Women Lead Arkansas will have a reception from 5-7 p.m. Saturday at Philander Smith to recognize female politicians, past and present. The public is welcome. There’s a Facebook page.

The non-partisan, non-profit group was formed to encourage women to engage in politics, policy and leadership. Said a group release: 

Compared to men, women face higher and different hurdles when they run for office. They are judged more harshly for their appearance. They are more likely to have to “prove” their  qualifications, while we tend to take men’s words that they are qualified. WLA wants to honor  those women who have taken on the challenge of running for office.

Currently, only 23 women serve in Arkansas’s General Assembly, down from a high of 31 in 2009. Arkansas is one of 24 states that has never had a female governor. 

Women in Arkansas are still paid less than men: 82 cents on the dollar on average, 77 cents for African-American women, and 55 cents for Latinas. Few women sit on education and corporate boards. Young girls are actively steered away from pursuing education in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math. In Arkansas, more women and children live in poverty; and we rank high among the states for teen pregnancy and birth rates.

WLA believes that providing tools and resources for women will increase opportunities for economic development; improve education and healthcare for everyone; and give more women a seat at the table, so they can share the responsibility of shaping public policy in Arkansas.

This year’s election won’t change overall numbers much. Stephanie Harris, a leader of the group, said:


Of the 413 people who filed with the Secretary of State’s office to run, here’s the breakdown of women:

29 of 132 Republicans, or 22 percent
20 of 88 Democrats, or 23 percent
58 of 171 Non-Partisan, or 34 percent

The non-partisan races include judicial races at all levels and prosecuting attorneys. One woman filed as a Libertarian, but there were no female Green Party candidates.