However you look at it, and whatever your political views, in virtually every corner of political and legal affairs in the United States, the voices and opinions of younger women are more prevalent and loudly heard than ever before. A tour d’horizon of these two areas does not cover the breadth of heightened prevalence of women on television and social media, and in entertainment – one only needs to mention Taylor Swift to say it all.
It is hard to tell if this is a harbinger of long-term trends, merely an accident, a confluence of events and personalities that make it seem so. Only history will tell, but to give a sense of the current strides – if not simply visibility – women have made in various fields, including Congress, the judiciary, prosecutorial roles, and even at the presidential level, compared to the past, consider the following.
Women in the United States Congress
A quarter of a century ago, in 1979, the 96th United States Congress had 17 women in the House of Representatives and 1 woman in the Senate. In 2022, the number of women in the House of Representatives was 124. In the Senate, there were 25 women.
Today, women from both sides of the political aisle, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reflect the increasing visibility, representation, and influence of women in Congress.
For better or ill, they are now widely recognized faces and voices, albeit minorities in some cases, but clearly each of their political parties knows they are forces to be reckoned with.
Women as Judges
All federal court cases begin in the district courts, including civil and criminal cases. There are 94 district courts across the country. Of these 94 courts, there are currently 203 women judges, while there are 418 men judges – that’s nearly 50% of the total. 15 Women make up about a third of the total number of district court judges.
While strictly comparative data is not available, we know that back in 1979, the situation was vastly different: To give a sense of the difference, consider that only 23 women had been appointed to life-tenured U.S. judgeships that year out of a total of 406 district judgeships.
Nowadays, these women judges are playing an increasingly visible role: Two female U.S. District judges are center stage in the United States. Aileen Cannon and Tanya Chutkan are the ruling officials in major cases brought by the Department of Justice against ex-President Donald J. Trump. How they conduct their proceedings will be front and center for the public, and to a certain degree, affect trust in the judicial system.
Women as Chief Prosecutors
Again, comparable data is hard to find but it is highly indicative that since 1959, 34 states have appointed or elected women as attorneys-general. As of 2022, a total of 41 women have held the elected office of attorney general in the United States – surely a sign of changing times.
In 1993, Janet Reno was appointed the first female U.S. attorney general, holding that office until 2001. In 2015, Loretta Lynch was the second woman and the first African American to be sworn in as U.S. attorney general and she served until 2017.
Today, the most pressing challenging judicial assignments are in front of New York Attorney General Letitia James and Georgia Attorney General Fani Willis. Both are the lead prosecutors in civil and criminal cases where a defendant is ex-President J. Trump.
These are women who have managed to climb the prosecutorial ladder, in the past extremely hard for their gender and especially for African American women.
Women at the Presidential level: A hard climb
Since the 19th century, women have run for the office of President or Vice President of the United States – and so far, with modest results. The first woman to run for President was Victoria Woodhull in 1872, while the first woman to run for Vice President was Lucretia Mott in 1848.
In 2016 Hillary Clinton was the first woman to be the major party nominee for president – which for various reasons did not end with her being elected. And as we also know, Kamala Harris is currently the Vice President.
Another woman too is making waves. Nikki Haley was governor of South Carolina and is now running in the Republican presidential primary (admittedly a somewhat long shot). It is conceivable that either Harris or Haley might become the next U.S. President, both having South Asian heritage. Each brings perspectives that often differ from male counterparts, and likely with greater focus on policies that promote gender equality, healthcare access, and social progress.
What happens going forward?
Without question, there have been many women whose careers began in the twentieth century, superstars such as Supreme Court justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, and in Congress, Senator Diane Feinstein who recently passed away after serving for thirty years.
But there appear to be many more high-profile personalities in the center of the public stage circa 2023, and many of them are younger.
Whether you like their politics or positions, the “new” women as a group represent a seismic shift in societal norms and expectations and ultimately translate into greater gender opportunities for future generations.
One day this said “seismic shift” could reach the U.S. presidency with America joining other democracies that have had women at their helm, the United Kingdom with Margaret Thatcher, Germany with Angela Merkel, Golda Meir with Israel, and India with Indira Gandhi – among others.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: The White House. Source: Wikimedia Commons.