We’ve been excited here at WVFC to see so many women in their prime appointed to important posts in the new administration, from Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State to Hilda Solis (seen above) as Labor Secretary. However, as Allison Stevens pointed out at Women’s eNews this week, many if not most were talented members of the House and Senate — adding to the ongoing challenge of increasing the number of women in both houses. She notes that experts agree the U.S. is not near the critical mass we really need:

In a study of 12 state legislatures Thomas found that when women held at least 1 in 5 state legislative seats, they were more likely to sponsor and push forward women-friendly legislation such as funding for domestic violence shelters and stricter child-support laws.

Marie Wilson, head of the White House Project, a nonpartisan organization in New York that works to elect women to all levels of office, sets that “critical mass” bar higher, at 33 percent. That’s closer to women’s percentages in legislatures in Scandinavian nations, which have typically led the world in working toward gender equality.

Worldwide, 18 percent of national legislative seats are held by women, according to the Geneva-based Inter Parliamentary Union. It ranks the United States 71st in the world for female representation in government. Twenty-three nations have at least 30 percent women in their lower houses in national assemblies.

Before mentioning upcoming Fall races, Stevens’ piece leads with some hot special-election races, including the battle for Solis’ California House seat between Democratic Assemblymember Judy Chu (left)  and Republican entrepeneur Teresa Hernandez (right), as well as the long-shot quest of conservative Rosanna Pulido to succeed White House chief of staff  Rahm Emanuel. (Web Watch: Stevens didn’t mention  that Pulido’s Web site is deploying every newfangled Internet tool she can find, from Youtube to Facebook to Twitter, to try to beat the odds.)

Since presidential administrations come and go but elections only get more expensive, we think it’s time for all of us to consider making the next reinvention running for office. Boot camps like those from Ready to Run and other women’s organizations can get you started. That magic 31 percent will not happen unless we’re all in.

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