Globe seeks more women in House leadership

The Boston Globe editorial page is demanding more women in House leadership, particularly at the helm of the House Ways and Means Committee.

The message is a familiar one for Shirley Leung, who has made breaking the glass ceiling a theme of her work as the acting editor of the editorial page and previously as a columnist. The editorial urges House Speaker Robert DeLeo to get out of his “comfort zone” and appoint a woman to the Ways and Means post and other leadership positions.

“Surely the loss this year of his trusted Ways and Means chair, Jeff Sanchez – ousted by Nika Elugardo – ought to serve as a warning that there is a price to be paid for loyalty, that the face of his membership is changing and the face of its leadership should as well,” the editorial says.

Certainly Sanchez took heat from progressives for not bucking DeLeo and delivering on a number of issues, but is the Globe really suggesting that DeLeo should bring aboard a woman who won’t be a team player?

The second half of the argument – that House membership is changing and the face of leadership should change as well – makes a lot of sense. A record number of women – 46 – will be occupying nearly 29 percent of the seats in the House next month so women should play a greater role in leadership.

What role do women play now? In two areas, women have higher representation in leadership than their numbers would suggest. In a third area, they have no representation at all.

According to the Legislature’s website, women account for 5 of the 21 House leadership positions (31 percent) and 9 of the 29 joint committee chairmanships (31 percent). Women hold no chairmanships at all, however, on the 11 House-only committees.

Nationally, women are not well represented in state legislatures. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, women accounted for 25.4 percent of state lawmakers this year. The state with the highest female representation was Arizona at 40 percent; the lowest was Wyoming at 11.1 percent. Massachusetts was slightly below the national average, at 24.5 percent, and below every other state in New England. Next year, Massachusetts will move up, with 28.5 of its lawmakers women.



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