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Breaking Ceilings and Blazing Trails

“It’s important to get more women in legislatures overall, but also into positions of power where they also get to set the agenda. We spend a lot of time talking about what they add to the conversation; these women in leadership get to determine what conversations are had.” 

—Kelly Dittmar, director of research at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

Politico highlights that the number of women lawmakers at the federal level is growing in recent years, but in state legislatures, that growth is slower. However, this Pew study found that the women lawmakers who are in state capitols have gained record levels of power in there — including leadership roles, agenda-setting authority, and the leverage to pass bills.

In honor of Women’s History Month, here’s how some of the lawmakers in our network are using their power to improve the lives of their constituents.

Florida State Rep. Anna Eskamani. Photo: Isaac Babcock, WMFE
  • Despite lawmakers in Texas seeking to roll back voting rights in the aftermath of the 2020 election, Texas State Representative Ina Minjarez introduced automatic voter registration, which helps more people get registered, makes the process more secure, and saves states money.
  • Inspired by the loss of her son to a fentanyl overdose, Arizona State Senator Christine Marsh introduced and enacted a bill that will save lives by giving people a way to test for lethal doses of this dangerous substance in street-level drugs.
  • Former Virginia Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy was pregnant with twins when she ran for office, and almost died after she gave birth. She’s shared her story to shine a light on maternal mortality rates of Black women and has been a supporter of  Virginia’s policy that creates a Maternal Mortality Review Board.
  • Bolstered by a lawsuit to end the “Tampon Tax” in the state, Michigan State Representative Padma Kuppa hopes to pass a law that would remove taxes on menstrual products once and for all. 
  • Amidst all the talk on whether Florida State Representative Anna Eskamani will run for governor, she’s focused on serving her constituents by working to fix the state’s employment system and serving in a committee to register 25,000 new voters in 2021.
  • Last year Colorado State Senator Faith Winter focused on enacting paid sick leave at the height of the pandemic. This year, her sights are set on climate change and infrastructure

Representation matters. As we look at the headlines, we see state lawmakers enacting policies on the issues that matter most to them. Particularly when these lawmakers are women and people of color, they drive the kinds of change that ripple beyond their communities and improve all of our lives.