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Illinois General Assembly gains more women members

January 29, 2019

SPRINGFIELD — The number of women in the Illinois Legislature has increased slightly, though the numbers still fall behind a state panel’s goal of having equal representation.

The 101st Illinois General Assembly has 64 women, up from 62 women two years ago, The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reported. The state has 177 House and Senate seats.

One of those seats is filled by State Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst, R-Kankakee, who recently began her second term as the 79th District representative. The 79th District covers much of the Kankakee County region. Parkhurst is the third straight woman to represent the district, succeeding former lawmakers Lisa Dugan and Kate Cloonen.

Illinois is 11th in the U.S. for the percent of women in a state Legislature, with about 36 percent of the Legislature being women, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Nevada leads the nation with about 51 percent of legislative seats filled by women, and West Virginia has the lowest ratio of women with 14 percent.

Illinois’ Anti-Harassment, Equality and Access panel aims to have 50 percent female representation in the Illinois General Assembly, according to a report the group released last year.

Republican Rep. Avery Bourne, of Raymond, said gender representation in the Legislature is important.

“I’m certainly a proponent that we need the Legislature to look like the people it represents,” she said.

Former Republican Rep. Sara Wojcicki Jimenez noted how important a woman’s perspective was during her time on the House Sexual Harassment Task Force.

“One of the things I found when that topic started to be debated is that some of the men I talked to were unaware that it was an issue for some of the women they knew,” Jimenez said. “It’s because it had either never happened to them personally or the women in their lives just hadn’t talked about it openly. It wasn’t that the men were denying it. It was an awareness issue.”

Jimenez didn’t run for re-election and was replaced by Republican Mike Murphy, of Springfield.

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