Only 26 of the California Legislature’s 120 members are women – nine Senators and 17 Assemblymembers. Women serve at all levels of leadership, including my position as Minority Floor Leader and Senator Patricia Bates, the current Senate Minority Leader.
Surprisingly, no woman was elected to the state Senate until 1976, and none were elected to the Assembly until 1918, having received the right to vote in 1911. When I was elected in 2012, I was the 138th woman elected to the Legislature.
While men hold 1,735 city council slots in California’s 482 cities, women hold 795 council seats, 46 percent of the total. Only 72 cities or 15 percent have a majority of women on the council, and only 137 cities or 28 percent have a woman mayor. There are 56 cities or 12 percent with no women on the city council. At the county level, women hold 76 of 296 supervisor seats, only 25.6 percent, and five counties, including Los Angeles, have a female majority. Currently, 14 counties have no female supervisors.
Women bring a different perspective to elective positions. As a wife and mother, my family’s health and well-being are always priorities. The need to balance home, family, my small business and legislative duties guides me in my committees, the bills I have introduced and co-authored and my keen desire to make sure California remains safe, prosperous and economically viable for our children’s future.
Today some barriers that once kept women from positions of leadership are largely gone, but in politics, the issues of money, time away from home and negativity in the election process are some reasons more women are not stepping into the political arena. Inspiring and encouraging women leaders can enhance public policy discussions and political engagement.