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Gender Parity in State Legislatures

So, quick reminder this Monday that Wyoming ranks near the bottom for gender parity in state legislatures.

When we were reading this morning, we were reminded of Wyoming's 3rd-from-the-bottom status on gender parity because of a host of new reporting and research, out today. And what jumped out at us was this commentary:

"The work of policymaking has been designed for people who are retired, independently wealthy or without kids."

So, we've spent the morning digging into the state of gender parity, diversity, and reflective representation in state legislatures. Some recenter research and reporting made this a good day to be thinking about all of this.

Barbara Rodriguez's latest reporting for The 19th News, "Most state lawmakers earn low salaries. It impacts who can afford to be one." comes from her follow up on new research from New American Leaders, State of Pay 2021.

The research--and Rodriguez's reporting--digs into the policy decisions behind the continuing disparities. "Institutional barriers rooted in racism, misogyny, and classism have been perpetuated ... keeping women, immigrants, and people of color from actively participating in our democracy."

They also, very accurately, point out that state legislatures don't have a broad base of class, industry, and work experience represented by their elected members. This is because only certain types of jobs really allow for the kind of unpredictable (and all-consuming) time commitment that most state legislatures demand (for low pay).

Here in Wyoming, we know this to be true. Our state legislature meets in January and February. Cheyenne is far from many, many, many of our legislators' homes making a commute impossible (even if it weren't the dead of winter). There is no access to health insurance, retirement benefits, or childcare. So, in addition to the logistical and geographic challenges, there are significant economic and family constraints, too.

Which prompts us to repeat: "The work of policymaking has been designed for people who are retired, independently wealthy or without kids."

State of Pay 2021 explores why that matters and how we might set about changing the landscape. The report presents five key policy recommendations that would not only help close the representation gap, but also improve representation and policies for all communities. Here are the policy recommendations:

  1. Make state legislatures full time

  2. Create independent compensation committees

  3. Provide funds for full-time support staff

  4. Address the need for childcare

  5. Invest in candidate recruitment and training

We also want to remind you: There are also numerous groups across the country dedicated to the systemic change necessary to elect a more reflective government. These are the groups best positioned right now to (we hope!) elect more women and (we hope!) carry those policy recommendations forward.

And, here in Wyoming, our work at WWAN is dedicated to inspiring action to advance the economic well-being, health, and representation of Wyoming's women and families. We're fortunate to be part of a growing ecosystem of orgs committed to ensuring gender parity across the state. Check out a few of our partners:


Want to read the full State of Pay 2021 report? Of course you do! (Download it right here.)

Download PDF • 2.93MB

Want to get a better understanding of legislator pay in Wyoming and across the county? The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) tracks legislator pay. In this case, Wyoming is at the bottom alphabetically rather than because we rank the absolute worst (or 3rd worst).

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