The corridors of the gold-domed state capitol here are lined with busts and portraits showing what political power used to look like in Colorado. Nearly without exception, the figures depicted in that artwork are male.
But step onto the floor of the Colorado House, and you’ll see something entirely different. In the current legislative session, more than half of the state representatives — 34 out of 65 — are women. Seven of the 11 House committees are chaired by women.
Only once before and only briefly has any legislature in the country experienced a female majority in even one of its chambers. It happened in New Hampshire, where women held 13 out of 24 seats in the state Senate during the 2009-2010 session.
A decade later, there are two: Colorado and Nevada, where women not only constitute a majority in the Assembly, but also hold most of the seats in the legislature as a whole.
This is not just the aftereffect of the 2018 election, which saw record numbers of women running for office. Colorado’s groundswell for more female representation has been building for years, fueled by organizations such as the state chapter of Emerge America, which operates a sort of boot camp for women interested in running at the state and local level.
Kathleen Collins “KC” Becker, who got her start on the Boulder City Council, is the third woman in a row to serve as House speaker. “We very diligently recruit women, and train women to run, and hire women as campaign managers,” she said in an interview in her offices just off the chamber. “And so, all of this is intentional. It didn’t just happen that way.”
This year has also seen a record number of women in Colorado’s state Senate, 13 out of a membership of 35. Well over half the agency heads appointed by its new governor, Jared Polis (D), are female.