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Women Under-Represented In Wyoming Politics, Structural Changes Could Diminish Disparity

A new report details the under-representation of women in Wyoming politics - both in Cheyenne and on local councils and commissions. But, the report argues, women are successful candidates when they do run, and both structural changes and individual action could encourage more women to run in the future.

In Wyoming, just 16 of the state's 90 state legislators are women, making the 'Equality State' one of the lowest in the nation for female representation at the state level. That's according to a new report produced by the Wyoming Women's Foundation, the Equality State Policy Center, and the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center.

At the state level, women have not always been so under-represented. In the nineties, Wyoming had more women in the legislature than the national average. The state has since fallest to sixth lowest in terms of female representation.

The report highlights how low legislative pay and the unavailability of childcare at the capitol are two things that contribute to the Legislature's gender disparity. Those and other issues make it more difficult for primary caregivers to run campaigns or serve in Cheyenne.

Rebekah Smith, who is the executive director of the Wyoming Women's Foundation, said the legislature was not designed with women in mind.

"And a lot of things haven't really changed about the structure of the legislature that could be changed potentially to make it more accessible to a wider audience of potential candidates," she said.

Smith said that more women in the legislature would mean more focus on issues especially relevant to women, like childcare.

"Women don't necessarily vote as a group, or have all of the same views by any means, and that's certainly not what we're advocating for - we'd like a diversity of voices out there," Smith said. "But at the same time, the research does show that when women serve, they tend to be more supportive of legislation that address issues that affect women specifically, and children."

When women do run for office, however, they are often successful, especially at the local level. The report adds, on average, they out-raise men running for office.

The report further finds that Republican women are more successful than Democratic women when it comes to getting elected at any level in Wyoming. On the Republican side, 82% of the women who ran for a State Legislature seat in 2020 won. Whereas just 25% of the Democratic women who ran for State Legislature seats are now serving in Cheyenne.

Jeff is a part-time reporter for Wyoming Public Media, as well as the owner and editor of the Laramie Reporter, a free online news source providing in-depth and investigative coverage of local events and trends.
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