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)
Communities should not have to bear this burden.— Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández (@RepTeresaLF) April 8, 2021
Today, I introduced the Orphaned Wells Cleanup and Jobs Act of 2021 to clean up these sites, create good paying jobs and reinvest in the communities left out by fossil fuel companies. https://t.co/glyiuG1xf4
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 (67.8 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
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
It’s no coincidence that our most toxic industries are often next door to low-income communities.— Tammy Duckworth (@TammyDuckworth) March 25, 2021
While those industries get rich, these communities are suffering from higher rates of asthma, cancer and COVID.
I intro'd the Environmental Justice For All Act to help change that. pic.twitter.com/z23BM1X7Ds
“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.