Apr 12, 2022 - Politics

Ohio's political gender gap starts at local level

Percentage of women in municipal office
Reproduced from CAWP. Map: Axios Visuals

Ohio trails the rest of the country when it comes to the percentage of women elected to local offices.

Why it matters: The gender gap recorded in Ohio cities helps contribute to the ongoing disparity in high-profile political offices. Local offices serve as springboards to higher political positions in Columbus and Washington D.C.

  • Without the experience and connections gained at the municipal level, women have a tougher path to becoming a state lawmaker, governor or congressperson.

Methodology: Researchers with Rutgers University's Center for American Women and Politics tracked the number of women serving as mayors and city council members in cities with at least 10,000 residents.

By the numbers: Women make up just 27% of officeholders in these 237 qualifying Ohio cities.

  • Ohio ranks No. 40 in the country, lagging behind states like Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

The big picture: We reported last month that women hold 31% of the 132 seats in the Ohio Statehouse, including just five of 17 leadership positions.

  • Two such legislative leaders, Sen. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Rep. Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison) both started out as city council members in their respective hometowns.
  • As did U.S. Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Cleveland), one of three Ohio women serving in Congress.

State of play: In 2017, a group of women founded The Matriots Ohio Political Action Committee in response to the underrepresentation of women in Ohio politics.

  • It recruits women (primarily Democrats) to campaign for local and state office.

The group's only endorsement of the 2022 election cycle thus far is Nan Whaley, a Democratic candidate for governor who previously served as mayor of Dayton.

  • Ohio voters have never elected a woman as governor.

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