The United States’ 119th Congress brings a new wave of women and cultures to the government, leading to a shift in demographics.
According to the National Conference of State Legislators, 25.4 percent of legislators in Missouri are female which is close to the national average for female legislators. Five women were sworn into office, making a total of 50 in the Missouri General Assembly.
The same trend follows Missouri’s representatives in Congress, with only two of the eight made up by women. Former senator Claire McCaskill held the most powerful position of a woman in Missouri but was outvoted by senator Josh Hawley in the election for 2019.
In 2019, the U.S. has seen the largest number in the history of female candidates running for office. This has led to the largest amount of women in Congress, both at the national and state levels.
According to the Pew Research Center, Congress will have a total of 131 women serving in the new year, many with backgrounds from other cultures. Despite women making nationally recognized gains in representation, they make up 28.6 percent, meaning less than one-third.
While women did set a record in the election, they are still far from having the same amount of representation in various lawmaker roles.
Political science major James McQuerrey feels like women have come far given the 19th Amendment passed almost 100 years ago.
“I think the U.S. is making strides, but sadly, for just under two-thirds of this country's history, women didn't even have the constitutional right to vote,” McQuerry said. “It takes time to undo that kind of history.”
Even though women gained the right to vote in 1920, Jeannette Rankin made her way into the Congress two years before that, being the first woman elected to the House of Representatives.
According to the Office of Historians and Office of Art and Archives, Rankin worked toward the women’s suffrage amendment and was the only one to vote against joining both World War I and World War II.
“I may be the first woman member of Congress, but I won’t be the last,” Rankin said in an article from the Historian, Art and Archive offices.
According to the Center for American Women and Politics, a total of 358 women have served in Congress, with the current Congress hosting the largest number to date.
According to The New York Times, the 116th Congress is the most diverse it has ever been. This ranges from the first Muslim-American woman to the first two Native American congresswomen and some who are openly LGBTQ. The demographics of people are very different from the first Congress, which was made up of all-white-male representatives.
General Assembly Rep. Dan Hegeman (R-Mo.) said that he believes more diversity is beneficial to the government.
“I think it is important to have more women and people of different experiences and background involved in the process,” Hegeman said.
Elected representatives are the voices of the people, so having more diversity means they can represent a larger number of people, who may have not had a voice before.
“If a voice for all the people isn't somewhere in the system, then the system has a while to go before it can be considered a democracy that will last,” McQuerry said.
The presidency is the only governing position that has not been held by a woman, but that might not be the case in the 2020 election. There are already several women rumored to be running.