North Dakota Lags Behind on Women in the Legislature

Bismarck - Today, out of North Dakota's 141 seats in the legislature 26 are held by women.

And a year after the United States' first female candidate nominated by a major party, more women across the country are looking to get involved in politics.

Currently in the United States Congress, women hold less than 20 percent of seats and the legislature on the state level, women make up 25 percent.

But when it comes to North Dakota, our own legislature falls short of both with 18 percent. 

When it comes to having a seat at the table these women say it's about time.

"Yeah I want to be in that power just because I am a woman doesn't make it any different," Emily Desantis, freshman Bismarck State College says.

"I think we need a woman's point of view, also," Justine Smith, sophomore Bismarck State College says.

Initiatives from across the country are looking to get more women off the bench in state and local politics.

According to the Center for American Women and Politics, the number of women serving in the state legislature has more than quintupled, but North Dakota ranks 10th lowest in the country.

One state senator says North Dakota can do better.

"Because I think 18 percent isn't good enough," Erin Oban, North Dakota Senate (D).

Erin Oban became a North Dakota Senator in 2014, and is one of 9 women currently serving in the North Dakota Senate.

She says women can often second guess themselves but when it comes to running for office the important thing is to get started.

"The best way you can get involved in politics or anything else is to just jump in," Oban says.

The North Dakota Women's Network is looking to level the playing field and is get more women to run for public office.

"I think the biggest challenge is feeling they're ready to run, once women decide to run, they win at the same rates that men do. I think it's putting your name in that hat and being willing to run," Becky Matthews, North Dakota Women's Network says.

Because this student says more diversity is never a bad thing.

"Having different perspectives is always a good thing," Morgan Drake, freshman Bismarck State College says.

And with more women in office,Oban says, more people's voices can be heard.

 "We get stuff done and it's because we want to sit at a table and have a conversation," Oban says.

And more women can take that seat.

Senator Oban says the first step in getting politically active can be as simple as getting involved in your community, local campaigns, or joining your PTO.

The North Dakota Women's Network is looking to help women learn how to run for public office through their Ready to Run events.

If you would like to learn more you can contact the North Dakota Women's Network here.


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