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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Women Well Represented in San Francisco, Oakland City Government

Posted By on Thu, Oct 2, 2014 at 11:58 AM

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The Leadership California Institute's first report on the status of women in local governments isn't exactly heartening. Women comprise only 28 percent of all elected state and city representatives, the report concludes. And within that already small margin, women of color constitute a perilously slim minority: 14 percent of female city officials are Latina, 3 percent are African-American, and 3 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander.

Clearly, we're a long way from achieving gender parity.

On the bright side, though, Bay Area cities are ahead of the gender curve. San Francisco currently has four female supervisors out of 11 total, a better-than-average 36 percent rate — not to mention that two of them are Asian, and two African American.

Oakland has the largest number of female city council members in the state, with six women and three men serving. It also has a female mayor at the helm — something that San Francisco hasn't enjoyed since the 1980s. (And we've only had one woman mayor since our first election during the Gold Rush.)

So if the Bay Area has lost some of its progressive street cred, it still has the patina of gender equality. But that's not cause for celebration just yet.

According to the LCI report, women's representation is uneven throughout the state, with some cities and counties showing consistently high levels of female leadership, while others remain a boy's club. It's hard to pinpoint the reasons for those disparities. Statistically, women do a little better in liberal cities than conservative ones, but that owes to partisanship rather than gender liberation — for whatever reason, female city officials are 13 percent more Democratic than their male counterparts.

Because statistical gaps can't always be mended with concrete policy, LCI's only solution is to target geographic areas that are bereft of female representation and ethnic diversity. The report also pushes for more studies one what career paths help propel a woman through the political pipeline.

Less than a century has passed since American women had the right to vote at all — and in that sense, some local governments have come a long way. Collectively, though, California still has a long way to go.

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About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.

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