In 2023, women hold a record 149 seats in Congress. Despite major gains in the past decade, women are still significantly underrepresented in federal policymaking. By some estimates, it could take a century at our current rate for our legislature to achieve equal representation.
Statistics conveyed by organizations like the Center for American Women in Politics and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research highlight this disparity: women comprise roughly 51 percent of the population and 53 percent of the electorate but only 28 percent of Congress. Women are not the only constituency impacted by unequal representation – our entire policymaking process suffers.
Since 2000, Rachel’s Network has made the case that gender disparity in government not only stymies equality, it has serious implications for environmental policy as well.
Research in the European Journal of Political Economy found that female representation in national legislatures leads countries to adopt more stringent climate change policies. 91 countries were included in the study.
Similarly, a 2019 study in the Journal of Environmental Politics and a 2019 study in the Review of Policy Research both found that women in Western parliaments were more likely to support environmental legislation than men.
In previous iterations of our report When Women Lead (in 2003 and 2011), we analyzed the voting records of federal legislators going back to 1983 using League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Environmental Scorecard data. We found that women in Congress vote for legislation supporting clean air, clean water, renewable energy, climate action, and public health much more often than their male counterparts (and similarly vote more often against legislation that would roll back these protections).
This update brings our analysis up to the present and looks further into the past. After comparing annual LCV scores each year from 1972-2022, we again found that women legislators vote for environmental protections more often than their male counterparts in both the House and Senate.
Climate change, pollution, food and energy insecurity, chemical safety, and biodiversity loss have become urgent global concerns that threaten lives and livelihoods in the US. If we want to make progress on protecting the environment and public health, we should help elect more women to public office, and support them during their tenure.
Women’s Environmental Voting Records in the House of Representatives
In the US House of Representatives, women have had higher average environmental scores in every year that LCV has kept records. Women’s average annual score from 1972-2022 is 69.4 while men’s is 45.6.
Within each political party, this pattern persists, although the discrepancy is less pronounced and shrinking in recent years. The average scores of Democratic women surpass those of Democratic men in nearly every year since 1972 and their average is much higher: 88.1 vs 70.4. Since 2003, the scores of Republican women in the House have roughly tracked Republican men’s scores, but their overall average since 1972 is 22.7 compared to men’s 19.1.
Women with Perfect Environmental Scores in the House in 2022
Alma Adams (NC), Nanette Barragan (CA), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE), Suzanne Bonamici (OR), Cori Bush (MO), Kathy Castor (FL), Sheila Cherfilus-Mccormick (FL), Diana Degette (CO), Debbie Dingell (MI), Lois Frankel (FL), Pramila Jayapal (WA), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX), Barbara Lee (CA), Teresa Leger Fernandez (NM), Zoe Lofgren (CA), Carolyn Maloney (NY), Betty Mccollum (MN), Grace Meng (NY), Grace Napolitano (CA), Marie Newman (IL), Eleanor Norton (DC), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Ilhan Omar (MN), Nancy Pelosi (CA), Mary Peltola (AK), Stacey Plaskett (VI), Katie Porter (CA), Ayanna Pressley (MA), Melanie Stansbury (NM), Dina Titus (NV), Rashida Tlaib (MI), Lauren Underwood (IL), Nydia Velazquez (NY), Maxine Waters (CA), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ), Jennifer Wexton (VA), Nikema Williams (GA)
Climate change will cause us to see more frequent and deadly storms.— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) January 10, 2023
That's why Democrats passed the Inflation Reduction Act, to make the largest investment in climate change in our country's history. But we can't stop there.https://t.co/dxMXNZ3t2Z
Today, I joined @VP & @FTA_DOT as they announced $1.47B in funding to modernize bus fleets across the country which will:— Jahana Hayes (@RepJahanaHayes) March 7, 2022
🚍expand clean public transit & school buses
👷support good-paying union jobs
🌎confront climate change
⚕️improve public healthhttps://t.co/ofoQ6LsV6c pic.twitter.com/CMTa8THNbE
Women’s Environmental Voting Records in the Senate
Just as in the House of Representatives, women’s average LCV score in the Senate since 1972 is higher than men’s overall (67.7 vs 45.5) and within each party (D: 86.1 vs 70.5; R: 29.3 vs 19.5). Year by year, the picture is more complicated, primarily because comparatively few women have served in the Senate. From 1973-1977, no women served at all, and until 1991, only 1 or 2 women served at any one time. To put it another way, pre-1991 averages account for the scores of 98-99 men vs 1 or 2 women. The large swings in LCV scores in earlier years are partly due to this small sample size.
Women with Perfect Environmental Scores in the Senate in 2022
Tammy Duckworth (IL), Debbie Stabenow (MI), and Elizabeth Warren (MA)
Big surprise: Big oil isn’t walking the walk when it comes to tackling climate change. But fossil fuel giants have awarded bonuses to top execs based on supposedly making progress toward climate goals. I’ve called for an SEC investigation. https://t.co/37BLxYEQKv— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) March 3, 2022
🚨🌎This is a BIG deal for our planet.— Tammy Duckworth (@TammyDuckworth) September 21, 2022
The Kigali Amendment will put us on a path to phase out the dangerous pollutants in our everyday appliances to help curb global warming and our climate crisis.
It’s a win for businesses, American competitiveness and future generations. https://t.co/CvBQBj6Hwv
“We’ve got to get more women to run. We need to be strategic and identify women to run in open seats at every level of leadership. And once those women are recruited, we need to make sure that they have the support, financial and otherwise, to be successful.”
We can close the gender gap and make a difference for the environment by following these suggestions from fellow advocates:
About Rachel’s Network
Rachel’s Network is a vibrant community of women at the intersection of environmental advocacy, philanthropy, and women’s leadership. With a mission to promote women as agents of change dedicated to the stewardship of the earth, we meet with cutting-edge thinkers, build productive alliances, and connect with savvy, like-minded women to strengthen our leadership and impact.
About Rachel’s Action Network
Rachel’s Action Network (RAN), a nonpartisan 501(c)(4) organization, is an advocacy resource for women who want to translate their philanthropic giving into political impact. Our programs empower women leaders to influence the political process and make their voices heard on the issues they care about.
Capitol Building Photo: Wikimedia Commons; Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.