Video by Ilea Shutler. Produced by David Fritze.
“Conversations” is a series of video interviews with Oklahomans about subjects that relate to some of the state’s larger issues. The 2016-2017 series is sponsored by the Chickasaw Nation and is made possible by a grant from the Institute for Nonprofit News.
The voices of women in the Oklahoma Legislature are relatively faint: With 21 serving, they make up only 14.1 percent of legislators, although women comprise more than half of the state’s population.
In a comparison of legislatures by gender makeup by the National Conference of State Legislatures, Oklahoma ranked second lowest in percentage of lawmakers who are women, tied with South Carolina. Wyoming was last.
Reps. Elise Hall, R-Oklahoma City, and Emily Virgin, D-Norman, were elected to the Oklahoma Legislature in 2011 at a young age: Hall was 22, and Virgin was 25. Their experiences speak to the challenges and potential for women to take up more seats on the state House and Senate floors.
Oklahoma is not without women in high positions of state government and the courts. The state as a female governor, superintendent of public instruction and commissioner for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Two of the nine justices of the Oklahoma Supreme Court also are women.
Women in State Legislatures
About a quarter of state legislators across the country are women, with proportions among states ranging from 13 percent in Wyoming to 42 percent in Colorado, according to research from the National Conference of State Legislatures..
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