Record-high numbers of women ran for office at all levels of government in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. Women were particularly successful in the congressional elections, with the total number of women in the House of Representatives rising to 102, and to 25 in the Senate -- both all-time highs.
Despite these successes, Gallup polling after the midterms found significant room for improvement, particularly in women's perceptions of their own status in society. A record-low 46% of women in the U.S. reported feeling satisfied with "the way women are treated in society," while 52% reported feeling dissatisfied. This marked a 15-percentage-point drop in satisfaction from 2016, before President Donald Trump's election.
A second poll in early 2019 asking about "the position of women in the nation" found somewhat more positive results -- although only slightly more than half of women (57%) said they were satisfied with women's position, while a sizable 41% said they were dissatisfied.
Increased concerns about how women are treated in the climate of the Trump administration, the #MeToo movement and other factors likely contributed to the "pink wave" that swept a number of long-term male incumbents out of office. This includes the victories of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.
While the pro-woman, pro-minority agenda these freshman congresswomen are espousing may not differ substantially from other Democrats in Congress, their assertiveness and willingness to confront party leaders certainly do. Pressley called for "activist leadership," and representatives such as Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., have exemplified it by joining their constituents to protest current policies. Mainstream and social media outlets have widely covered these outspoken new leaders.
Regardless of whether most Americans agree with the political views of these forthright, newly elected female representatives, their voices are hard to ignore. One big question that remains, however, is whether the influx of women in office will continue beyond the 2018 election cycle.
It's been nearly three decades since the last "Year of the Woman" in 1992. Some early indications, however, suggest momentum is building. Inquiries to groups such as She Should Run -- a nonpartisan nonprofit with the goal of helping 250,000 women run for office by 2030 -- have significantly increased since the 2018 midterms.
With less than half of women satisfied with women's treatment in society and a relatively slim majority satisfied with women's position in the U.S., we shouldn't be surprised if more women, many who have never thought about running for office before, are moved to seriously considering this new avenue to elevate their voices and the voices of other underrepresented groups.
Read more stories about women around the world on our International Women's Day page.