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Study: MT Women Better Represented at Local Level Than in Most States

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Friday, June 18, 2021   

HELENA, Mont. -- A new study found Montana ranks high for the percentage of women office holders.

Women are steadily becoming more prominent in politics across the country, and the study analyzed whether the trend held true at the local level after the 2020 election.

Jean Sinzdak, associate director of the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University, said there has been a long-held belief the lack of women in office happens at higher levels of government, and there is better representation at the municipal level.

Her center analyzed the number of women in municipal office across the country.

"What we found in doing this study is that women are basically just as underrepresented in municipal office as they are at other levels, including state legislative levels and [the] congressional level," Sinzdak explained.

The data looked at cities with populations of 10,000 or more and found nationally, women hold about 30% of municipal offices. Montana fares better, where more than 35% of offices are held by women, the 11th-highest total in the country. Of Montana's state legislators, 32% are women, the 20th-highest total in the country.

Sinzdak noted local governments were very active during the pandemic, underscoring how important lower levels of government are.

"We want to make sure that women's voices are at those tables," Sinzdak remarked. "And so that's why it's so crucial. For many reasons, it's always been crucial, but even now more than ever, to make sure that women are well-represented when important policy decisions are being made."

Sinzdak pointed out women on the Democratic side of the aisle were motivated to run for office in 2018 and won in record numbers. Republican women followed them in 2020, including Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen, the first Republican woman to hold the position in Montana.

Sinzdak added representation had been ticking up slowly before 2016, but recent elections could propel the country much closer to parity.

"On both sides of the aisle, women got much more engaged in the last four to five years," Sinzdak observed. "So we're hoping this is kind of a bellwether and a sign that women are, across the board, getting engaged in politics and government."

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.


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