Was 2018 another year of the woman? Dr. Kira Sanbonmatsu, senior scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, recently spoke about the political topic during her lecture at PC. More than 100 PC students, faculty and staff, and community members attended the event.
“This election has been very interesting. At the center, we’ve been keeping statistics, (and) I’ve never seen so much interest in our data,” said Sanbonmatsu, who is also a professor of political science at Rutgers. “This has been a historic year for women candidates.”
Her lecture, “The (Un)surprising Role of Women in Election 2018,” explored the role of women in politics and was the second in the annual Samuel C. Waters Lecture Series in Political Science. This lecture series was established through a gift from Samuel C. Waters, a PC graduate and an attorney in Columbia, S.C. The annual lecture series aims to highlight the value and relevance of the scientific study of politics by hosting scholars as guest speakers to address a wide range of contemporary political and policy issues.
Sanbonmatsu discussed the number of female candidates in the 2018 elections, noting that 53 women filed for U.S. Senate seats, and 476 women filed for the U.S. House, according to data from the CAWP. After the elections, women now hold 20 percent or 107 seats in the 114th U.S. Congress. Women also achieved a number of “firsts” in these elections, including the first Native American women, the first Muslim women and the youngest woman to serve in Congress.
Sanbonmatsu also noted that the first female U.S. senator from Tennessee, Republican Marsha Blackburn, was elected, as well as the first female U.S. senator from Arizona, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.
Although 2018 did signal many accomplishments for women, Sanbonmatsu also indicated gaps in gender parity in politics remain, particularly as the number and proportion of Republican women have been declining in recent years. She encouraged students in the audience to be the generation that “fixes” this problem, demonstrating that women’s presence as elected officials improves the health of representative democracy.
“This was a wonderful opportunity for the members of the campus and the local community to engage in discussion with one of today’s leading political scholars about the role that women play in congressional elections,” said Dr. Booker T. Ingram, chair of the Political Science Department and Director of Diversity and Inclusion at PC.