Women in the Missouri Legislature
This article addresses the issue of women and discrimination in the General Assembly. It sounds like some women legislators have heard obnoxious comments from their male colleagues, who should cut it out. (Although I’m dubious that sensitivity training is going to have the desired effect.)
I agree that respectful treatment of women is important. But I disagree that some minimum percentage of all representatives needs to be female, as is implied by statements like these:
In Missouri, women hold four of the eight statewide elected offices secretary of state, state auditor, state treasurer and one of the two U.S. Senate seats. But of the 197 state legislative positions, only 39 of the seats are held by women. Ironically, that near 20 percent representation of women is lower than the 25 percent mandated in the Iraqi constitution for the minimum number of women in its representative body.
First of all, what is the point of the comparison with Iraq? Since when do we take our ideas of model government from war zones in the Middle East? If we’re supposed to conclude that as a result women are worse off in Missouri than in Iraq, that’s crazy, because women here enjoy safety, stability, and many other benefits attendant on U.S. residence benefits that far outweigh whatever gains follow from the additional women in the Iraqi legislature.
Still, you could argue that sex quotas in legislatures are intrinsically good, and it just happens to be one thing that Iraq has gotten right and Missouri has gotten wrong. But does anyone really want to enforce strict sex ratios in other occupations? Most ballet dancers are women, even though you can’t perform the great ballets without men. And this article about employment notes that men are much less likely than women to go into nursing only about 10 percent of nursing students are male despite the fact that the demand for nurses is growing. In fact, because women outnumber men in thriving sectors like education and health care, they suffer less from recessions that hit other industries harder:
From last November through this April, American women aged 20 and up gained nearly 300,000 jobs, according to the household survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). At the same time, American men lost nearly 700,000 jobs.
Missouri women should have the opportunity to go into state government if they want to put up with annoying constituents, boring committee meetings, hectic schedules, and looming term limits. But we shouldn’t consign some arbitrary number of women to that fate.