Wisconsin Public Radio

Assembly Democrats Reach Gender Parity

Women make up 50% of Democrats but just 16% of Republicans in state Assembly.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Nov 26th, 2018 10:48 am
Dianne Hesselbein. Photo from the State of Wisconsin 2013-14 Blue Book.

Dianne Hesselbein. Photo from the State of Wisconsin 2013-14 Blue Book.

Women will still be a minority in the Wisconsin Legislature next year, but not among Assembly Democrats.

As national conversations swirl about growing gender, racial and ethnic diversity in government, Wisconsin Assembly Democrats will welcome a new caucus in 2019 that’s 50 percent female.

“It’s an exciting time for women and I think we’re finally representing that in our numbers,” said Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Dianne Hesselbein, D-Middleton. “We’re finally at parity, at long last.”

After January’s inauguration, Democrats will hold 36 seats in the 99-member state Assembly. Eighteen of those seats will be held by women.

Though the minority party’s bills will likely face an uphill climb in the GOP-controlled chamber, Hesselbein said she looks forward to her caucus working on proposals to raise the minimum wage and increase the availability of paid family medical leave in the workplace.

“I think we’re going to see a lot more progressive policies pushed forward, especially when it comes to families,” she said.

Despite legislative minorities, Democrats will have a member of their party in the governor’s office for the first time in eight years. Hesselbein said more female lawmakers could help circumvent potential partisan gridlock

“I think women have a great way of working together,” she said, referencing the role of female lawmakers in the compromise that ended a federal government shutdown in 2013.

“I’m hoping that the same thing can happen in the state of Wisconsin,” she said.

Though she recognized the Legislature has plenty of room to improve in terms of racial diversity, Hesselbein said she’s heartened by gender parity in her caucus.

“We need to have more people at the table setting policy, talking about what’s important, what they’re hearing from the voters in their district,” she said. “I think the more people we have at the table, the better outcome it’s going to be for the state of Wisconsin.”

On the Republican side of the Assembly, women will hold 10 of 63 GOP seats, or roughly 16 percent of the caucus.

In the state Senate, female lawmakers will make up 43 percent of the Democratic caucus and 11 percent of the GOP caucus.

The inauguration of the new Legislature is slated for Jan. 7, 2019.

Listen to the WPR report here.

Wisconsin Democrats To Achieve Gender Parity In State Assembly was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

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