“We live in a man’s world,” she said. “Especially because we live in the Bible Belt of the South, women are not expected to have a place in government.”
Emily Kramer, a first-year student at UNC, is currently majoring in political science and plans on going into politics. She said it is troubling that women make up such a small portion of the legislature but that this is a struggle that can be overcome.
Though women only make up about a quarter of North Carolina’s legislature, the state's percentage of female legislators is higher than most of its neighbors where female representation is in the teens.
N.C. Rep. Cynthia Ball, D-Wake, said the traditional role women used to have in society has actually better equipped them to take on roles in government.
“We tend to be better listeners, and we’re used to multi-tasking,” she said.
Treul said research shows there is an advantage to having a diverse group of people making the laws. She said diversity brings in different perspectives that influence legislation.
Kramer said the benefits of diversity are major reasons why more women should be included in government.
“The whole point of our democracy is that we are represented by people who actually represent us and our interests,” she said.
Encouraging more women to run for office, especially at an early age, is the key to boosting their numbers, Ball said.
“Women require more organizational support,” Treul said. “The message that politics is a place where real change can be affected is one that needs to be emphasized.”
Ball said it is important for women pursuing political office not to focus too much on their gender.
“If you go into a room and get too caught up on the fact that you’re the only woman, it creates a hypersensitivity that is counterproductive for you,” she said.
Treul said women tend to enjoy fundraising less than men, so encouraging that behavior is crucial because financial support can decide elections.
“When women build personal relationships, they tend not to feel as comfortable asking people for money,” Ball said.
Organizations like She Should Run and Lillian's List seek to help women run for office through peer nominations and financial support, should they choose to run.
Ball said some organizations tend to support progressive women who are supportive of women's reproductive rights, but many women may not fall into that category.
"Women shouldn’t be encouraged to run because they support a certain policy position — but because they are women," Ball said.