When Women Lead

Women's Environmental Voting Records in Congress, 1972-2021

In 2022, women hold a record 145 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 27 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 1972-2021, 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 1972-2021 is 69.3 while men’s is 45.6. 

Within each political party, this pattern persists, although the discrepancy is less pronounced. The average scores of Democratic women surpass those of Democratic men in nearly every year since 1972 and their average is much higher: 87.7 vs 70.1. Since 2003, the scores of Republican women in the House have roughly tracked Republican men’s scores, but their overall average since 1972 is 24 compared to men’s 19.5.

Women with Perfect Environmental Scores in the House in 2021

Alma Adams (NC), Cynthia Axne (IA), Nanette Barragán (CA), Karen Bass (CA), Joyce Beatty (OH), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE), Suzanne Bonamici (OR), Carolyn Bourdeaux (GA), Shontel Brown (OH), Julia Brownley (CA), Cori Bush (MO), Cheri Bustos (IL), Kathy Castor (FL), Judy Chu (CA), Katherine Clark (MA), Yvette Clarke (NY), Angie Craig (MN), Sharice Davids (KS), Madeleine Dean (PA), Diana DeGette (CO), Rosa DeLauro (CT), Suzan DelBene (WA), Val Demings (FL), Debbie Dingell (MI), Veronica Escobar (TX), Anna Eshoo (CA), Teresa Fernandez (NM), Lois Frankel (FL), Marcia Fudge (OH), Sylvia Garcia (TX), Debra Haaland (NM), Jahana Hayes (CT), Chrissy Houlahan (PA), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX), Sara Jacobs (CA), Pramila Jayapal (WA), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX), Marcy Kaptur (OH), Robin Kelly (IL), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ), Ann Kuster (NH), Brenda Lawrence (MI), Barbara Lee (CA), Zoe Lofgren (CA), Elaine Luria (VA), Carolyn Maloney (NY), Kathy Manning (NC), Doris Matsui (CA), Lucy McBath (GA), Betty McCollum (MN), Grace Meng (NY), Gwen Moore (WI), Grace Napolitano (CA), Marie Newman (IL), Ilhan Omar (MN), Nancy Pelosi (CA), Chellie Pingree (ME), Katie Porter (CA), Ayanna Pressley (MA), Kathleen Rice (NY), Deborah Ross (NC), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA), Mary Scanlon (PA), Jan Schakowsky (IL), Kim Schrier (WA), Terri Sewell (AL), Mikie Sherrill (NJ), Elissa Slotkin (MI), Melanie Stansbury (NM), Haley Stevens (MI), Marilyn Strickland (WA), Dina Titus (NV), Norma Torres (CA), Lori Trahan (MA), Lauren Underwood (IL), Nydia Velazquez (NY), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL), Maxine Waters (CA), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ), Jennifer Wexton (VA), Susan Wild (PA), Nikema Williams (GA), and Frederica Wilson (FL)

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 (67.8 vs 45.5) and within each party (D: 85.7 vs 70.1; R: 30.3 vs 19.8). 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 2021

Tammy Baldwin (WI), Maria Cantwell (WA), Catherine Cortez Masto (NV), Tammy Duckworth (IL), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Kamala Harris* (CA), Margaret Hassan (NH), Mazie Hirono (HI), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Kelly Loeffler* (GA), Patty Murray (WA), Jacky Rosen (NV), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Tina Smith (MN), Debbie Stabenow (MI), and Elizabeth Warren (MA)

* Senators who left or lost seats early in 2021 and only voted on two bills

“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.”

Debbie Walsh, Director, Center for American Women and Politics

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.

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