Weekend Reading on Representation: Women Lead with Heart—and Grit

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!

There was a very interesting piece by Michelle Quist in The Salt Lake Tribune about the under-representation of women in state and local government in Utah and the use of Ranked Choice Voting in several jurisdictions and for GOP state party elections. Utah is a fascinating case study because the legislature adopted the local option bill almost unanimously and the republican party has been central to its effective implementation:

Utah is ranked worst in the nation for women’s equality, and we have zero women in state executive leadership (governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, etc.). There’s just no reason at this point to have a ticket for governor and lieutenant governor without a woman on the ticket. It matters for good policy, and it matters to me.

For an example of what a lack of female leadership looks like, the governor recently appointed five members to the new 10-member Public Health and Economic Emergency Commission. All five appointees are male. There’s one man representing the Utah Department of Health, two men representing hospital systems in Utah, the president of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and a former managing director of a real estate consulting firm.

House Speaker Brad Wilson appointed two more men, one is a legislator and real estate developer, the other the CEO of Larry H. Miller Group.

Where are the women? Do women not own small businesses affected by our current conditions? Where are the people of color and representatives from the refugee population? Have they not been disproportionately affected? This commission will have no credibility if it does not have two or three women on it.

Studies show that one woman on a board isn’t enough. “Collective intelligence generally rose, the study found, when women made up a greater proportion of the group.”

Gender on the Ballot celebrates Earth Day.

Many thanks to the team at Gender on the Ballot for a good write up on the intersection of women, politics, and the environment:

Today marks the 50th nationally recognized Earth Day, a day to pause and think about what we can do to support and care for our planet. Here are three things to remember about women + politics + the environment:

1) Women in legislative positions are more likely to support pro-environment policies.

Research has shown that around the world, there is a strong link between female representation in politics and the adoption of stronger climate policies. In the U.S. alone, a report came out last year that showed women legislators support legislation that protects or preserves the environment more frequently and consistently than their male counterparts.

2) In 2018, a record-making year for women, women candidates across the country had success highlighting their backgrounds with environmental causes. 

Research shows that that voters respond to women who are running because they saw the impact of an issue, and the freshman class of the 116th Congress found success in prioritizing climate change in their campaigns. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York credits her visit to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests of 2016 as the last straw that pushed her into entering politics. Congresswoman Rashida Tlalib has fought to clean up the Detroit River since her days in the Michigan state legislature, and Congresswoman Veronica Escobar fought against reopening a smelting company near El Paso, Texas.

3) For many women candidates, environmental issues are personal. 

Senator Elizabeth Warren framed fighting climate change as a willingness to “invest in our children’s and grandchildren’s futures.” For many women candidates who highlight environmental policies on the campaign trail, it’s not just about protecting the planet – it’s about protecting their families. And by highlighting different facets of experience they bring to the table, women are better able to connect withvoters.

The personification of this approach is Kelda Roys, who ran for governor in Wisconsin in 2018. She talked about her work to ban toxic chemicals in baby bottles while breastfeeding her daughter in a campaign ad.  While Roys didn’t win her election, she did show voters exactly why this issue was so important to her and families across the state.

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Thought leaders put a gender lens on COVID-19 (Forbes)

Marianne Schnall shared a piece she wrote for Forbes on reactions to the coronavirus crises from a fantastic array of thoughts leaders:

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic is viewed primarily as a global health crisis, having claimed over 130,000 lives worldwide, we are only beginning to understand how this pandemic will deeply impact our nation economically, politically, culturally and socially—and how those far-ranging impacts are dependent on the multitude of identities, situations and communities that make up our country.

For example, we are seeing with horror the nurses, doctors and other frontline workers who are forced to work unprotected and falling sick, the low income workers who were already struggling who are now out of a job (over 22 million people have filed for unemployment) waiting on long lines at food banks across the country, or the recent concerning reports that coronavirus is killing black and Latino people in places like New York City at twice the rate that it is killing white people, a racial disparity which reflects longstanding economic inequalities and differences in access to health care.

The truth is that in times of crisis, disparities like these become even more apparent and exacerbated, which includes the disproportionate effects this pandemic is having on women and girls. From the increased reports of domestic violence as survivors are forced to lockdown with their abusers, to the affronts and restrictions on reproductive healthcare to the challenges of working women struggling to balance work and family, to the fact that 85% of all nurses, 75% of primary caregivers, and 62% of minimum and low-wage workers are women—women’s lives are especially impacted by this pandemic.

There is a need to look at the global crisis through a gendered lens, to create awareness so we can then address these issues and create change. In this spirit, I was proud to help launch a new platform called COVID Gendered, a digital newsletter and online platform which is aggregating content, actions and resources around the interconnection of gender and the pandemic.

We hope to put a spotlight on the ways COVID-19 affects people of different genders differently; how women are stepping up to lead, support each other, and help their broader communities; and how this crisis is forcing us to look at our broken systems and reinvent them in more connected, equitable, and healthy ways.

