With women sitting atop half the Senate committees, it may feel like there are plenty of women in Congress, but the sad reality is only 18.9% of Congress is female. But every year, those numbers have been inching up and this cycle the share of women in Congress is set to finally breach 20%, according to new research.
Hitting the unprecedented 1:5 female/male ratio depends on the midterm elections, according to numbers compiled by Rutgers’ University’s Center for American Women in Politics. There are 15 women running for the Senate, 10 Democrats and five Republicans. Four are incumbents, three Democrats—Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, North Carolina’s Kay Hagan and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire—and one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine.
Seven are running in states with open seats: Republicans Terri Lynne Land of Michigan, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Joni Ernst in Iowa; and Democrats Michelle Nunn in Georgia, Natalie Tennant in West Virginia Montana’s Amanda Curtis and Oklahoma’s Constance Johnson.
Four are challengers: Republican Monica Wehby in Oregon and on the Democratic side Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes, Maine’s Sheena Bellows and South Carolina’s Joyce Dickerson. But, overall, the number of women running for the Senate is down from the 18 women who ran in 2012.
On the House side, there are 108 Democratic women running and 53 Republicans. For Democrats, that number is down from the 118 Democratic women who ran in 2012. For Republicans, that number is slightly up from the 48 women who ran in 2012. That’s a victory for Republicans who have improved on their ability to get women through their primaries. Overall, however, they recruited 13% less women to run than the 107 GOP women who filed to run in 2012. This year, just 95 did despite a big recruitment push by GOP groups.
On the whole, slight gains are expected in both chambers, meaning the number of overall women in Congress could, finally, breach 20%.