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Nancy Smith

To Integrate the Tallahassee Men's Club, More Women in Positions of Power

January 2, 2018 - 6:00am

If you think about it, the scandalous events that played out in Tallahassee in 2017 should have come as no surprise. Women in America are still fighting battles they thought they won in 1920 when the 19th Amendment was ratified.

Government is and always has been a men's club. So, why would it ever have occurred to Sen Jack Latvala, as carefully as he'd mapped out his power trip, that a young woman walking the same corridors might not be flattered, but rather offended by his sexual advances?

I maintain that without significant numbers of women in power, the "club" the male culture built in the capital and in every capital in this nation will stand brick for brick just as strong as it is now in 100 more years: In a manner of speaking, the men will continue to retire to the parlor with their brandy; the women will gather out of earshot, engaging in a conversation the men should but never, ever will hear.

Maybe you're unaware, but a whole lot of countries have more to celebrate when it comes to women in government than the United States does. In the past two decades, the U.S. has sunk from 52nd in the world for women’s representation to 104th today, according to data compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union. In the past year alone, the US has dropped nine places — from 95th to 104th — among more than 190 countries.

Think about it: Females currently make up more than half the population in the country, yet they’re represented by a Congress of 80 percent men. This isn’t just an equal representation issue. The proportion of women in government profoundly affects how all of society views women.

Today, around half of the nations in the world use some kind of gender quota in government, according to the Global Database of Quotas for Women.

Says Internet news service Vox, "Take, for example, Bolivia. Twenty years ago, it ranked 98th for women’s representation, and as recently as 2008, only 16.9 percent of its representatives were women. But in 2009, the country passed a constitutional amendment requiring equal gender representation in government. The Bolivian legislature is now 53.1 percent women and ranks second in the world."

OK, gender quotas don't sound like the American way to me, either. But it's pretty alarming to discover that most African nations have a higher percentage of women in elected office than we do.

Approximately 1,843 women served in the 50 state legislatures in 2017. They make up 24.9 percent of all state legislators nationwide. Compare that to Nordic countries like Finland and Sweden, where women make up just over 40 percent of the legislature.

Claire Cain Miller, writing for the New York Times, reports these results of the November 2016 election:

  • The number of female governors dropped from six to five.
  • The number of women in Congress stayed the same at 104, or 19 percent of the seats in the House and Senate. One seat was gained in the Senate and one lost in the House.
  • Thirteen states sent no women to the 115th Congress.

Back to Florida ...

Last year during session, Florida seated a total 40 women -- 27 in the House and 13 in the Senate -- out of a total 160-member Legislature. That puts us at 25 percent women -- an easily dismissed number. Nationally, we're in the middle.

My main point is, women bring different skills and priorities to governance. Without significant numbers of women in power, their voices are not heard, their issues not prioritized, passed or, sometimes, even heard. They will continue to be relegated, the down-culture of our time, the next time, the all time.

No wonder Jack Latvala doesn't know what hit him. Women trying to matter -- where did this come from?

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: NancyLBSmith


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