This month Hillary Clinton secured the Democratic Party’s nomination for president of the United States – shattering the highest glass ceiling. In California, two women of color advanced to the general election to replace U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, continuing the tradition of sending women to represent our state in the U.S. Senate. Great news, right? Not really.
If you take a closer look at women in elected office in California, the numbers are not as bright.
Look at what may happen in the Assembly, where women could gain only one seat after the November election. Currently, 19 women serve in the Assembly, and that number could increase to 20. But the number could remain stagnant or even decrease by one. The best-case scenario is that women will hold 25 percent of seats in the Assembly.
The news is not any better in the Senate, where 12 women serve in the upper house. Our group, California Women Lead, projects that five women will be elected and one race is too close to call. Potentially, women could lose up to two seats, holding only 25 percent of the Senate. Five women are not up for re-election in this cycle.
Looking at the House of Representatives, women represent 19 of the 53 congressional seats from California. After the November election that number could decrease by three to 16, or 30 percent.
Why does this matter? In an election year that made history for women at the national level, women in California still have much work to do in terms of gaining parity in elected office.
On the local level women represent 28 percent of city council seats. After Angelique Ashby lost in the race for mayor of Sacramento in the June primary, only one woman, Libby Schaaf of Oakland, serves as mayor of one of the 10 largest cities in California.
We know more women are qualified, and we know women make great leaders in elected and appointed office. Gov. Jerry Brown knows that too; he has worked with California Women Lead and met our goal of 50 percent of his appointees being women.
Facebook was flooded with photos of little girls who now see a woman running to be president after Clinton cinched enough delegates to win the nomination. Older women who never thought they would see a woman elected president in their lifetimes were brought to tears with the thought that the final glass ceiling could be broken.
While there is much to celebrate in California – the first state with two women U.S. senators, the first woman speaker of the House – we need more women to run for office, more women to apply for political appointments and more women supporting each other.
There is reason to be optimistic. State Board of Equalization Chairwoman Fiona Ma is campaigning to become state treasurer in 2018, state Sen. Jean Fuller leads the minority party in the Senate, and Los Angeles County is on the verge of having four women serve on the Board of Supervisors.
California Women Lead believes we need gender diversity on our elected and appointed boards, and we continue to strategize on how to increase the number of women serving. The diversity of women’s voices is important to policy discussions that impact all Californians, and we want to make sure our voices are equally represented.
Rachel Michelin is CEO and executive director of California Women Lead. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.