Had Hillary Clinton become the United States’ first female president, she likely would have inspired other women to run for office. Clinton, of course, lost this month’s election, but her defeat is still pushing women into politics.
The Washington Post reports that Clinton’s loss and Donald Trump’s victory have spurred some women—disappointed with the outcome—to take action beyond marching in protests and signing petitions.
A 22-year-old college student named Mia Hernández told the Post that she plans to make a bid for a San Jose City Council seat or a spot on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors in 2020. “Everybody says organize, don’t mourn, make a change,” she said. “So I said to myself, ‘How am I going to be an active member in this? You know what, I need to run for office. I need to be a part of that decision-making. I need to make sure Trump’s voice is not the only voice out there.’”
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Another 22-year-old, Alexandra Melnick of Florida, is planning to run for a local school board after she completes her graduate degree. She said “it’s incredibly ironic” that Trump’s victory—seem by some as validation of his oftentimes misogynist rhetoric—would motivate women to pursue elected office.
It should be said that not all women voters are disheartened by Trump’s victory. He got a big boost from white women, 52% of whom cast ballots for the businessman. But in securing the majority of the female vote, Clinton recorded a gender gap—the difference between the number of men who voted for her and the number of women who voted for her—of 13 percentage points. That’s the single largest such gap since the exit poll surveys began in 1972.
Running for office could serve as an outlet for some of the frustrated female voters who supported Clinton, and the phenomenon—while limited—comes at a time when women really need to be prodded into politics.
Based on the outcome of this month’s election, the number of women in the U.S. Congress will remain unchanged at 104, and the number of female governors will fall to five from six, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. In the 115th Congress, which will convene January 3, there will be 21 women in the Senate and 83 women in the House. In the previous congressional session, there were 20 women in the Senate and 84 in the House.
That means women make up about 19% of both chambers overall, a figure that puts the U.S. near the middle of the pack compared to other countries. Before the November 8 vote, the U.S. ranked 97th out of 193 countries in terms of women’s parliamentary representation, according to figures compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
In October, the New York Times dug into the reasons behind women’s startling underrepresentation in the United States’ government and found a variety of research that says women are as likely as men to win office. The real problem is getting women to run in the first place. They are less likely to be urged to run by family, friends, and party leaders, which is especially detrimental since they are less likely to run without being encouraged.
But the outcome of the 2016 presidential election seems to be all the motivation some women need.
A Trump administration could prove problematic for some women—depending on their ideology— since it could restrict access to abortions and birth control and work to defund Planned Parenthood. But if women like Hernández and Melnick make good on their plans to run for office, inspiring more women to pursue politics could be one—perhaps unexpected—upside.