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!
Belinda Luscombe had a fascinating piece in Time Magazine on New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s “Next Big Test” that provides a window into the challenges and opportunities facing the young leader:
Ardern has infused New Zealand with a new kind of soft power. When she visited the U.K. to meet Queen Elizabeth II, who is still New Zealand’s head of state, she wore a kahu huruhuru, a feathered cloak bestowed by Maoris on people of honor. Lots of world leaders try the trick of celebrating a nation’s first peoples by donning the local dress.
But Ardern, visibly pregnant at the time, didn’t wear her gift with the awkwardness of Western leaders who show up at local photo shoots in guayaberas or floral headdresses. She rocked it.
“Other countries want to be associated with what she represents,” says Hayward. “That’s what’s unusual. She’s not having to ask for the time. The doors are opened because it’s helpful for other leaders to be associated with her.”
Ardern claims that she has not set out to make her personal life political, but is merely trying to be open and human. Yet after she became only the second woman in the modern era to have a baby while leading a country (Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan was the other), she and her partner Clarke Gayford—a celebrity TV fisherman—arranged their family life in the most obvious yet surprising way possible; he is the primary childcare provider, with other relatives subbing in.
Ardern is at pains to note that this domestic situation was organized for practical purposes and not to make a statement.
“It wasn’t like we sat down at the table and said, ‘Well, which one of us is going to stay at home?’” she says. “That was decided.”
The next time the couple gets to rethink that arrangement may come on Sept. 19, the anniversary of the day New Zealand women were given the vote, and the date for which Ardern has called an election.
“Know us by our deeds,” Ardern tells the audience at Big Gay Out, a rally in Auckland organized by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation. Enormously popular in the rainbow community, Ardern has come to the festival to announce more funding for LGBTQI+ mental health and research and then meet some voters.
After her speech, she gets so jammed up by selfie takers and huggers that her Labour Party guide, who is wearing a red tuxedo jacket and a striped shorts-and-vest ensemble, has difficulty clearing a path alongside the drag-queen ukulele duos and catwalk contests and military recruiters to the Labour Party’s tent, where a line of about 50 young people are waiting for more selfies and hugs. It’s an exuberant event among her fan base–Ardern gave up her Mormon faith partly because it conflicted with her work to advance LGBTQI+ rights.
There were two great stories this week about professional women athletes and their quest for equal pay and equal rights. The first story was written by Steven Goff for the Washington Post about Megan Rapinoe’s leadership on the playing field and in legal field:
Rapinoe’s excellence first surfaced in the seventh minute of the U.S. women’s national soccer team’s 3-1 victory over Japan on Wednesday in the final round of the SheBelieves Cup in Frisco, Tex.—an outcome that clinched the championship trophy and extended the top-ranked squad’s unbeaten streak to 31.
About two hours later, following the awards ceremony at sold-out Toyota Stadium, ESPN’s Sebastian Salazar and Julie Foudy asked Rapinoe about the U.S. Soccer Federation’s legal filings that say the men’s national team players possess more “skill” and “responsibility” than their female counterparts…
“The team was very upset, obviously,” Rapinoe said on ESPNews. “We had sort of felt those were the certain undercurrent feelings they have had for a long time, but to see that as the argument, a sort of blatant misogyny and sexism as the argument against us, is really disappointing.
“I just want to say it’s all false. To every girl out there, to every boy out there who watches this team, who wants to be on this team or just wants to live their dream out, you are not lesser just because you are a girl. You are not better just because you’re a boy. We are all created equal and should all have the equal opportunity to go out and pursue our dreams.
The second story—in Tennis Magazine—profiles the push for gender equality by women tennis greats a generation ago:
The subject of gender equality in sports is in the headlines again, as the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team pushes for equal pay and equal treatment with the men’s national team. It’s an issue that tennis has dealt with for much longer than any other major sport. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the first all-women’s tour, the Virginia Slims circuit, an occasion forever commemorated by the photo of the Original 9 women pros holding their one-dollar bills high in Houston in September 1970.
Half a century later, with soccer stars like Megan Rapinoe taking up the banner for female athletes, the question may be: How does tennis continue to advance the cause of gender equality in the sports workplace? Equal pay, after much foot dragging, has been achieved at the Grand Slams. What should this new generation of WTA players, and their sympathetic ATP counterparts, push for next?
