Understanding what the Constitution says about Congress representation is very important in understanding equality of representation. Sherman, in 1787, “proposed that House representation be based on the population, while in the Senate, the states would be equally represented. Benjamin Franklin agreed that each state should have an equal vote in the Senate except in matters concerning money” (U.S. Senate, n.d). To date, only close to one-quarter (23%) of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives voting members are ethnic and racial minorities (Schaeffer, 2021). Since the 107th Congress, there has been a long-running trend toward ensuring an increase in the number of non-white lawmakers as representatives.
Currently, the numbers making the 117th Congress the most ethnically and racially diverse, and the nature of representation is shifting to on-par representation in the House of Representatives. For example, Schaeffer (2021) shows that 13 percent of House members come from the African American community, a percentage that almost equals the Black American’s share. Similarly, the number of House members for Native Americans makes up close to 1 percent, which almost equals the population of the Natives.
Impact of Underrepresentation in Congress
Underrepresentation in Congress is a reflection of the structural challenges women and minority groups face in the country. The impact associated is that there continue to be stereotypes, roles, and social norms that maintain the structural pillars that make it difficult to have equal access to changing the social structure in the U.S. Underrepresentation trickles down to the basic fabric that defines America. With it comes the inability of women, racially, ethnically, and LGBTQ, to enjoy shared economic and educational opportunities that would facilitate liberalization against inequality.
Further, underrepresentation in Congress also means unequal access to resources, especially among racially and ethnically House members. Reports have shown that African Americans serving in the House of Representatives have been reported to encounter more challenges than their Caucasian counterparts (Sanbonmatsu, 2020). The challenges faced help to discourage women candidates from their candidacy. Coupled with unequal treatment, underrepresentation in Congress also furthers race and ethnically-based discrimination, resulting in biased fundraising and party support (Sanbonmatsu, 2020). Another impact is that as long as women and minority groups are underrepresented, interest groups and parties become subjects of race and gendered implications.
Strategies to Ensure Equal Representation
Women and minority groups’ representation forms the core of American democracy. Through equal representation, the decision-making ability is improved, and the effectiveness and functioning of the democracy are achieved failure to which there is bias, through underrepresentation. The strategies to ensure equal representation include introducing gender-sensitive parliaments through gender mainstreaming across parliament outputs and processes. The approach ensures both men’s and women’s concerns are factored in when designing, executing, observing, and assessing all activities (United Nations, 2016).
By dedicating mechanisms that focus on parliament’s attention, the gender equality goal is monitored. The government can execute this by establishing gender equality committees whose mandate is to oversee structures that represent formal female and male representation mechanisms.
The other strategy is mapping parliamentary bodies to emphasize gender equality. Through dedicated gender equality committees, parliament focus on gender equality by distinguishing and remitting various topics associated with equality. In other words, each parliament will be responsible for ensuring dedicated resources are set to address issues of gender equality (United Nations, 2016). The parliament of political parties will equally have to set up committees that guarantee laws about gender equality become part of their legislation.
Sanbonmatsu, K. (2020). Women’s underrepresentation in the U.S. Congress. American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Web.
Schaeffer, K. (2021). Racial, ethnic diversity increases yet again with the 117th Congress. Pew Research Center. Web.
United Nations Development Programme. (2016). Guidance note: Strategies and good practices in promoting gender equality in parliaments. Web.
U.S. Senate. (n.d). The Senate and the United States Constitution. Senate. Web.