The number of women in Congress may finally have cracked 100 this year, but with Republicans in charge, don’t expect to see those gains reflected in leadership. As reported by both Nia-Malika Henderson of the Washington Post and Rachel Maddow this week, Republicans announced the chairmanships for next year’s House committees. Twenty out of 21 of the spots are going to men. The only woman is Rep. Candice Miller, who will be heading the Committee on House Administration.
Compare this with the list of chairmanships for the Democratic-controlled Senate in 2013, where women chaired six out of 20 committees, including really big ones like the Senate Budget Committee. The Democrats also fail as spectacularly as the Republicans on the racial diversity front, but the fact remains that they are the more female-friendly party not just in electoral representation but also when it comes to putting women in leadership positions in Congress.
It’s true, as my colleague Jessica Grose has argued, that it’s overly simplistic to assume that women are “a uniform voting block with uniform ideas about what is best for them.” There are plenty of female Republicans, both voters and politicians, who don’t feel like this election was “bad for women.” However, it’s also true that numbers like this matter. Democrats have more women in leadership in part because they just have more women altogether, as our chart showing the growth of female representation in Congress demonstrated. But also because the party puts women in positions of power, a move, whether meant consciously or not, that likely encourages more women to run for office as Democrats.
“Still, Republican strategists and some of their top politicians—including several who will fill out the party’s presidential ranks in 2016—have made clear that it’s extremely important for their party (and its leadership) to look more like America than it currently does,” Henderson writes. Emphasis on “look.” Republicans know well enough to get people like Joni Ernst and Mia Love out in front of the cameras. But when it comes to appointing people to leadership positions, decisions that most Americans don’t pay much attention to? It’s back to business as usual.