One in Five U.S. Senators Will Be Female Next Term

If 1992 was "the year of the woman," what does that make 2012?

elizabeth warrenElizabeth Warren photo by qwrrty on Flickr.

There’s no question that women voters, who broke big time for the president last night by pushing him to victory, proved themselves political winners on Election Day. But perhaps a more potent (and bipartisan) sign of success for women in politics is that the U.S. Senate will feature the highest proportion of women in its history, as Bloomberg Businessweek notes, thanks in part to Elizabeth Warren.

Already 17 women serve in the Senate, but two of them are retiring: Maine’s Olympia Snowe and Texas’s Kay Bailey Hutchison. But the number is rising to at least 19 and perhaps 20, making for a ratio roughly one in five. Here are the new additions:

•   Warren, of course, defeated incumbent Scott Brown Tuesday, making her the first female Senator from our fair state of Massachusetts.

•   Republican Deb Fischer defeated Bob Kerrey in Nebraska to take the retiring Sen. Ben Nelson’s seat. Of the new women senators, she’s the only Republican.

•   Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, defeated Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin to replace Sen. Herb Kohl. She’ll become Wisconsin’s first female Senator and the Senate’s first openly gay member.

•   Mazie Hirnono of Hawaii was running against a woman, Linda Lingle, so from a gender perspective, this seat was a lock. She replaces Sen. Daniel Akaka, becoming the state’s first female senator, and the Senate’s first Asian-American woman.

Less certain, but potentially joining them is:

•   Democrat Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota came out ahead of her opponent Rep. Rick Berg by 3,000 votes, a margin slim enough that Berg gets a recount.

The numbers could have gone higher but a few women lost their elections to men including:

•   Republican Linda McMahon in Connecticut lost to Democrat Chris Murphy.

•   Republican Heather Wilson in New Mexico lost to Martin Heinrich.

People declared 1992 the “Year of the Woman” because the number of female senators reached seven so we’re not sure what to call 2012. On the other hand (not to play Debbie Downer or anything) while one in five is an impressive record, it’s still not exactly representative of the gender ratio in America at large. But if that gets you down, perhaps you’ll be bolstered by our neighbors to the north. In New Hampshire, the governor and the entire congressional delegation are now female.