Thursday, October 17, 2013
Few, if any, would list South Carolina as the most progressive of states, particularly when it comes to women being elected to political office.
The state ranks next to last, behind only Louisiana, in the percentage of women elected to the legislature, and our governor is the only woman elected to statewide office.
The overall picture is certainly not encouraging. Consequently, it wasn’t shocking to see a recent report from the Center for American Progress, a public policy thinktank, give our state a grade of “D” for the overall level of female leadership.
The barriers in place that have created such a lack of advancement are evident, but not exactly simplistic.
The state’s political atmosphere – typically categorized as a “good ol’ boy” network – can be a daunting task to overcome. Nikki Haley impressively traversed it in 2010 when she overcame challenges from three well-known and well-connected male opponents to win the Republican primary for governor. Katrina Shealey pulled off a similarly praiseworthy feat when she became the state senate’s only female senator by knocking off longtime Sen. Jake Knotts in a 2012 race. Those results show our state is moving forward, at least to some degree.
Locally, we’ve made steps as well. The Aiken County Board of Education is headed by Chairwoman Rosemary English. Two women – Gail Diggs and Lessie Price – serve on Aiken City Council. LaWana McKenzie and Kathy Rawls also serve on Aiken County Council. These women offer inspiration and provide a key voice in our community.
With more women being elected to office, optimism can grow and perhaps encourage more local runs for council or service positions on boards and commissions. Additionally, organizations such as the bipartisan S.C. League of Women Voters are working to increase the number of women elected to office.
We’re pleased to see the political makeup changing for those serving in South Carolina, an undoubtedly positive step for our state.
However, at this point, it’s unfortunately clear that it’s not going far enough or fast enough to be considered true progress.