EMILY's List president decries the decrease in number of women in political office

04/11/11 Dawn Morgan Elliott
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EMILY’s List is a political action committee that raises money for pro-choice women Democratic candidates. This weekend Emily’s List president Stephanie Schriock was in Tampa raising to fund their programs. It was hosted by former Tampa City Council member Linda Saul-Sena. WMNF’s Dawn Morgan Elliott spoke with Schriock about the recent decrease in the number of women in state and national politics.

"It is shocking to me after 15 years of working in Democratic politics that women are only 17 percent of Congress. And to put a finer point on that number, the U.S. is 90th, nine zero, 90th in the world for the percentage of women elected to office in our country."

Recently Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus wrote that the number of female state legislators fell by 1% percent this year, which is equal to 81 positions. What can you say about that?

"We did slip in the percentage of women in state legislatures. In fact, in Congress this last election resulted in the first decline in the percentage of women in Congress in the over 30 years. We lost ground. And as I look at it, and we see a significant amount of opportunity in 2012 to regain a lot of seats that we lost in 2010, and we’re really busy recruiting women all over the country, including right here in Florida, to run for the House of Representatives to gain that back and to even start increasing our numbers again."

Part of the mission of EL is to support Democrat candidates who support a woman’s right to choose. Do you think there will ever come a time in America when the issue is simply up to the individual woman and her partner?

"Boy, I’d like to hope that sometime in our lifetime that we’ll get to a place where we just allow individuals in this country to make personal choices about their health. We are not quite there and, in fact, in the last 3 months, particularly of Congress but also in the state legislatures including, again, right here in Florida, we have seen some very extreme positions to start moving the clock backwards after decades of fighting for women’s freedoms. There’s a sense that we should be back in the kitchen. This is a really sad moment, we are at a tipping point, and if we don’t continue focusing on the importance of women, and women’s abilities to make choices about their life, all kinds of choices, whether its health or family, or career, if we don’t keep focusing on that, we will start losing it."

I don’t know if this is the official slogan, but it’s prominent on the EL website: “When women vote, women win!” Can you expand on that?

"I’m going to clarify it even more so, “When women vote, Democratic women win!” And Democrats win. And we see this continuing gender gap between the Democratic party and the Republican party. And it’s why I feel it’s so important to recruit so many more women this year on the Democratic side because I see such an opportunity as women around the country are watching the war on women that the Republican Party has begun waging on all of them, whether you’re a senior citizen who depends on Social Security and Medicare, or if you’re a young woman who depends on birth control, all of this is under attack, and this is our time to come together multi-generations and insure we elect more Democratic women and that’s exactly what we’re going to do."

Here is the full interview

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