Despite nationwide efforts for equal representation, Texas is still behind the curve in providing equality for women, according to a new Wallethub study.
Texas is ranked 47th in the political representation gap, despite women comprising a little more than 50 percent of the population. Additionally, Texas is ranked 45th in women’s education and health.
Historically, women in Texas have not received the legal protections that men have.
Legal loopholes stayed in place until the 1990s in regards to cases of marital rape. In addition, , Texas does not have the same policies for maternity leave as other states do.
Ashleen Menchaca-Bagnulo, assistant professor of Political Science at Texas State University, said it takes generations for attitudes and questions of accessibility to change. She also said it takes women who are working as professionals or in the political realm generations to build resumes and make connections.
Overall, Bagnulo believes Texas is “not particularly responsive to change.”
“To focus on one obstacle, the obstacle of economic independence and professional viability, we still very much operate in a world where getting pregnant or having children is often a practical obstacle to employment or promotion,” Menchaca-Bagnulo said.
Although Texas is required to follow the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, the state has no laws that require employers to give parental or maternity leave.
For Menchaca-Bagnulo, the issue stems from the culture of the state ranging from medical protections to political representation.
Around 2,000 women currently serve in state legislatures across the country, about 24 percent of the legislators nationwide.
“Texas has no women in the U.S. Senate, and very few in the House of Representatives, State Legislature or among state-elected executives,” said Jill Gonzalez, an analyst for Wallethub. “This could be because women are not encouraged to get involved in politics, and it’s hard for them to find support if they decide to pursue a political career.”
Bagnulo said she feels that Americans have a difficult time accepting women in leadership roles, which she believes was evident during the 2016 United States Presidential election.
“Whatever one thinks of Hillary Clinton, there is no doubt that her gender was a liability for her,” Bagnulo said. “Whatever one thinks of Trump, there is no doubt that the fact that several women spoke out against him for alleged sexual assault had little to no impact on him and that his accusers were easily dismissed as disgruntled women, as were the accusers of Roy Moore.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislators, Texas has a total of 181 women in the state legislature, or 20.4 percent, which is almost 5 percent under the national average.
Twenty-nine of those women are in the Texas House, while the remaining eight serve in the State Senate.
Additionally, Texas is ranked 42nd in education attainment gap in higher education for women, according to the study.
And other western countries are ensuring that women receive the same opportunities as men. Gonzalez said more countries offer grants and financial aid to women who wish to pursue higher education.
“Special financing opportunities exist for women who want to become entrepreneurs, as well,” Gonzalez said. “There is equal pay for men and women doing the same job, and women are offered the same career advancement opportunities as men are.”
Discrepancies aside, more people are vying to balance gender equity in the state.
Bagnulo has teamed with a group of female political science students to form the “Supporting Women in Politics” group at Texas State University, which is supported by a number of students and professors throughout the school.
The organization is a grassroots initiative to help change the perception of women in politics in Texas through education. Bagnulo said she believes people recognize women need more encouragement when entering politics and public administration.
“A lot of the female students in this group told me what a gap this fills for them and how grateful they are for this network. It’s definitely meeting a need,” Bagnulo said. “They also said they didn’t realize how many female professors our department had, and that that has been encouraging to them. Things are changing every day.”