizations and issue-oriented campaigns.

Finally, raising money has often been cited as a reason women don't enter into politics or don't succeed at it, but recent studies by national organizations, Emily's List (Democrats) and Wish List (Republicans), show that if women are given the chance to run, they get financial support and they generate it successfully.

The "More" Question Gets Different Answers For the moderator of the November League program, Phyllis Marchand, the Mayor of Princeton Township and the panelists, State Senator Shirley Turner, Kim Ricketts, former member of the Highland Park Council and former Assemblywoman Ginny Weber, the answer was clear. Yes, women elected officials are critically important participants in New Jersey's political life and there should be more. The same response came from the large and enthusiastic crowd that made up the audience. The response from outside the room at Convention Hall, while not heard and documented, is probably not as firm or committed to change and clearly plays a big role in answering the "more" question.

The Numbers

Here are the facts about the number of New Jersey women in politics, compiled by my colleagues at Eagleton's Center for American Women and Politics:

Level of Office

Women
Comments in 2004
Congress
0
As a result of the 2002 election, the New Jersey Congressional delegation does not include any women. This is the first time this has occurred since 1975. Before 1975, there was only a short gap in the 1950's when New Jersey did not have a woman in the US House of Representatives since Mary Teresa Norton (D-Hudson) served from 1925-1951. New Jersey has never had a woman US Senator.
Governor
0
New Jersey is one of 26 states that has ever had a woman governor. Christine Todd Whitman, New Jersey's first and only woman governor, was the second Republican woman in the nation to be elected governor. Currently, 8 states are led by women governors (Louisiana, Michigan, Hawaii, Montana, Delaware, Arizona, Kansas and Utah).
Cabinet
5
Governor McGreevey has five women serving in his cabinet. This represents 27 percent of his 19 member cabinet.
Legislature
19
Women make up 15.8 percent the New Jersey Legislature. New Jersey ranks 43rd among the 50 states in the proportion of women serving in its legislature. Women hold 6 of the 40 available Senate seats and 13 of the 40 available Assembly seats.
Freeholders
36
26.3 percent of New Jersey's 137 county freeholders are women. Five women serve as freeholder directors or chairs. Four counties have no women freeholders (Cape May, Hudson, Ocean and Warren).
County Officials
23
34.8 percent of the 66 elected positions known as constitutional officers are held by women. They include county clerks, registers, sheriff and surrogate.
Mayors
72
12.7 percent of New Jersey's 566 municipalities are headed by women. There are women mayors in all but three counties (Atlantic, Hudson and Salem).
County Party Chairs
4
Two women chair Democratic County Committees (Salem and Union) and two women chair Republican County Committees (Camden and Salem). In addition, The chair of the Democratic State Committee is a woman, Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman.

 

 

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