The City of Angels: Where are the Women in L.A. Government?

Former Assembly Speaker and current Congressmember Karen Bass and former L.A. City Controller and California State Inspector Laura Chick | Photo: acul.socal/Flickr/Creative Commons License

A question in honor of women's history month: Do women now run Los Angeles?

I recently attended a lecture hosted by Zocalo Public Square in which author and journalist Liza Mundy asked, "What will happen to coupledom when most women out-earn their male partners?" In numerous big cities, like Los Angeles, a significant percentage of women are making more than their male partners.

This lecture made me think, what if we look not at earning among heterosexual couples, but at representation in government? So I'll ask again, do women run Los Angeles?

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If we look just at elected government posts, the answer seems to be a clear "no." In the City Council fourteen of our fifteen representatives are male. The numbers are similar on the county level. Four of our five members of the Board of Supervisors are male. The pattern continues when we look at the makeup of the members of our state assembly. Of the seventeen Assembly members representing portions of Los Angeles, twelve are men. The numbers tell a similar story in the state's upper house. Of the twelve members of the California State Senate representing areas of Los Angeles only three are women. The numbers shift considerably, however, when we look at members of Congress representing Los Angeles. Half of the fourteen member of Congress hailing from Los Angeles are women.

What do those numbers tell us? Many things, but perhaps the most obvious being that most people in Los Angeles are represented by a male in city, county or state government.

I do not now endeavor to undertake a searching review of the reasons why this is so, or even of the consequences of that fact. But we all should. Women now equal at least half of the population in most institutions of higher learning. We should ask why women have not come close to comprising half of the members of most elected government bodies.

Jessica Levinson writes about the intersection of law and government in Los Angeles every week. She is a Visiting Professor at Loyola Law School. Read more of her posts here.

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Whatcha running for, Ms. L.?