The San Antonio City Council Now Has A Female Majority & That's Still Pretty Rare
On Saturday, three women won elections for open seats on the city council in San Antonio, Texas. That means the San Antonio City Council has a female majority, now for the second time in its history. This kind of gender representation in politics can have a huge impact on what kinds of policies are pushed forward, and that's true at both the local and the national level. Yet, just as is the case in Congress, establishing gender parity on city councils is still a work in progress.
One of the reasons that this matters is that women in office tend to advocate for and prioritize policies that their male counterparts are less likely to focus on, such as pay equity, reproductive rights, and education. That means that electing them increases the likelihood that governing bodies will legislate and craft policy from a more nuanced and inclusive standpoint. And when it comes to governing some of the most diverse pockets in the country, inclusivity is perhaps one of the most important factors in making sure that all voices are heard.
As it stands, out of the 15 most populous U.S. cities, only three now have city councils where women hold at least a majority of the seats. While those three cities are not entirely alone — some several smaller cities have also achieved female majorities in their municipal governments — the low figure indicates that there is much work to be done when it comes to achieving equality in local politics. The six cities below serve as proof that it's possible.
Seattle, which has six women and three men on its city council, is a prime example of how women in leadership shape policy decisions. Just last week, Good Morning America reports, the city's council voted to expand its family leave policy. Now, city employees will be eligible for paid leave if they lose a child, or else if their partners die during childbirth.
"Many of the issues that affect women and people of color get placed on the back burner," Council Member Teresa Mosqueda told the news outlet. "We've elevated them so that issues that people just accept as the status quo are no longer getting shelved, they’re getting first priority and laws are quite literally changing."
Providence, Rhode Island
This year, for the first time in the city's history, Providence joined the ranks of those cities with a female-led majority on its city council (The Providence Journal reports that about one-third of the council's members are also people of color).
Sabina Matos, newly elected to head the city's council, told The Journal that she plans to prioritize collaboration among her colleagues.
“What I’m hoping that we’re going to have is a City Council that works together, that we are thinking about the city and our neighborhoods and seeing the value in a united front in order to make decisions that are going to improve the lives of our residents," Matos said.
In Phoenix, city council gender dynamics are split right down the middle, with four men and women serving, respectively. (Notably, the city's mayor, Kate Gallego, is also a woman.)
Given that Ballotpedia ranks Phoenix as the sixth most populous city in the country, that's no small feat. Moreover, Gallego is the second woman to be elected mayor in Phoenix's history, per AZCentral, suggesting that the city is establishing a real pattern of electing women to office.
Fort Collins, Colorado
After recent elections, Fort Collins, Colorado elected its first female-majority city council. The Fort Collins Coloradoan reports that voters elected women into all four available seats during April's election.
"A lot of space was created the past couple years where maybe a lot of women who never thought of running, such as myself, realized, 'Wait a minute. I do have a lot I can bring to the table as far as the skills I've brought to my job, or my family or that I've brought to this community,'" City Councilwoman Julie Pignataro told the paper during its election coverage. "And I'm thankful for that."
San Diego, California
"This is an historic day for our city," Councilwoman Barbara Bry said in December, per KPBS, when San Diego swore in its first-ever female majority city council. "We have five women — five strong women from diverse backgrounds are going to constitute a majority of our San Diego City Council."
Notably, the newly elected members also gave Democrats a supermajority on the council, KPBS reports.
It's no contest in Austin: Women hold seven out of 10 positions on the city's council, not counting the current mayor. This isn't entirely new for the city, either — women won their first majority on Austin's city council in 2015, according to Slate.
The change was met with some resistance, however. After women initially won the majority, city staff were required to undergo training to help them interact with their new female leadership, The Austin American-Statesman reported at the time. That being said, given that women still hold a solid majority on the council, indicating that they were anything but scared off.
Gender equality in the United States, despite progress made in the last several decades, is anything but a given — and this is especially true when it comes to local elected office. But as city councils grow incrementally more equitable for men and women, every step toward parity is a step in the right direction.