Hawaii voters give women top jobs
A national survey indicates that Hawaii has shown the most improvement in women gaining high positions in government.
WOMEN in Hawaii have made significant strides in gaining leadership positions in state government but still have a long way to go. Their numbers have grown more than in any other state in the past eight years but still are only slightly above the national average, according to a survey this week. Elected officials should take note that Hawaii voters are more prone than the officials are to select women for top jobs.
From 1998 to last year, women's share of state leadership positions nationally rose from 23.1 percent to 24.7 percent, while Hawaii's grew from 20 percent to 27.6 percent, vaulting the state's ranking from 35th to 17th, according to a study by the Center for Women in Government & Civil Society. The study counted statewide elected officials, department heads, legislators, high court justices and top advisors to governors.
Voters can be credited for Hawaii's improved standing of women in the corridors of power, electing Linda Lingle as governor and women to 22 of the 76 state legislative positions. In all appointive posts, Hawaii lags behind most other states.
Ironically, Lingle, one of only eight female governors, has been inclined to lend an important ear to men more than women. Linda Smith is the sole woman among Lingle's six top advisers, according to the study. Only Georgia's Gov. Sonny Perdue has named a greater percentage of men to at least as many top advisory spots; all seven are male.
Four of Lingle's 16 cabinet members are women, far below the national average of women accounting for 42 percent. Nationally, that category was where women made their greatest advances since 1998.
In 1993, Paula A. Nakayama became the first woman in 26 years to become a Hawaii Supreme Court justice. More than half the states now have two or more women justices, but Nakayama remains surrounded by men.
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