Pilot program announced aimed at increasing number of women in Mississippi legislature

Women are in the minority in the state legislature. There are steps being taken to try and change that.
Published: Jun. 15, 2021 at 11:05 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 11:07 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) -Mississippi has 174 state legislators and only 16 percent of those are women. However, a national group is hoping to help change that.

The Ascend Fund is launching this pilot program in three states, including Mississippi. They will be making $180,000 available in grant funding to nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations in Mississippi.

“We do not have enough women in the legislature, and the talent that the women have in the legislature now is not being used,” said Rep. Omeria Scott (D), District 14.

It’s not an exaggeration to say women are in the minority under the Capitol dome. Women make up 14 percent of the House. And 21 percent of the Senate.

“The House, we always say it’s the people’s house, but if it doesn’t look like the people, then it’s really not the people’s house,” noted Rep. Becky Currie (R) District 92. “We’re 53 percent of the voting population.”

Those females serving say they’d like to see their ranks boosted. "

If there were more of us — it would be a lot easier,” added Currie. “We don’t have enough right now to have a woman’s caucus, which I think would be very important for women’s issues in this state.”

“We’re failing in every area,” said Scott. “So, we need to do something different. If we’re failing in every area, we ought to try something different. And I think every woman who’s served in the legislature has tried to bring new ideas to the legislature.”

“We bring a good perspective to state government...having managed a home budget and fed a family of four with a pound of ground beef and pack of spaghetti, I understand that you have to make ends meet and of course in Mississippi, we are required to have a balanced budget,” explained Sen. Lydia Chassaniol (R) District 14.

Having equal representation is an effort the League of Women Voters says it’s supportive of.

“Mississippi is still a patriarchy,”e noted Christy Wheeler, League of Women Voters of Mississippi Co-President. “We’ve got to change that. Money will help us educate women, bring them out of the shadows, put them into the spotlight so we can make better things happen for the state of Mississippi.”

The Ascend Fund hopes a cash infusion will help by providing more resources for women interested in getting elected to the statehouse.

“If they want to encourage women to run for legislative offices, then I’m all for it,” added Chassaniol.

Along the same lines, just this week, MUW is holding its NEW Leadership program that it conducts each year, intending to address the under-representation of women in politics.

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