Good showings for female Republican candidate in Tuesday's primaries hold the promise of more women in elected office, reflecting society's faster pace toward gender equity.
These ballot victories for women need to be noted, as Congress is still only 14 percent female while only 6 of 50 state governors are women.
Equality in politics has been slow-paced for women compared with other parts of American society. This year, for example, the nation passed an important milestone: For the first time in history, women outnumber men in the workplace. And that trend may only continue as colleges now enroll more women than men.
Voters, of course, don’t always reward a female candidate for being a woman. Just ask Hillary Rodham Clinton, who lost the 2008 race to be a candidate for president. And in heavily Democratic Massachusetts, a January contest for the Senate seat once held by Ted Kennedy went to a state GOP lawmaker, Scott Brown, over Martha Coakley, the state’s attorney general.
While being female may often be an advantage in politics, more contests now also pit a woman against a woman. That will be the case this fall in California, where Barbara Boxer, the incumbent Democratic senator, will face a former Hewlett-Packard executive, Carly Fiorina, a Republican. At the least, such all-female contests can inspire more women to run for office.
Another potential boost for women may lie in this year’s anti-incumbent mood of voters. Male lawmakers, just by their sheer dominance, are more vulnerable, while female candidates are often perceived as outsiders.