Why Does Representation Matter?
We cannot underestimate what it means to see people in power who look like us, come from similar backgrounds and represent similar values. It matters that girls and young people of all races and backgrounds can see a path to leadership-political or otherwise. But simply seeing others in these roles does not give young people a path to achieving their goals nor does it change the inequities that persist in all aspects of our society. As we celebrate success, it is also important to reflect on ways representation in leadership can translate to progress. It only truly matters if it changes policy, norms and opportunities outside the halls of power. Fortunately, there are examples of how increased representation can have real consequences.
Female Members of Congress are More Effective for their Districts: A study of Congress from 1984 to 2004 showed that female legislators sent 9% more funding back to their districts compared to their male counterparts.
Female Members of Congress Focus More on Women’s Issues: A 2005 study found that female liberal members of congress sponsored an average of 10.6 bills related to women’s health- twice as many as their liberal male counterparts.
Congressional Black Caucus Leads on Police Reform: Members of the Caucus have been sponsoring legislation for years, without much success. There seems to be more of an urgency around addressing racism. The Black Caucus are trusted leaders who can sponsor legislation and have the political capital to get it passed.
We should celebrate the increased diversity in our federal government. It did not happen by chance. It happened because so many raised their voices, changed policies, and voted to elect those who see the value in the lives and dreams of all. It is also imperative that that work continue here in our state, in local communities and in nonprofit, healthcare, and businesses throughout the region. All of us must do what we can to increase the representation of women and people of color across all sectors, as doing so will promote greater equity.