Fill The Pipeline

South Carolina has seldom elected women to state or national offices. In 1987, Elizabeth Patterson was elected to Congress; she served until 1993 and was the last woman in South Carolina to have served. She was also the first S.C. woman elected to Congress to serve in her own right. The four preceding her – Corinne Boyd Riley, Willa Lybrand Fulmer, Clara Gooding McMillan, and Elizabeth H. Gasque – won special elections to fill their husbands’ seats between 1938 and 1962. 

Only nine S.C. women have ever held a statewide office, beginning with Nancy Stevenson, who served as lieutenant governor from 1979-1982. Currently, Pamela Evette serves as lieutenant governor, the first candidate to be elected on the same ticket as the governor.  

South Carolina ranked 50th in electing women from 2003-2012 and, in 2019, is 45th.

Four women – Mia McLeod, Margie Bright Matthews, Sandy Senn and Katrina Shealy  —  currently serve in the S.C. Senate, the most ever, and 24 women serve in the S.C. House. That’s 16.4 percent of the Legislature, although women make up 51.5 percent of the state’s population. Nevada ranks first with 50.8 percent of its legislators female. 

Nationally, a record number of women ran for office in the 2018 midterm election. A record number won nomination for their state legislatures and the U.S. House. And a record number of women won seats in Congress, 102 in the U.S. House and 25 in the U.S. Senate. That’s still less than a quarter of voting membership. According to Pew Research Center, 59 percent of Americans believe too few women serve in higher political offices. 

What are the current barriers to filling the pipeline? Money, mentoring, and discrimination, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. What helps? Women’s desire for public service, access to campaign training, and the support of women’s organizations, according to IWPR. 

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