By Kelley McCormick | April 24, 2017 | Culture
Women didn't win any additional seats in Congress in 2016, but they did make it more diverse than ever.
The future is female (CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT): Tammy Duckworth, Catherine Cortez Masto, Pramila Jayapal, and Kamala Harris are among the women breaking barriers in both the Senate and House of Representatives.
While the highest and toughest glass ceiling remains unshattered, the 2016 election delivered a different milestone—the most diverse Congress in terms of race, gender, and religion. Yes, the 115th US Congress is still overwhelmingly white and male compared to the overall population. But, as we look for both signs of spring and signs of hope, let’s acknowledge that nearly one in five voting members of the House and Senate represents a racial or ethnic minority. Our Congress is inching ever closer to looking like our country—and women are leading the charge.
It’s true that the number of women serving in the House and Senate remains flat at a meek 19 percent. But the number of women of color is set to quadruple with Tammy Duckworth, the first Thai-American in the Senate; California’s Kamala Harris, the first black woman in the Senate in nearly two decades; and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, the nation’s first-ever Latina senator. These trailblazers will join Hawaii’s Mazie Hirono, who in 2012 became the first Asian-American woman to gain a Senate seat.
The House also made gains, welcoming its first Vietnamese-American female member, Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), and the first Indian-American congresswoman, Pramila Jayapal (D-WA).
Groups such as She Should Run, Running Start, and Emerge are reporting that interest among women considering political office has not been this intense since the early 1990s, following the Anita Hill hearings. It’s not about breaking into the old boys’ club, but creating the new girls’ club.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY EVAN AGOSTINI/GETTY IMAGES (DUCKWORTH); AL SEIB/LOS ANGELES TIMES VIA GETTY IMAGES (HARRIS); TOM WILLIAMS/CQ ROLL CALL (JAYAPAL); BILL CLARK/CQ ROLL CALL (CORTEZ MASTO)