LatinaLista — No one would ever know that women elected to public office have been flat-lined for the last ten years. In other words, the gains that were made in past decades are on life support.
No one would know that given the media exposure to Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell — one who is not in public office but is stumping like one and the other who is running for Delaware’s Senate GOP seat.
The truth is the United States is lagging far, far behind (90th out of 186) some other countries when it comes to having women in elected office.
As of now, women only make up 17 percent of Congress and 24 percent of state legislators. For Latinas:
Of the 90 women serving in the 111th Congress, 6 are Latina.
Of the 71 women serving in statewide elective executive offices, 3 are Latina.
Of the 1,811 women state legislators serving nationwide, 77 are Latina.
Analysts are predicting that for the first time in 30 years female politicians in Congress will experience a steep decline. The reason is simple:
Part of the explanation is that Democratic women in Congress outnumber their Republican counterparts in what is shaping up to be a favorable Republican year, putting more seats in jeopardy. Also, many of the women were elected in the last two election cycles, making them most vulnerable–and some were elected from districts labeled “not safe” for Democrats.
However, everybody is eyeing 2012 as the turning point election year for women. It’s because districts will be redrawn and reapportioned, creating new and open seats for Congress and state legislatures, thanks to the soon-to-be-released 2010 Census numbers.
Several gender-specific organizations have sprung up to prepare women for this turn of political winds but one organization is specifically setting its sights for the 2012 elections.
The 2012 Project is a national, non-partisan campaign to increase the number of women in legislative office by identifying and engaging accomplished women 45 and older from underrepresented fields and industries. These include finance, science, technology, energy, health, environment, small business and international affairs.
According to the site, a priority will be made to outreach to women of color and diverse backgrounds.
One way that outreach works is to recruit former female politicians to talk to prospective candidates and share their political experiences while encouraging them to run for office. One of the newest co-chairs of this initiative is Polly Baca, the first Latina elected to the Colorado State Senate and former vice chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Baca joins a few other former Latina politicians to convince more Latinas the time is right to not only make their voices heard — but their presence felt.