Weekend Reading on Women’s Representation is a compilation of stories about women’s representation in politics, on boards, in sports and entertainment, in judicial offices and in the private sector in the U.S. and around the world—with a little gardening and goodwill mixed in for refreshment!
This weekend marks the celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8. The holiday has been celebrated in countries around the world for over a century.
The International Women’s Day website describes the origins of how the holiday came to be:
International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
No one government, NGO, charity, corporation, academic institution, women’s network or media hub is solely responsible for International Women’s Day. Many organizations declare an annual IWD theme that supports their specific agenda or cause, and some of these are adopted more widely with relevance than others. International Women’s Day is a collective day of global celebration and a call for gender parity.
International Women’s Day is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action—whatever that looks like globally at a local level. But one thing is for sure, International Women’s Day has been occurring for well over a century, and continues to grow from strength to strength.
BREAKING NEWS: We found a country that has achieved gender equality!
In Equiterra all people have equal rights and opportunities, regardless of their gender. Women and girls feel safe when walking at night. They get paid equally as men, for work of equal value.
Men and women share chores and care duties at home, and they can access high quality care at affordable rates. Isn’t that fabulous!
No one is talking about ‘at least 30 per cent’ quota for women in political leadership in Equiterra anymore — men and women are equally represented in political offices, corporate boardrooms and factory floors. Women have equal say in decisions that affect their lives, their bodies, their policies, and their environment. Girls are as valued as boys are, and people of all gender and sexuality feel safe and equal.
This is what gender equality looks like. Join us for a tour of its bustling capital!
RepresentWomen tracks women’s representation globally in order to understand the best practices used around the world for electing more women to office – faster.
Currently, the United States ranks 82nd for the percentage of women elected to the House of Representatives.
Twenty years ago, we ranked 48th.
Despite the many programs designed to prepare individual women to office—which are needed—they are no match for the highly effective systems strategies used in the higher ranked countries to elect women to office.
Of the top 50 countries for women’s representation, 80 percent use some type of gender targets or quotas, while 72 percent have a proportional voting system. These institutional strategies can be modified for use in the United States to advance women’s representation and leadership. Ranked choice voting is a great example of a systems reform that elects more women to office.
You can read more about our international research here.
There were several stories from around the world that caught my eye this week—including this one from All Africa about the increase in the number of cabinet level seats held by women in Rwanda:
Women now constitute 55 percent of cabinet seats, up from 52 percent. The development follows Wednesday’s cabinet reshuffle which saw eight new faces, including four women, join cabinet.
Members of cabinet have also increased from 27 to 29 following the creation of two new positions at the level of state minister.
The new cabinet line-up includes 16 women.
The constitution requires that either gender must be represented at any decision-making organ at no less than 30 per cent.
Three of the four new full ministers named Wednesday are women…
Speaking to The New Times on Thursday, Rwanda Women’s Network founder and director, Mary Balikungeri said she was happy with the changes noting that the cabinet is composed of highly qualified and competent individuals.
She welcomed the increased representation of women at the highest level, underlining that more and more young women are coming through to assume key leadership roles across government.
There was another interesting piece from abroad about the call for quotas to advance women’s representation at the Global Thinkers Forum:
Quotas are needed in the City to ensure women secure top executive roles, according to an expert panel.
Leading women in business, the arts, politics and the third sector met simultaneously in cities worldwide yesterday for the second annual Global Thinkers Forum (GTF).
The forum, held ahead of International Women’s Day on Sunday, discussed “making the case on female leadership.”
The London panel was hosted at the Evening Standard’s offices, with live feeds to panels in Johannesburg, Karachi, Istanbul, Beirut and Amman, and discussions in Irvine, California, and Athens where 68 women were speaking across the nine events.
BBC World presenter Tim Willcox chaired the London event, with economist Vicky Pryce, High Commissioner of Rwanda Yamina Karitanyi, Vicky Booth, CEO of charity Inspiring Girls, author Shamim Sarif, entrepreneur Paola Diana and GTF founder Elizabeth Filippouli taking part.
Speakers agreed that despite the revolution of the #MeToo movement, the “battle is not won” for women in terms of achieving gender parity in the workplace or general society.
“I think it’s easy for people to assume that the battle has been won,” Booth said, adding that through the work she does with girls, she has seen that the battle is ‘very clearly not won’ and there are still a set of challenges women face, starting at a young age.
The Guardian reported on new plans underway in the European Union to push for mandatory quotas for women on boards and fines for companies with less than 40 percent women:
The European Union executive is reviving plans for mandatory quotas of women on company boards, amid slowing progress towards gender equality among top management.
The EU commissioner for equality, Helena Dalli, told journalists that quotas “can be a very ugly word” but were also “a necessary evil, in the sense we have to use quotas because otherwise we will wait another 100 years for things to change by themselves.”
Under a 2012 draft directive, European-listed companies would face fines if they failed to ensure that at least 40 percent of their non-executive board seats were taken by women.
But the proposals ran into opposition from central and northern European member states, including the UK.
