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Oklahoma's ratio of women in Legislature among nation's lowest

Women make up a slight majority of Oklahomans, but that doesn't translate into representation in the Legislature and Congress.
BY CHASE COOK and DARREN JAWORSKI -- Oklahoma Watch Modified: April 8, 2013 at 10:11 pm •  Published: April 9, 2013

Data-Driven: Profile of the Oklahoma Legislature

Use the interactive graphic below to learn more about the composition of the Legislature. Each bubble represents a Senate or House member, and the bubbles are colored according to party affiliation: red for Republican, blue for Democrat. The larger the bubble, the longer the legislator has served in office. A note about race/ethnicity: For Native Americans, only House Native American Caucus members are listed. Two of the members, Reps. T.W. Shannon and Anatasia Pittman, are not listed in the caucus group, rather in the grouping for African-Americans.

By Darren Jaworski, Oklahoma Watch

Sources: Oklahoma Legislature, Oklahoma Ethics Commission.

/articleid/3781198/1/pictures/2006157">Photo - A photo shows the floor of the Oklahoma Senate. Phobo by Warren Vieth. <strong></strong>
A photo shows the floor of the Oklahoma Senate. Phobo by Warren Vieth.

Oklahoma does have women in prominent positions of state government: the state's first female governor, Mary Fallin; state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi; Secretary of Education Phyllis Hudecki; Secretary of Veterans Affairs Rita Aragon, and Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Commissioner Terri White.

Two women also serve on Oklahoma's nine-member Supreme Court: Noma Gurich and Yvonne Kauger.

As to why more women aren't legislators, two female lawmakers did not cite factors such as Oklahoma's traditional culture or the question of voter bias.

Rep. Elise Hall, 24, R-Oklahoma City, and Virgin said that mainly it's hard to find women to run for political office. Hall said many women have family commitments that prevent them from campaigning and serving.

Virgin said over time, as more women choose to run for political seats, other women will follow suit. Eventually, there will be similar numbers of men and women in the Legislature, she said.

“I don't think it's going to happen any time soon, but I think it will happen,” Virgin said.

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Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit investigative team established to report on public policy issues in Oklahoma. It is funded by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Tulsa Community Foundation.


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