Year of the woman?

women-cover-final-2-780x1040The energy of women – at every level – since November 2016 has been amazing. Making its way around the internet is the latest Time cover, which depicts a number of women elected last November to the Virginia House of Delegates. But what does electing women do for the next generation?

I spent my Saturday morning with a sizable group of women that meets during the legislative session to discuss and share information on legislation under consideration. A number of new faces – but few of them young women. I saw the pictures from the marches held Saturday and Sunday. Lots of women. Loved the ones of the mothers and their daughters. But again, it looked like the younger women were missing.

Sunday I went to Richmond for the ceremonial swearing in Kelly Fowler, one of the new members of the legislature, representing the 21st District. Again, I looked around and wondered about the younger women.

A conversation that I had during the trip up and back prompted me to do a bit of research this morning. Specifically, I wanted to ascertain how many of the newly elected members, most of whom are relatively young, had hired female legislative aides. Anyone who follows Virginia politics is well aware that legislative aides – typically young white males – often run for office themselves. So what better place to grow the next generation of women legislators than in the legislature itself?

By my count, 12 of the new 19 House members are female. Just five of them – not even half – have female legislative assistants, based on the information listed on the General Assembly website.  Overall, there are 28 women in the House, the largest number ever. Fifteen of them have female LAs.

Is grooming the next generation of women for service more of a priority among those with more seniority than the newer members? I think not. But the optics of having so many new women elected – and, of course, elected by women – with male LAs is just bad.

It’s hard to think of this as the year of the woman when so many are being left behind.

To the women of the legislature: you can do better.