2016 has been a year of highs and lows for women. Hillary Clinton became the first woman to be a major party presidential nominee and, according to many predictions, will become the first woman president. At the same time, the country has had to endure the vile misogyny of accused predator Donald J. Trump day in and day out. But, despite Trump’s determination to set the country back decades and #MakeAmericaGropeAgain, women are poised to make 2016 a record-setting year for breaking up the boys clubs in Washington, DC, and around the country.
And it’s not just Hillary Clinton making history this year. It’s could happen in Congress, too. Though women will still be woefully underrepresented in both chambers, 2016 may see historically-high numbers of women in both the House and Senate.
The number of women senators may rise from 20 to as many as 23, depending on the outcome of the election. It would still fall drastically short of equal representation, but 23 women senators would be the most in the upper chamber’s history. And women’s share is likely to rise despite the retirement of two female senators, including the longest-serving woman in the history of the world’s greatest deliberative body, Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).
In two states, both major party candidates for the Senate are women: New Hampshire and California. And, depending on the outcome of the election, as many as three new women of color could be elected, raising the total number in the Senate from a paltry single member to four of them.
And that’s not even the whole story in Congress. The number of women in the House of Representatives, according to an analysis by Kelly Dittmar at Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics reported in USA Today, may rise from it’s current 84 to around 96 members.
It’s not just that more women will be elected to Capitol Hill, it’s also likely that there will be more women running the show. Currently, only one of the Senate’s 16 standing committees is chaired by a woman. If the Democrats take back control of the Senate, as they are currently favored to do, the number of female committee chairs will rise to between five and seven, depending on who will replace Mikulski and Barbara Boxer, the retiring California senator, as ranking members of the committees on appropriations and the environment, respectively.
In addition to that, a Democratic takeover of the House, though unlikely, could yield an increase in the number of female committee chairs in the lower chamber. And a Democratic wave would also reinstall Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, meaning that, if Clinton wins, two of the three branches of government would be headed by women for the first time in history.
Women could make big strides at the state level as well. According to Center for American Women and Politics more than 2600 women are running for positions in state legislatures across the country. Those races are arguably some of the most important in the country given that key issues for women like access to abortion and other reproductive health services are often decided at the state level.
All in all, the lasting legacy of the 2016 election may not be Donald Trump’s chauvinist and prejudiced buffoonery, but the electoral success of women from the first female president on down.
“The Woman Card,” a special examining the role women played in the 2016 election, premieres across FUSION’s digital platforms on November 4 with a one-hour special broadcast on FUSION Network, Facebook Live and Periscope Sunday, November 6 @ 9PM.