As women continue to put pressure on federal, state and local governments to help propel their agenda forward, women have decided to take a different approach to accomplishing this goal. Rather than trying to force an agenda through a male-dominated government, women have a better chance of making a difference if they hold just as much power as men in government itself. As of 2018, women only account for 19.8% of Congress, a clear misrepresentation of the gender makeup of the country.
Likewise, state governments are made up of significantly more men than there are women. State committees with strong leadership roles are generally given to men, ultimately allowing them to control many of the key decisions made in state governments.
New York is one of those states guilty of not properly representing the diversity the state holds and keeping men in the most powerful committee chair positions.
After the New York City election in 2017, women were unable to gain the momentum they were hoping for in the city council. Only four women were newly elected into city council seats, and seven returning incumbents were re-elected to the council. Out of fifty-one New York City Council seats, women only represent eleven of them, making their overall representation in city council only a mere 21%. Women also do not hold seats in strong leadership roles like the Finance and Land Use Committees. Although they may have a small fraction of the seats in city council, their power as individual chairpersons may be weaker than men’s.
According to the Department of City Planning, there is a higher percentage of women in New York than there are men. In fact, there is almost a 400,000-person difference between the population of women to men. Having said that, the representation of women in city council does not accurately reflect the makeup of the state itself. This means that the body the council represents is not accurately having their needs heard or met due to the structure of the government.
Women are fighting to change this through movements like the 21 in 21 initiative. The movement is challenging women to hold 21 city council seats in New York by the year 2021. This would mean that ten more women than after the 2017 election would need to fill seats in the council. If successful, this movement would raise the percentage of women in city council to about 41%, closer to being around half of the council.
Beyond movements like the 21 in 21 initiative, public officials are encouraging women to run for all committees in city council, even if they are seemingly male-dominated. In the 2017 elections, the women who were either elected or newly elected in council claim they received the seats they wanted. However, much of the council is encouraging women to branch out to seats they may not have gone for their first time.
While there remains a four-year term in the way of the council makeup changing much, women can use this time to build support for their movement and to launch numerous political campaigns in the meantime. Their fight for office has just begun, and as 2021 approaches, we may be able to witness a major change for women in New York City history.