A record number of women will be elected to Congress this year, CNN projects — but barely.
The 149 women who will serve in the United States House and Senate in the 118th Congress will expand the ranks of female representation by just two members above the record set by that Congress.
Alaska pushed women over that threshold Wednesday night when the state determined, through its ranked voting system, that Rep. Mary Peltola, a Democrat, will represent the state’s seat in the House for one term. sold out after winning the special election earlier this year. , while Senator Lisa Murkowski will be re-elected.
Women will break an overall record in the House, with 124 taking office in January.
And not only will women of color break records in the 118th Congress, but within the House alone, there will also be record numbers of Latinas and Black women. There will be four more Latinas in the House for a total of 18 – the most ever – and one more black woman, bringing their total from 26 to 27.
More than half of the new class of 22 freshmen in the House will be women of color, showing the growing diversity of this chamber.
“We’ve seen a fairly steady increase in the racial and ethnic diversity of women as candidates, nominees, and then incumbents at the congressional level, but specifically in the U.S. House,” said Kelly Dittmar, director research at the Center. for American Women and Politics at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers.
“This diversity is still sorely lacking in the US Senate. … We see a stasis there in terms of the number of women of color overall. The number of Asian and Latino women in particular will remain the same, and the number of black women will remain the same at zero.
Representative-elect Sydney Kamlager of California is one of those new voices coming to the House. A state senator, she was elected to replace incumbent Rep. Karen Bass, who will become Los Angeles’ first female mayor. Kamlager said while she’s excited about the diversity of the freshman class, there’s still a long way to go.
“I think people need to stop paying lip service to black women and brunette women and put the money where their mouth is. The fact remains that black and brown women face higher barriers of entry into this job than other women and men,” the Democrat said. “When we run, our contributions are less often than men. We are held to higher and double standards,” she added, noting that female candidates are still often asked why they are not “up to date.” house to take care of your husband or your children.
“People are okay with a mediocre male contestant, but expect the female contestant to go off the charts,” she said.
Representative-elect Yadira Caraveo, a Democrat, is the first Latina elected to Congress from Colorado. A state representative and the daughter of Mexican immigrant parents, she will also be only the second female doctor to be a voting member of Congress. (The first, Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier, won re-election in Washington state.)
“It’s kind of sad that it had to wait until 2022,” Caraveo said, reflecting on the two stages.
Her background in medicine and state politics, she said, prepared her to have to work harder to get “less credit” than her male counterparts.
“It is, unfortunately, something that I have seen throughout my journey, both in medicine and in politics, and, unfortunately, a challenge that you get used to, in some respects, but also, in other ways. ‘other ways, continues to be painful,’ said Caraveo, a pediatrician.
“Even my staff members, you know, when they came on board, really noted the different way I was treated or perceived as a woman of color compared to some of the other applicants who were able to get easier meetings or support from different groups,” she added.
Yet the moment is not lost for these women.
“In Colorado, I didn’t grow up seeing what I am now,” Caraveo said. “The idea of being the first Latina — so not just that it’s a woman but also a woman of color — serving in Congress, hopefully that’s going to make things a little bit easier for the little girls that I’m am busy. in clinic. So that one day they don’t have to talk about being the first of something, their candidacy and their ability to be in office is just a given.
And Caraveo, who will represent a new district Colorado won in the redistribution process, also stressed the importance of what more female representation could mean for lawmaking.
“That sense of collaboration that we approach things with is very different from what my male counterparts often do, I think,” she said.
On the other side of the aisle, the Republicans will break a record with 42 women sitting in Congress. Murkowski and Republican Senator-elect Katie Britt of Alabama are helping bring the number of Republican women in the Senate to nine. And 33 Republican women will serve in the House next year, up from 32 this year.
The incoming class of seven House Republican freshmen includes three Latinas, bringing the total number of Republican Latinas in the House to five.
“Having diversity of thought and experience is, you know, it’s essential to our representative democracy,” said Representative-elect Erin Houchin, who noted that she was the first woman to represent her district of the Indiana.
“It’s like we’re doing something for the next generation,” she said. “It’s especially important to me to set that example for my own daughters, young women.”
Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio has already seen and broken many records as the longest-serving woman in the House. When she is sworn in for another term in January, on the heels of her first competitive re-election in years, she will become the longest-serving woman in all of Congress, breaking the record set by former Maryland senator Barbara Mikulski.
First elected in 1982, Kaptur has sounded the alarm over her party’s dominance by coastal leaders, while heartland and industrial America — and its struggling middle class — are often forgotten in Washington. .
“My most heartwarming realization is that the mandate represents a working class voice – which happens to be a woman,” she said.