The commission announced on Thursday that it was dusting down the 2012 draft law, as it launched a five-year gender equality strategy. The wide-ranging plan proposes to harmonise European law on violence against women, as well as measures to combat sexual harassment and female genital mutilation.
The commission argues that gender parity is most worrying in the sphere of power, with women underrepresented in politics and business. The European parliament has a record number of female MEPs, but men still account for 61 percent of deputies.
Closer to home, I had a piece in The Fulcrum this week on the steps necessary to heed Abigail Adams’ plea to ‘remember the ladies’ that will sound familiar to many of you:
Abigail Adams wrote to her husband at the Continental Congress in 1776, warning John: “If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” That famous quote is a timely reminder that women have long been at the forefront of democracy reform to demand that our voices be heard.
As our country celebrates a century of the 19th Amendment and the “universal” suffrage that came with its ratification, we also must reflect on the slow and minimal progress we’ve made in the past century.
Despite historic numbers of women in both houses of Congress, the United States ranks 82nd in the world for women’s representation in national legislatures. And unfortunately, progress for women — especially women of color and conservative women — will continue to be slow because we have antiquated electoral norms that favor the status quo. The Founding Fathers didn’t create a system or a country to benefit or include women; they built one to support and represent the powerholders at the table: white men.
There are various strategies to advance women’s representation and leadership, but the data shows the most impactful and enduring tactics must include tackling an unrepresentative — and, at its heart, undemocratic — electoral system. The only way to achieve balanced representation of women in our lifetimes is by making changes to the rules and systems that have reigned unquestioned for more than two centuries. Fortunately, the United States has a long history of structural reforms to level the playing field and create equal opportunities to participate including the 19th Amendment (1920), the Civil Rights Act (1964), the Voting Rights Act (1965), Title IX (1972) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) — all of which reformed institutions, not the individuals marginalized by institutions.
RepresentWomen’s resident artist Melanie Humble shared this tribute to Katherine Johnson (who died last week) from The New York Times:
They asked Katherine Johnson for the moon, and she gave it to them.
Wielding little more than a pencil, a slide rule and one of the finest mathematical minds in the country, Mrs. Johnson, who died at 101 on Monday at a retirement home in Newport News, Va., calculated the precise trajectories that would let Apollo 11 land on the moon in 1969 and, after Neil Armstrong’s history-making moonwalk, let it return to Earth.
A single error, she well knew, could have dire consequences for craft and crew. Her impeccable calculations had already helped plot the successful flight of Alan B. Shepard Jr., who became the first American in space when his Mercury spacecraft went aloft in 1961.
The next year, she likewise helped make it possible for John Glenn, in the Mercury vessel Friendship 7, to become the first American to orbit the Earth.
Yet throughout Mrs. Johnson’s 33 years in NASA’s Flight Research Division — the office from which the American space program sprang — and for decades afterward, almost no one knew her name.
There have been many brilliant, touching posts and pieces written about the departure from the race of the last viable woman presidential candidate for the Democratic nomination—including this one by Jessica Valenti on Medium, this one by Michelle Cottle in The New York Times, and this one by Paul Waldman in The Washington Post.
This piece by Devorah Blachor from McSweeney’s serves as a poignant bookend to our dance with women presidential candidates:
When you hated Hillary Clinton, you didn’t really have to explain yourself. Everyone understood why someone would hate Hillary Clinton, the worst Pizzagate warmonger in human history who was so evil that she spent her First Lady years trying to get Americans universal healthcare. Ugh.
But it was hard to reach the same conclusion with Elizabeth Warren. At least, it was hard at first.
After that, we got to know Warren better as an advocate for requiring banks to admit wrongdoing and pay fines, as an opponent to big pharma and health-industry corruption and as a champion of the progressive agenda.
If anti-corruption took human form, it would definitely look like a 70-year-old professor in a Nina McLemore tailored jacket.
But then something changed. It’s hard to pin down just when, but if pressed, I’d have to say the turning point was when Elizabeth Warren gained momentum in the presidential race, and then made a mistake. That’s when I knew she wasn’t an ideal candidate, but instead was a demonic creature who must be stopped before she destroyed our country.
Finally, this week we were thrilled to attend the Women’s Congressional Policy Institute gala—organized by the incredible Cindy Hall—where we got to meet some sheroes and were reminded of the power of women from across the partisan aisle working, and laughing, together.
Before we go—
Now that the last viable woman candidate has left the race to be the Democratic nominee, it’s time to focus our significant power on making sure that the presidential candidates commit to naming a woman as their running mate and appointing a gender-balanced cabinet if elected.
Jennifer Rubin writes about this challenge to the remaining candidates in the Washington Post today:
The Democratic Party must demonstrate that it is determined to look forward to candidates who do not look and sound like the same white male politicians we have seen before.
It cannot be that President Barack Obama was the sole exception to the rule and we are now fated to return to the same-old, same-old presidential profile. The way to excite voters, to bring in new ones, is to signal the party is moving forward and will break the male grip on the presidency while the Republicans are moving in reverse, seeking to drive women back to the 1950s.
Please sign and share RepresentWomen’s petition with your networks to build the momentum for gender equity in the executive branch.