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Mass. Politics Gender Problem? Women, Minorities Underrepresented in State Legislature

The strong majority of Massachusetts' legislators are white and male.

Despite the gains made over the past few decades, women and minorities continue to make up a smaller share of state legislators than their numbers in the population at large suggest they would.

series of maps published by Wicked Local Wednesday visually display the striking disparity. Blacks or Latinos together comprise 5.6 percent of the House (9 of 160 representative) and 2.5 percent of the Senate (1 of 40 senators) despite being 7.8 percent of the state's population and Latinos being 9.9 percent.

Nationally, 8.1 percent of legislators are black and 2.9 percent are Latino, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but these two groups comprise a higher percentage of the national population than they do of Massachusetts'.

Asians make up 5.6 of the state's population but there isn't a single Asian senator and they make up only 1.3 percent of representatives, according to Wicked Local's numbers.

Perhaps the biggest gap is seen in women. Despite the fact that 51.6 of Bay Staters are women, only 24.4 percent of representatives and 27.5 percent of senators are female. This number is exactly on par with the national average for representatives and a little higher for senators, according to the National Foundation for Women Legislators. Melrose sends one female to Beacon Hill, State Senator Katherine Clark.

At the federal level, one of the state's ten members of the house of representatives is female -- Niki Tsongas -- and both Senators are men. The state has never elected a female Senator or Governor. Jane Swift served as acting Governor from 2001 to 2003 but was not elected.

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