Why are Republican women the minority in Washington? That is the question Erika Lovley of POLITICO.com explored this week. Women make up 51% of the United States population, but in Congress, the numbers are far from representative. Of 435 men and women in Congress, only seventeen of them are Republican women, and just four of 99 Senators are female members of the GOP. And if 2008 is any indication, things aren't getting much better. Despite having Alaska Governor Sarah Palin on the ticket as the Vice Presidential candidate in November, there were 96 women on the ballot for the Democrats, only 37 Republicans. Political science professor, Laurel Elder told Politico,
"Republican women are more reluctant to throw their hat in the ring because they don't see a lot of women like themselves in leadership or on the news. This idea that the GOP is just going to treat everyone fairly hasn't worked. If the GOP wants more women, they're going to have to do more than just recruit women. They need to urge them to run"
Several Republican members of Congress agree with Elder's statement. Representative Pete Sessions (R-Texas) claims the Republican party is focusing on "finding highly qualified female candidates who can effectively convey the Republican message," but former Representative Thelma Drake (R-Virginia) claims the negative press coverage and harsh accusations from opponents is enough to turn women away from politics. When news broke that Governor Palin's seventeen year old daughter was pregnant, the Palin family was often subject to negative and downright hateful treatment from the media and many liberal groups. Drake tells Politico she is still angry at the effect television ads had on her own grandchildren,
"For Republican women to say, ‘This is something I want to subject my family to’ — it’s a big role.' It’s difficult to find people to run for office, and it will be more difficult in the future because of the tones in campaigns."
Republican National Committee Co-Chairwoman Jan Larimer claims the RNC is taking notice and making a push to recruit and train women to run for office in 2010.
"Part of our goal is to dramatically increase the number of Republican women running for office. Chairman Steele and I agree that we must redouble our efforts to build a strong grass-roots organization that encourages participation by every Republican in every state and territory."
With this issue on the table, it will be interesting to see just what happens in 2010and 2012 regarding female Republicans. Will the national presence of Governor Palin influence more women to run for office or will the treatment of her family and other various other issues send a message that has women shying away from politics in general?