“Coretta Scott King has this great quote—do you know it?—about how struggle is a never-ending process,” King says, “and every generation has to fight for its own freedom.”
For King, that fight began in the 1960s with the drive for Open tennis, a movement that briefly united male and female players.
“The plan was to be together, and we could change the world,” says King, who in 1968 joined the first modern dual-gender pro tour, the National Tennis League, with Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Rosie Casals and other stars.
I was very glad to stumble across this story in the Irish Legal News about measures to increase women’s representation in the judiciary and in leadership roles at law firms in Ireland.
The team at RepresentWomen has done a very modest amount of research on best practices to get more women into judicial offices in the United States, and I hope to focus more attention on this critically important topic in the coming year:
Ireland should take measures to improve women’s representation in the judiciary and in leadership roles at law firms, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has said.
In a submission to the Citizens’ Assembly, which is currently examining the issue of gender equality in Ireland, the human rights watchdog noted an increase in the number of women in the legal profession.
However, women remain poorly represented on the bench and women are half as likely to become partners in law firm than their male colleagues, the submission warns.
The Commission recommends that the newly-established Judicial Council should take measures to introduce the representation of women in the judiciary.
It also recommends that the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA) and the Government consider measures to tackle “gender stereotyping” in the justice system.
Measures could be taken to encourage flexible hours, flexi-time job sharing, part-time work, shorter hours, remote working, and term-time working in solicitor firms, it suggests.
The Commission also proposes that equality training is incorporated into barrister-at-law and solicitor training, as well as additional measures to ensure the health, safety and well-being of all men and women lawyers.
Erin Vilardi, founder and CEO of VoteRunLead had a terrific letter in The New York Times in response to the editorial board’s piece “Rethinking the Primary System” which argues for the use of ranked choice voting and other reforms to address the problems with the presidential nominee selection process.
Here is the text of Vilardi’s letter:
As a feminist, I have long been an advocate of ranked-choice voting. While the editorial makes sound claims on the benefit to the voter, it could have included a much-needed analysis of the impact ranked-choice voting has on diversifying the candidate pool.
Cities where ranked-choice voting has been implemented are twice as likely to have a female mayor, and the council is more likely to be gender and racially diverse. A consensus candidate emerges from a ranked-choice voting model, and — even better! — that consensus candidate is more likely to be reflective of the population he or she serves.
At every level, we need to be looking at our political systems through the lens of justice across race, gender, class and orientation and build an electoral system that both empowers the voter and enables greater diversity among those we cast votes for. Anything less is “just dumb.”
Anne Moses, founder and CEO of IGNITE, had a piece in The Hill on her impatience with incremental change:
Now that our last viable female candidate has dropped out of the presidential race, it’s tempting to look on the bright side and remark on the number of firsts we’ve accomplished this year.
There were six female candidates, four who were viable contenders. The very presence of this many women on the debate stage visibly challenged what it means to be a viable presidential candidate and collectively elevated what we’ve historically named “women’s issues”—reproductive rights, education, child care—as centrally important to the office of the president. At the same time, their presence solidified the notion that women have equal expertise in traditionally male domains like foreign policy, economic security and the military.
Still, I’m tired of celebrating incremental milestones. At the end of the day, I don’t want to put a positive spin on it. The four female senators running for president collectively held an array of nuanced and detailed policy positions that span the diversity of perspectives across the Democratic party. Yet once again, we ended up with two white guys in their late 70s vying for the Democratic nomination, neither of whom, in my estimation, articulated their positions with the level of detail and depth as any of these female candidates who had many, many plans.
Maria Terersa Kumar, founder and CEO of Voto Latino, also had a piece entitled “Women are Refusing to Take the Backseat in Politics, Especially Latinas” in The Hill this week:
While many might assume the Voting Rights Act was the final expansion of the franchise to minorities and marginalized folks, Latinx people, Native Americans, South Asians and others did not receive full suffrage until the VRA was amended in 1975 to – among other things – include a requirement for bilingual ballots to be made available to anyone who requested them. For the first time, women who’d been excluded from the VRA ten years before could now engage in our electoral system, and in turn, make it stronger.
