(CNN) — A record number of women will be elected to Congress this year, CNN projects, but with minimal difference to the current one.
The 149 women who will serve in the US House of Representatives and Senate in the 118th Congress will expand the ranks of female representation by just two members over the record set by the current Congress.
Alaska led the women across that threshold this Wednesday night as the state determined through its ranked-choice voting system that Rep. Mary Peltola, a Democrat, will represent the state’s House at-large seat for a full term after winning the special election earlier this year , while Senator Lisa Murkowski will win re-election.
Women will break an overall record in the House, with 124 taking office in January.
And not only will women of color break records in the 118th Congress, but within the House alone there will also be a record number of Black and Latina women. There will be four more Latinas in the House for a total of 18, the most in US Legislative history, and one more black woman, bringing the total from 26 to 27.
More than half of the incoming 22 female first-year congresswomen in the House will be women of color, showing the growing diversity of that chamber.
“We have seen a fairly consistent increase in the racial and ethnic diversity of women as candidates, nominees and then public office at the congressional level, but more specifically, in the United States House of Representatives,” said Kelly Dittmar, director of research from the Center for American Women and Politics at the Eagleton Institute for Politics at Rutgers.
“That diversity continues to be sorely lacking in the United States Senate… We’re seeing stagnation there in terms of the number of women of color overall. The number of Asian and Latina women specifically will stay the same, and the number of Black women will stay the same at zero,” she added.
Representative-elect Sydney Kamlager of California is one of those new voices coming to the House. The state senator was chosen to replace Rep. Karen Bass, who is retiring and will become the first female mayor of Los Angeles. Kamlager said that while she is excited about the diversity of the freshman class, there is still a long way to go.
“I think people need to stop paying lip service to black women and brown women and put money where the mouth is. The fact is that black and brown women face higher barriers to entry into this job than other women and men,” said the Democrat. “When we run, our campaign contributions are less frequent than those of men. We are held to higher and double standards,” she added, noting that female candidates are still often asked why they are not “at home taking care of their husband or her children”.
“People are fine with a mediocre candidate, but they expect the candidate to be off the charts,” he said.
Representative-elect Yadira Caraveo, a Democrat, she is the first Latina elected to Congress from Colorado. The state representative, who is the daughter of Mexican immigrant parents, will also be the second female doctor to serve as a voting member of Congress. (The first, Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier, won re-election in Washington state.)
“It’s a bit sad that it only happened until 2022,” Caraveo said, reflecting on both milestones.
Her background in medicine and state politics, she said, prepared her to have to work harder for “less credit” than her male counterparts.
“It is, unfortunately, something that I have seen throughout my time, both in medicine and in politics, and unfortunately, a challenge that one gets used to, in some respects, but also, in others, it continues to be painful. said Caraveo, a pediatrician.
“Even my staff members, when they came on board, really noticed how differently I was treated or perceived as a woman of color compared to some of the other candidates who were able to get meetings more easily or support from different groups,” added.
Women mark a milestone in politics
Still, the moment does not go unnoticed by these women.
“In Colorado, I didn’t grow up seeing who I am now,” Caraveo said. “The idea of being the first Latina, so she’s not only a woman but also a woman of color, serving in Congress, I hope it makes things a little easier for the girls I’ve cared for in the clinic so that one day they won’t have to talk about being the first of something, his candidacy and his ability to be in office is a fact.
And Caraveo, who will represent a new district that Colorado won in the redistricting process, also stressed the importance of what greater female representation could mean for legislating.
“That sense of collaboration with which we approach things is very different, I think, from what my male counterparts tend to do,” she said.
Across the aisle, Republicans will break a record with 42 women serving in Congress. Murkowski and Republican Sen.-elect Katie Britt of Alabama help bring the number of Republican women in the Senate to nine. And 33 Republican women will serve in the House next year, up from 32 this year.
The incoming class of seven Republican House freshmen includes three Latinas, bringing the total number of Latina Republicans in the House to five.
“Having diversity of thought and experience is critical to our representative democracy,” said Rep.-elect Erin Houchin, who noted that she is the first woman to represent her Indiana district.
“It looks like we are achieving something for the next generation,” he said. “It’s meaningful to me in particular to set that example for my own daughters, for young women.”
Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio has seen and broken many records before as the longest-serving woman in the House. When she is sworn in for another term in January, immediately after her first competitive re-election in years, she will become the longest-serving woman in office in all of Congress, surpassing the record set by former Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski. .
Kaptur, who was first elected in 1982, has sounded the alarm that her party is dominated by leaders from the coasts, while heartland and industrial America, and its struggling middle class, are often forgotten in Washington. .
“My most moving achievement is that the position represents a voice of the working class, which happens to be a woman,” she said.