Oklahoma has the fourth-lowest percentage of female legislators in the nation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
There are four women among 48 Senate members, and 16 women among 101 House members. Altogether, women make up 13.4 percent of the state's legislators, slightly ahead of Alabama, South Carolina and Louisiana. States with the largest shares of women are Colorado, 42 percent, and Vermont, 41 percent.
In Congress, a record number of women — 98, or 18 percent — took office in January, but Oklahoma was not part of that trend. The state's delegation has no women.
Women comprise 51 percent of Oklahoma's population.
Females aren't the only group whose political representation is lower than its share of the population. In the Legislature, six members (4 percent) are black and one member (0.7 percent) is Hispanic. Statewide, 7.4 percent of Oklahoma's population is black and 8.9 percent is Hispanic, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.
State Rep. Emily Virgin D-Norman, 26, said she believes the Legislature needs more women because women frame issues differently than men. Women tend to be more empathic of people who are poor and disadvantaged and focus more on issues of poverty, education, families and children, she said.
Also, “things work better and more smoothly when there are more women involved,” she said. “Compromise is more encouraged if more women are involved.”
When Virgin was elected, she was concerned that being young and female would be an obstacle to her success, but said she found the opposite. Women can be effective lawmakers, she said.