By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming came in near the bottom in a new report that shows the gender parity in state legislatures across the nation.
The state ranked third for gender parity among state legislatures, with only 15.6% of its legislators being women, according to a report published by New American Leaders, a nonprofit organization that recruits people of immigrant heritage to run for elected office.
This is actually a slight increase compared to 2015, when 13% of the Legislature was made up of women.
The two lowest states for gender parity in legislatures are are West Virginia (13.4% of its legislators are women) and Tennessee (15.2%).
Gender parity is defined as the equal contribution of women and men to every dimension of life, whether private or public.
Women serving as legislators in Wyoming are: Sens. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, Lynn Hutchings, R-Cheyenne and Wendy Schuler, R-Evanston and Reps. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, Shelly Duncan, R-Lingle, Jamie Flitner, R-Greybull, Trey Sherwood, D-Laramie, Andi LeBeau, D-Riverton, Ember Oakley, R-Riverton, Sandy Newsome, R-Cody, Pepper Ottman, R-Riverton, Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, Sue Wilson, R-Cheyenne and Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody.
Research organization Wyoming Women’s Action Network pointed out that Wyoming’s legislators are not offered certain benefits to make policies, unlike some states such as California and Michigan, which have full-time legislators and pay them tens of thousands of dollars per year.
“Our state legislature meets in January and February. Cheyenne is far from many, many, many of our legislators’ homes making a commute impossible (even if it weren’t the dead of winter),” Wyoming Women’s Action Network wrote in a blog on Monday. “There is no access to health insurance, retirement benefits, or childcare. So, in addition to the logistical and geographic challenges, there are significant economic and family constraints, too.”
The State of Pay report from the New American Leaders recommended five key policies that would close the representation gap and improve representation and policies for all communities: make state legislatures full time, create independent compensation committees, provide funds for full-time support staff, address the need for childcare and invest in candidate recruitment and training.
Wyoming legislators currently make $150 per day when the legislature is in session. They also receive a $109 per diem, but they can choose to not take this.
The top state for gender parity in its legislature was Nevada, where 54% of its legislators are women.