The New Women in Government

By Stephanie Zhou and Isha Lele

With the presidential election on everyone’s minds, it’s easy to overlook the smaller elections that can often times be just as important. In 2017, the largest number of women will be serving in the US Senate than ever before. Although men still outnumber women in a four to one ratio, 21 women will lead the way to a more representative body of government in America. Some of these senators will be serving their first term starting in 2017, representing minorities and  women, paving the way for future representatives in the United States Government.

Tammy Duckworth

Newly elected senator, Tammy Duckworth, is no stranger to politics. Serving as a representative to the US for the 8th congressional district since 2013 and previously an Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs in the United States Department of Veteran Affairs. Born in Bangkok, Thailand to a white US Marine veteran and a mother of Chinese descent, Duckworth soon traveled among many parts of Southeast Asia because of her father’s occupation in the United Nations and other international organizations, becoming fluent in Thai and Indonesian, along with Chinese.


After attending high school and college in Hawaii and later George Washington University, Duckworth soon followed her father’s footsteps and enrolled in the military. Deployed to Iraq in 2004, the soldier lost her right leg when the UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopter she was co-piloting was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, making her the first female double amputee in the Iraq war. Her arm was near complete decimation as well losing her left leg below knee. Despite her new disability, she was promoted major and soon after, lieutenant colonel, after receiving an Air Medal and Army Commendation Medal.


In 2016, Duckworth ran against incumbent, Republican Senator Mark Kirk. During a televised debate between the two in October, Kirk said, “I’d forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington.” when Duckworth was talking about her strong ancestry of military servers tracing back to the Revolutionary way. This led to organizations like the Human RIghts Campaign to withdraw their support for Kirk, stating his comments were “deeply offensive and racist”.

Despite a very tight race, Duckworth prevailed and became the second Asian-American and first disabled female veteran to serve in congress.

Kamala Harris

As the first African American, male or female, senate representative of California, Kamala Harris opens the door to opportunities for all minorities. Growing up in Oakland, California to an Indian-American breast cancer specialist and Jamaican professor of economics at Stanford University, Harris was always involved in political activism. Harris started her career as Deputy District Attorney in Alameda County, California and later District Attorney of the City and County of San Francisco after beating two-term incumbent, Terence Hallinan.

Harris has served as the 32nd Attorney General of California since January of 2011. Her background in law, stemming from her Juris Doctorate degree from Hastings College of Law at the University of California has brought her wild success, earning several leadership awards such as, Child Advocate of the Year Award (2004) from the San Francisco Child Abuse, Prevention Council Woman of Power Award (2004) from the National Urban League and the Thurgood Marshall Award (2005) from the National Black Prosecutors Association. When taking office in 2011, Harris became the state’s first female, first black and first Asian American attorney general in US history.

After Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer announced her retirement after 24 years of serving as California’s Junior Senator, Harris quickly saw an opportunity. Harris raised and spent 6 million dollars on the campaign, soon winning 78% of the California Democratic Party’s votes and 48 of the 58 counties. In the California General election, she ran against democratic candidate Loretta Sanchez, winning the election by almost 3 million votes and a 25% margin. Her campaign focused on many humanitarian issues that plague the people of California such as, Civil rights, justice, the environment, and criminal justice reform. Because Harris’s term as Attorney General of California doesn’t expire until January of 2019, Harris will have to state her post before her new senator term begins.

Catherine Cortez Masto

As the first Latina senator in the history of the United States, Catherine Cortez Masto has fought to protect Nevada’s seniors, children, and women. Serving first as the Attorney General of Nevada in 2007, Cortez Masto has broken the glass ceiling by gaining more votes than any other statewide opponent.

A native to Nevada, Cortez Masto began her law career at the Gonzaga University School of Law, earning her doctorate in 1990. Her career took off with notable cases such as a statewide restraining order against Uber, hosting a wildly successful fundraiser for her choice of democratic government, Robert Randazzo, as well as fighting against the statewide drug epidemic, battling against the use and distribution of methamphetamine.

In the past 2016 election, Cortez Masto ran against republican candidate Joe Heck, beating Heck by a 3% margin and 26,000 votes.  In her victory speech, Cortez Masto noted her status of being the first Latina elected to the Senate, “It’s not just about making history. Don’t you think it is about time that we had diversity in the U.S. Senate? Don’t you think it’s about time that our government mirrors the people we serve every day?” As Catherine Cortez Masto begins the transition to the Capitol, her legacy of being the first Latina senator in the United States and brings inspiration as she represents the people of not only Nevada, but many Latinas across the country.

Tammy Duckworth, Kamala Harris and Catherine Cortez Masto are all part of a greater movement of welcoming women representatives in the US government. Together, these powerful women will steer our country in the right direction, bringing civil justice and equal rights to women and minorities alike.