There’s still a gender gap when it comes to positions of power. But 2013 was a notable year for women in politics, in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Here at The Story Exchange, we welcome such progress. When there are more females holding office, it stands to reason we’ll see more gains in women’s health, education and economic empowerment. And of course, we’re all about role models. If “Your Honor” is a woman, that sends a strong message — especially to the younger generation — that any ambitious dream is possible.
Here’s a look at the past year’s milestones.
1. More women head to Capitol Hill and City Hall.
The 113th Congress kicked off in January with a record number of women in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives — 98 female members out of 535 members (although, more dismally, that’s still only 18.3% of Congress, according to the National Women’s Political Caucus). This past Election Day, female mayors were elected or re-elected in a number of cities, including three in upstate New York (Albany, Syracuse and Rochester) and Houston, Minneapolis and Dayton, Ohio. Next year should be a good one to watch: Emily’s List, a group that supports pro-choice Democratic female candidates, recently endorsed Heather R. Mizeur for Maryland governor in 2014. She’d be the first elected openly gay governor and the state’s first female one (and she’s a business owner to boot.)
2. Clinton versus Warren?
Unlike 47 other countries, the U.S. has never had a female head of state….which is why a Democratic-nominee showdown between Hillary Clinton, the former first lady, senator and secretary of state, and Elizabeth Warren, the senator and former Harvard professor, would be rather epic. The scenario became widespread speculation in 2013, although Warren’s camp has pledged she will not seek the White House. One thing’s for certain: there’d be much less fuss over these two powerful ladies if more women ran for public office. But we look forward to more Clinton-Warren buzz in the new year.
3. Hail to the Fed Chief.
Speaking of powerful ladies, Janet Yellen is poised to become the first woman to run the Federal Reserve in the central bank’s 100-year history. What’s particularly sweet is that she won the nomination after Lawrence Summers — the same guy who made remarks about women’s aptitudes in math and science, while he was Harvard’s president — dropped out. Now she’ll just need to get the country’s financial house in order. We wish her luck.
4. Wendy Davis’s filibuster.
First she became a household name in June for speaking for nearly 11 hours (while wearing pink sneakers) to run out the clock on a bill that would have shut down abortion clinics in the Lone Star State. (“It was an amazing moment for democracy in Texas,” she told Anderson Cooper in this video.) Now, Davis is running for governor of Texas. Many say she’s given voice to women and highlighted governmental intrusion into reproductive rights. This much is clear: She brings new meaning to the phrase “stand up and fight.”
5. Women take over in South America.
Nothing like Latin America, home to machismo, for putting the rest of the world to shame when it comes to female empowerment. The year ended with Michelle Bachelet defeating Evelyn Matthei (that’s right — both candidates were women) in Chile’s presidential race. Meanwhile, over in Brazil, Dilma Rousseff is serving as president while in Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is in her second term as that country’s leader. There have been similar gains for women in Central America and the Caribbean. Need some inspiration? Look South.