Still, this country has not figured out how to consider marginalized people and communities when crafting civil rights policy. Protections for the most vulnerable among us are often lacking from majoritarian proposals, when, in reality, the reverse should be the case. All Americans would benefit if policy proposals were centered around trans women, low-income and migrant women at the border and any other severely marginalized groups. This paradigm shift has only become more possible with more women serving in leadership positions. I look forward to it only growing as we progress.
I also had a piece in The Hill this week that makes the case that we should address the underlying structural barriers that are stumbling blocks for women candidates including reforms to our antiquated electoral system and legislative workplace norms:
After seeing a number of qualified women enter and exit the Democratic presidential primary, and many Republican women struggle in recent congressional primaries, it is clear that the problem is not our lack of qualified women candidates but our political culture and electoral systems built over 200 years ago. If we hope to see a woman president, and to give women equal representation at all levels of government, we need both a broad commitment and specific changes in the political process and electoral system that encourage coalition building, civil campaigning and a consensus winner.
Let’s adopt ranked choice voting, modernize legislative workplace norms, and challenge presidential candidates to appoint women as running mates, and as cabinet secretaries, to ensure that women have equal opportunities to run, win, serve and lead.
We will not inaugurate a woman president in 2021. Let’s intensify our commitment to change that reality in the coming decade.
If you haven’t done so already, please sign and share RepresentWomen’s petition to the remaining candidates to appoint a woman as their running mate and a diverse, gender-balanced cabinet if elected.
There were several stories this week on the imperative for the candidates to commit to naming a woman VP including:
- Fred Hiatt in The Washington Post, “The Stakes for Biden’s VP Pick Couldn’t be Higher“
- Lisa Lerer & Reid Epstein in The New York Times, “Momentum Builds for Woman on Democratic Ticket“
- Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post, “There’s Fierce Competition in the Democratic Race—for VP“
Look at the representation in your community and if you don’t like what you see, volunteer for someone on a campaign that’s in step with your ideals. Being informed is a piece of it, but it is not enough. You have to show up and volunteer. You have to start the conversations. No one is going to do it for you — but people will have your back when you do.
We owe it to the trailblazers who came before us, like Representatives Jeannette Pickering Rankin and Hattie Caraway, who broke down barriers for women in Congress. And Representative Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman in Congress and the first to seek the nomination for president as a major-party candidate. And the brave women who continue to make history today, like Representatives Deb Haaland, Elise Stefanik, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. As the ballot narrows for the U.S. presidency, we must continue to resist, persist, and carry this torch forward for these women who demanded a place for women in leadership, for our own daughters and the generations of women to follow.
From roles in your school and city all the way up to the highest office in the land, there’s no time like right now to push for change. So sign a petition or organize a rally. Run for office yourself. Or if you’ve got a friend interested in running, encourage her to go for it.
I am excited to report that the ReflectUS coalition of non-partisan women’s representation organizations including: (RepresentWomen, She Should Run, Empowered Women, Women’s Public Leadership Network, IGNITE, Vote Run Lead, Latinas Represent, and APAICS) has hired a fabulous new CEO, Tiffany Gardner. Stay tuned for more on how you can connect with Tiffany and plug into the ReflectUS network!
Here is a short blurb from Philanthropy Women:
Tiffany brings a decade of extensive international experience in human rights advocacy and domestic public interest. She has worked on women’s rights, human rights and grassroots organizing throughout Africa, Southeast Asia, and the United States. She worked with the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the United Nations International Law Commission and Human Rights Watch and recently was the co-founder and director of the One World Exchange Program for under-represented U.S. college students and organized international solidarity coalitions. She is a former Mergers & Acquisitions associate at the New York law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. She received a B.A. from Yale University, a J.D. from New York University School of Law and a LL.M. in human rights law from Columbia University Law School.
“I look forward to working with the many partners and organizations committed to expediting equal representation of women in public office in our lifetime,” says Tiffany Gardner. “Women are stepping into their political power and I’m excited that ReflectUS is leading the way by modeling the power of collective action – starting with the work in our pilot site, Dallas County.”
And finally, congratulations to Susannah Wellford, Sara Blanco, Melissa Richmond and the entire team at Running Start for producing another fabulous Young Women to Watch Awards complete with an amazing gathering of women’s representation advocates, a beautiful setting with gorgeous flowers and the use of ranked choice voting to select this year’s winner!