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What happens when women win elections

The 2018 midterms were huge for women candidates. Here’s how they could change policy.

The 2018 midterms were huge for women candidates. In Tennessee, Marsha Blackburn became the state’s first woman senator. In Massachusetts, Ayanna Pressley is the first African-American woman elected to the House from Massachusetts. In Maine, voters chose Janet Mills to be the state’s first woman governor. And Sharice Davids, Deb Haaland, and Yvette Herrell became the first Native American women elected to Congress.

A total of 273 women were on the ballot in the 2018 midterms, representing both parties. By comparison, an average of 171 women advanced past their gubernatorial and congressional primaries in the past five elections.

Danush Parvaneh/Vox

Despite these recent wins, the number of women in US government is still well below proportional representation of women living in the US. And that underrepresentation has very real policy consequences.

Danush Parvaneh/Vox

Having women better represented can actually change the conversations being had around policy. On the campaign trail, women tend to spend more time than men speaking about issues like education, climate change, and minimum wage.

And once in office, there’s evidence that women also make better lawmakers. One study found that women lawmakers bring in 9 percent more federal spending for their constituents than their male counterparts. And that’s on top of the fact that women lawmakers sponsor more bills than male legislators.

The recent gains by women in the 2018 midterms bode well for better representation in the future. As more women are elected to office, there’s also a snowball effect. One study found that if a state elected a woman senator or governor, an average of seven additional women would run for the state government in the following election cycle. So the women that were elected during the 2018 midterms will help inspire other women to run for office in the future.

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