To give some context to the many different ways this pandemic is affecting women and girls here in the U.S. and around the world, I reached out to some influential leaders who represent various sectors and vantage points to ask them two questions—how they perceived the impact COVID-19 was having on women and girls in their work—and what they feel is needed to make change. As this pandemic exposes all the long neglected cracks in our society and systems, it also affords us an opportunity to transform them in the world beyond this crisis. The first step is looking starkly at the issues so together we can craft the solutions—and be reminded that the status, health and safety of women is not a “women’s issue” but interconnected with so many other issues that impact us all.

With insights from Aimee Allison, Kimberle Crenshaw, Kristin Rowe Finkbeiner,  Ana Flores, MarySue V. Heilemann, Michelle Nunn, Ai-jen Poo, Tony Porter, Kavita Ramdas, Cecile Richards, Rachel Thomas, V (formerly known as Eve Ensler) and Teresa Younger 

(The Mandarin)

There was an interesting piece in The Mandarin on the representation of women in civil service positions in G20 countries—Canada tops the list while the United States ranks 9th:

Canada has topped a league table ranking G20 countries by the proportion of women amongst their senior civil servants, with a 48.1% figure putting it 1.8 points ahead of second-placed Australia. The UK comes third, with 44.7% representation, followed by South Africa and Brazil respectively.

The figures were published recently in Global Government Forum’s Women Leaders Index: a ranking that also sets out the proportion of women among nations’ cabinet ministers, national parliamentarians and business leaders, and details the proportion of women in the top civil service leadership teams of EU and OECD countries.

Overall, at 27.7% the G20 average is 1.4 percentage points up on our last Women Leaders Index — published in 2017 — and eight points up since the first Index was published in 2013. But the mean for the lowest ranking seven countries — including China, Turkey, South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia — has risen just 2.7 points over that period, to 10.2%.

While most countries have made progress since 2017 — the proportion of women in the top two tiers of Italy’s civil service, for example, has leapt by 6.2 points over the period — the US has seen a decline in the percentage of women in leadership positions, falling back from sixth to ninth place in the ranking.

Alongside the data, the Women Leaders Index presents both detailed analysis of progress across the groups, and case studies in which civil service leaders from top-performing countries discuss the keys to success. Interviewees include Catherine Blewett, Canada’s deputy clerk of the Privy Council and associate secretary to the Cabinet; Stephanie Foster, deputy secretary, governance, at Australia’s Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet; and Peter Hughes, the state services commissioner of New Zealand.

Kevin Sorkin, Global Government Forum’s managing director, commented:

“Since the first Women Leaders Index was published in 2013, the six top performers in the G20 have inched ever closer towards gender parity amongst senior civil servants — with their mean score rising from 36% to 42.7%. The middle-ranking seven countries have made even faster progress, with their average score climbing from 18.3% to 33.4%.

“As our interviews reveal, this kind of progress produces big rewards in terms of better decision-making, bigger talent pools and, ultimately, stronger public service delivery for the public. But there is more work to do: we hope that publishing this data will help senior officials both to make the case for change, and to identify the best ways to make progress.”

When Women Vote

The Bipartisan Policy Center is hosting an event on Thursday, April 30th from 2-3pm featuring RepresentWomen board member Amber McReynolds who co-authored When Women Vote with Stephanie Donner. They will be joined by secretaries of state Jocelyn Benson (MI) and Kim Wyman (WA), the panel discussion will be moderated by Aimee Allison, founder of She the People (register here):

American voters, particularly women, face challenges when trying to vote. In the 100 years since the ratification of the 19th Amendment, reforms prohibiting restrictions on voting based on sex have led to improvements, but there is still room for continued progress. 

On April 30, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Elections Project will host a discussion with the authors of When Women Vote, who make the case for further voting reform and for removing bias in the voting process by sharing stories and experiences of women voters and leaders throughout the United States. They will be joined by secretaries of state, who are the chief election officials at the state level. 

This week marks another amazing collection of #SuffrageCentennial birthdays and milestones which you can also find on RepresentWomen’s Suffrage Centennial calendar! 

A special birthday shoutout to Patti Russo who runs the Women’s Campaign School at Yale.

Finally, don’t forget to check out this week’s suggested reading from the RepresentWomen team!

The coronavirus pandemic and the response by federal, state and local authorities is fast-movingDuring this time, Ms. is keeping a focus on aspects of the crisis—especially as it impacts women and their families—often not reported by mainstream media. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.


Cynthia Richie Terrell is the founder and executive director of RepresentWomen and a founding board member of the ReflectUS coalition of non-partisan women’s representation organizations. Terrell is an outspoken advocate for innovative rules and systems reforms to advance women’s representation and leadership in the United States. Terrell and her husband Rob Richie helped to found FairVote—a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms that give voters greater choice, a stronger voice and a truly representative democracy. Terrell has worked on projects related to women's representation, voting system reform and democracy in the United States and abroad.