Women and their political impact
Although underrepresented, women’s votes are crucial to the outcome of this election.
Figures from the Federal Election Commission show that a record number of women have filed papers to stand for election. In 2012, 296 women filed for election to a House of Representatives seat and 36 filed for a seat in the Senate.
Twenty-two women serve in senior or Cabinet-level positions in the Obama administration. Many of these positions are critical to U.S. foreign policy and security, including secretary of state, ambassador to the United Nations and secretary of homeland security.
Forty-five men serve in senior Cabinet-level positions.
Diana Palardy, interim director of women’s studies at Youngstown State University, said this reflects the historical trend that men are appointed to the highest-ranking government positions at a rate of 2-to-1.
At 50.8 percent, women compose the majority of the U.S. population. Despite this majority, women are still insulated from a comparable representation in government and politics.
According to the Center for American Women and Politics, the U.S. is ranked 78th in terms of women who participate in government.
No woman has ever served as president of the U.S. or the vice president. Only two women, Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin, have ever been on the presidential ticket of a major party. Both were vice presidential candidates.
There are 91 women serving in the 112th U.S. Congress, representing 17 percent of the total seats. Non-voting delegates hold three of these seats. Seventy-four of these seats are in the House of Representatives, and 17 are in the Senate.
The latest diversity survey by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management shows that 44 percent of federal employees — excluding postal workers — are women. Of the total white-collar positions, 82 percent were of a professional, administrative or technical nature. However, only a little more than one-fourth of these occupations are senior-level positions.
There are 301 women sitting on the federal bench, reflecting 22 percent of the total judgeships. There are three women on the U.S. Supreme Court. This represents 75 percent of all women who have ever served on the nation’s highest court.
At the state level, there are six governorships held by women — in North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and Washington. Twenty-three states have never had a woman serve as governor.
Both presidential candidates are trying to attract female voters by highlighting what their administrations would do to continue the advances women have made.
Palardy explained that the voting trends of women are informed by more than the traditional “women issues.”
“Contrary to popular thought, female voters in both political parties are just as concerned, if not more so, about the economy in this election as they are about social issues,” Palardy said, citing a study conducted by the Pew Research Center. “For the past three decades, women have voted more based on issues related to whether or not they want a bigger government with more services for women, the poor and the elderly, or a smaller government with fewer services.”
She added that women tend to vote Democrat.
“The last time that the majority of women favored a Republican president over a Democratic one was in 1980 and 1984, when Ronald Reagan ran for president, though in George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, the gender gap was not nearly as pronounced as it is now,” Palardy said.
Opinion on campus reflects the varied factors women are taking into account when they enter the voting booth.
Kelli Froats said abortion is one of the most important issues to her.
“I’m definitely pro-life. I just can’t support someone who supports murder,” she said. “Any private business should be able to restrict access to contraceptives. If it’s a government agency, it’s fine [to mandate access], but private businesses should have a choice.”
Brittany Yoho said she thinks Barack Obama has a better plan for the middle class and for student loans.
Megan Carter also discussed what would influence her choice in November.
“My support for gay marriage,” she said. “I like Obama’s health care plan. Romney’s tax plan, I don’t think it’s fair.”