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Female minorities smashing glass ceiling in congress

  • January 31, 2017
  • , Nikkei evening edition , p. 2
  • JMH Translation

The congress that convened in January has a record number of minority female members. Women of Hispanic and Indian descent appeared on the Senate floor for the first time. Minorities are steadily breaking the “glass ceiling” in the American political system.


Former California Attorney General Kamala Harris is one of the new senators. Of mixed Indian and Jamaican heritage, she is regarded as a new leader who can accomplish what Hillary Clinton could not. During a speech at the Washington Women’s March on Jan. 21, Harris told an enthusiastic crowd, “It’s going to get harder before it gets easier,” but “there is nothing more powerful than a group of determined sisters marching standing up for what is right.” Her sharp questioning of the Trump administration’s cabinet nominees at confirmation hearings has been noticed by many.


Another speech was given by Tammy Duckworth, a senator of Thai decent who lost both of her legs in the Iraq War. Duckworth urged the marchers not to stop here, but to get involved in politics by running for office.


Catherine Cortez Masto was the first Hispanic woman elected to the Senate. The first Vietnamese-American and Indian-American were elected to the House of Representatives.


According to Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics,104 female lawmakers joined the Capitol. Although the total number of females in Congress is about the same as the last year, minority female ligislators reached a record number of 38.


Kelly Dittmar, an assistant professor at Rutgers, says that more women with diverse backgrounds have become interested in a political career, and many of those women have a better chance of winning office on the strength of their abilities and more robust support bases.


Dittmar says the victory of Donald Trump, who presented himself as “masculine,” over Hillary Clinton, who was much denigrated during the campaign, might have deterred some women from entering politics by making them think it’s a men’s world.


Dittmar further analyzes that people’s expectation of qualifications and experience for female candidates tends to be higher than that for male candidates. If a female candidate meets the expected qualifications, however, people often criticize her as being “aloof,” as was seen in the case of Clinton.


Nonetheless, Dittmar is hopeful that the fact that Clinton fought the campaign using her gender as an asset rather than a liability will have a positive effect on potential female candidates.


A day after the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., an organization called Emily’s List, which is affiliated with the Democratic Party, held a seminar for boosting women’s ambition in a political career. A total of 500 people participated in the seminar including a number of minority women. Some said they were encouraged by the victory of President Trump, saying his victory has made them believe that it is possible to win an election without political experience or a high level of academic achievement. (Abridged)


American women who broke the “glass ceiling”


Women’s suffrage


First Senator by public election


Patsy Mink (Japanese-American)

First non-white Congresswoman


Sandra Day O’Conner

Supreme Court Justice


Geraldine Ferraro

Vice-presidential candidate of a major party ticket


Carol Moseley Braun (African-American)

First non-white female Senator


Madeleine Albright

Secretary of State


Condoleezza Rice (African-American)

First African-American Secretary of State


Nancy Pelosi

Speaker of the House


Ann Dunwoody

General of the U.S. Army


Janet Yellen

Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve


Hillary Clinton

Presidential candidate of a major party ticket


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