Fort Greene

Why are there so few women in city government?

City Council report looks at reasons

August 24, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilmember Laurie Cumbo is co-chairperson of the Women’s Caucus. Photo courtesy of Cumbo’s office

Thirteen of the City Council’s 51 members are women. That’s barely a quarter. And the number could drop to as low as nine after the Nov. 7 election, according to the findings of a new report on gender equity in New York City politics.

Commissioned by the Women’s Caucus of the City Council, the report, “Not Making It Here: Why Are Women Underrepresented in New York City Politics,” was officially released on Thursday.

Councilmember Laurie Cumbo (D-Fort Greene-Clinton Hill) is the co-chairperson of the Council’s Women’s Caucus.

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“Not Making It Here” looks at the declining number of women in the City Council, how New York compares to other American cities, and how the number of female lawmakers has an impact on public policy.

Female legislators were expected to speak at a press conference of the steps of City Hall Thursday morning to announce the release of the report. Members of the Women’s Caucus were set to be joined by representatives of women’s and girls’ groups, and community-based organizations that will speak to the profound importance of having women’s voices within the City Council. 

The report was released two days before Women’s Equality Day. Aug. 26 commemorates the 1920 certification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave women the right to vote.

“Not Making It Here” identifies several factors that hold women back from running for elected office. The factors include a lack of awareness of their potential for success.

When women run for public office, they win elections at nearly equal rates with men, the report found. But evidence also showed that men are 40 percent more likely than women to consider running for office in the first place.

Another obstacle to women entering the political arena: family responsibilities. Women with children are often reluctant to run for office out of fear that they will cease to be present for their children.

The report also found that women face discrimination in politics. 

The report calls for a number of steps to remedy gender inequality in the City Council, including additional funding for nonprofit organizations that support women in public life; workshops on running for office for female college students; increased mentorship opportunities; and a dedicated staffer for the Women’s Caucus.

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