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Nevada Near Top In Number of Women In The Legislature

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Casey Morell

Nevada is used to being near last on metrics such as quality of life and education. But this year, Nevada is a leader in one category: number of women in the state house.

Thirty-nine point seven percent of the members of the 2017 Nevada Legislature are women. That's second only to Vermont, which is three tenths of a percent higher at an even 40 percent.

Kelly Dittmar is a professor at Rutgers University and a scholar for the Center for American Women in Politics. 

She said they're looking at Nevada's success and trying to translate it to other states that are not as close to parity in the Legislature as Nevada is.

“We know nationwide some of the most important factors are recruiting and supporting women candidates,” she said.

She said it is important for party leaders to tap women to run, to have women as part of the discussion about who to choose to run, and having women who have served encourage other women to run, which could be a big factor in Nevada's numbers.

“There is a history of women in office in Nevada," Dittmar said, "It is not something new to have women in leadership whether at the state level, in Congress, or at the state legislative level." 

Dittmar said there are several reasons why it is important to have more women lawmakers.

Support comes from

One is that it is just fair. Women are a little more than half the population but on average only make up 25 percent of lawmakers in statehouses across the country. 

Another reason is that women bring different experiences with them to policy making. Women are more likely to be primary caregivers and more likely to have faced discrimination than men.

Those experiences inform the priorities they have in office, Dittmar said.

“We know overall – beyond politics – that having diversity of perspective and opinions on any decision-making table yields better decisions, more thought out positions and policies that will hopefully have a better impact on everyone," she said.

There is also a symbolic reason for wanting more women in office. Young women who see women in leadership roles can more likely envision themselves running for office. 

Guests

Kelly Dittmar, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Rutgers-Camden

; Scholar, Center for American Women and Politics, Rutgers-New Brunswick