Mississippi is one of only two states to never elect a female member of its congressional delegation.
That was one of the anecdotes Lydia Quarles and Pam Johnson presented Monday at the lunch meeting of the Stennis Capitol Corps. The two were going over the details of Ready to Run Mississippi, an initiative designed to get more women to seek public office.
“When women are in decision-making positions, quality of life improves for everyone,” said Johnson, who works in issues advocacy for several nonprofit organizations. According to an index maintained by the United Nations, women make up 81 percent of the healthcare workforce in the U .S.; the same index says that women outnumber men 3-1 in education jobs.
Yet out of the country’s 100 largest cities, only 12 have female mayors, said Quarles. And only 90 of the 535 total members of Congress are women, she added.
“Women should be on the front lines for good education and quality healthcare,” said Quarles, a policy analyst for the Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University.
Quarles and Johnson each said Mississippi’s progress for women in the political arena has been uneven. While two of the state’s eight statewide elected officials are women – treasurer Lynn Fitch and agriculture and commerce commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith – only 15 percent of the Legislature is women. That’s up from 14 percent.
“Women should have an equal say,” Johnson said. “Men don’t have to be asked and trained to run for office. Women do.”
Ready to Run Mississippi will hold a two-day event June 22-23 with the aim of getting more women on the ballot. To register – men are allowed to attend – go to www.sig.msstate.edu.