Exact­ly two decades after the 1992 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, some­times called the “year of the woman” or “year of the women”, the Amer­i­can peo­ple have made his­to­ry by elect­ing a record num­ber of female can­di­dates to the nation’s upper leg­isla­tive cham­ber. Near­ly all of them are Democrats.

Vot­ers enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly reelect­ed Sen­a­tors Maria Cantwell of Wash­ing­ton, Kris­ten Gilli­brand of New York, Claire McCaskill of Mis­souri, Deb­bie Stabenow of Michi­gan, Amy Klobuchar of Min­neso­ta, and Dianne Fein­stein of California.

Join­ing them in 2013 will be new group of Demo­c­ra­t­ic women: Eliz­a­beth War­ren of Mass­a­chu­setts, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Tam­my Bald­win of Wis­con­sin, and Hei­di Heitkamp of North Dakota.

Repub­li­cans, mean­while, have par­tial­ly off­set the retire­ments of Olympia Snowe in Maine and Kay Bai­ley Hutchi­son of Texas with Deb Fis­cher’s vic­to­ry in Nebras­ka. Fis­ch­er will join a Repub­li­can cau­cus with three return­ing women sen­a­tors: Susan Collins of Maine (not up for elec­tion this year), Kel­ly Ayotte of New Hamp­shire, and Lisa Murkows­ki of Alas­ka. (Murkows­ki is tech­ni­cal­ly an inde­pen­dent; she won reelec­tion as a write-in can­di­date, but cau­cus­es with Republicans).

The Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus will have four times as many women sen­a­tors. There are six Demo­c­ra­t­ic women serv­ing in the U.S. Sen­ate who were not up for reelec­tion this year: Our own Pat­ty Mur­ray, Bar­bara Box­er of Cal­i­for­nia, Bar­bara Mikul­s­ki of Mary­land, Mary Lan­drieu of Louisiana, Jeanne Sha­heen of New Hamp­shire, and Kay Hagan of North Car­oli­na. Togeth­er with the ten Demo­c­ra­t­ic women elect­ed or reelect­ed tonight, they will make a group of sixteen.

We are still a ways away from hav­ing a Con­gress that looks like the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca, and does the pub­lic’s busi­ness in pub­lic. But as of this Jan­u­ary, for the first time, one fifth of the mem­bers of the U.S. Sen­ate will be women.

That’s an impor­tant mile­stone for our democracy.

Insti­tu­tions — whether they be pub­lic or pri­vate — func­tion bet­ter when the lead­er­ship is diverse. Last July, Bloomberg observed that com­pa­nies with women on their boards out­per­form com­pa­nies that are run almost exclu­sive­ly by old white guys. The U.S. Sen­ate will cer­tain­ly ben­e­fit from the pres­ence of strong women lead­ers like Eliz­a­beth War­ren, Mazie Hirono, and Tam­my Baldwin.

We look for­ward to see­ing them get to work in our nation’s capital.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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