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Published January 30, 2011, 05:29 PM

Women Still Under-Represented at MN City Halls

The number of women elected to local government posts in Minnesota has leveled off, after reaching an all-time high in 2002.

By: Associated Press,

Women still under-represented at Minn. city halls

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) — The number of women elected to local government posts in Minnesota has leveled off, after reaching an all-time high in 2002.

The St. Cloud Times reported Sunday that there are fewer than 130 female mayors out of 854 mayoralties in Minnesota, or not quite 15 percent.

The years 1990 to 2002 were peak for growth by female mayors. During that 12-year-period, the number of female mayors went from 75 to an all-time high of 131 in 2002. Since then the number has hovered steadily in the 120s.

The number of female council members hit a crest in 2007, when 999 out of about 3,600 council slots statewide were filled by women — just over a quarter.

Claire Haag, an assistant professor of political science at the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University, said recent decades have seen a "gradual trend line" upward in female representation in local government. But she said there's obvious room for improvement.

"It's just been a very slow process," Haag said. "In part we see the problem (as) women have to be asked to run and men assume they've got something to add. The confidence is different."

Debra Fitzpatrick, director of the Center on Women and Public Policy at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, said a statewide survey her center did in 2009 found that women who hold local office tend to be more qualified than their male counterparts.

Other surveys have shown that it's tougher for a female challenger to unseat an incumbent than for it is for a male challenger. But female candidates do tend to do better in communities where women have previously held office, Fitzpatrick said.

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