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!
The countdown to the big election continues and there is a lot going on in U.S. politics—but this story by Judy Skatssoon in Government News about a campaign in Australia by male CEOs to advance women’s representation at the local government level offers a model for the kind of conversation—and action!—that must happen to make serious and enduring progress toward gender parity:
Four male CEOs from councils across Victoria are spearheading a gender equity campaign designed to help women break through the glass ceiling in local government.
Victoria’s new local government minister Shaun Leanne joined peak local government professionals organisation LGPro to launch the ‘Male Champions of Change’ campaign this week in his first official outing since being appointed.
Speaking at LGPro’s Women’s Professional Development Forum on Thursday, Mr Leane described the initiative, designed to redefine men’s role in taking action on gender equality, as “a game changer”.
“Having more women in senior positions makes for a better workplace, a smarter workplace, and a more harmonious workplace,” he said.
The forum heard that despite a high proportion of women in local government jobs, many fail to rise to senior positions in councils.
More than half of the administrative workforce in the local government sector is female, but just 34 per cent of women are directors and 39 per cent are managers. Only one in six chief executive officers of Victoria’s 79 councils are women.
Leadership and gender equality consultant Ruth McGowan told the panel that research has shown increasing the number of women in leadership positions can increase the market value of an organisation by 5 per cent.
“It makes sense on all fronts to boost women’s leadership,” she said.
There was also an encouraging story from New Zealand in the Otago Daily Times by Hamish Maclean where the use of RepresentWomen’s signature reform ranked choice voting in multi-seat districts—known internationally as the single transferable vote—has been credited for increasing the number of women in elected office, just as we have suggested:
The city’s single transferable vote voting system increases the number of female councillors, boosts competition, and provides a guarantee the mayor elected has a majority mandate to govern, a Dunedin academic says.
Dunedin city councillors will today vote on whether to change from the single transferable vote (STV) system, used since 2004, to a first past the post (FPP) system; stick with STV; or hold a poll seeking the public’s input.
Janine Hayward, of the University of Otago department of politics, is researching the difference the STV system makes for local elections.
Unable to attend today’s council meeting to speak in the public forum, she supplied councillors and the Otago Daily Times with her research.
STV was usually described as a proportional electoral system because it tended to minimise the number of votes that did not help elect a candidate, Prof Hayward said.
“STV election results are, therefore, likely to better reflect the preferences of large communities of interest and avoid the over-representation of some groups which can occur under FPP.”
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There was a powerful article on the impact of the COVD crisis on the well being of women around the world from Global Citizen:
There is not a single country in the world that has achieved gender equality.
While some nations have made significant progress in reducing harmful practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), and women are more represented in government than ever, several other barriers still stop women from reaching their full potentials, according to the Sustainable Development Goals Report 2020 released in June.
International leaders gathered at the United Nations headquarters in 2015 and created the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or Global Goals, to end extreme poverty by 2030. Global Goal 5 aims to achieve political, economic, and social equality for all women, but the COVID-19 pandemic is making this target increasingly difficult to reach. A new set of obstacles is disproportionately putting women at risk and further jeopardizing gender equality on a global scale.
Historically, women are especially vulnerable during crises. COVID-19 is no different and already domestic violence, child marriage, and FGM is on the rise, the report said. With schools and child care services closed, women and girls are taking on the brunt of household chores and caregiving responsibilities. Women also represent 70% of health care workers globally and are more exposed to the virus on the front lines.
The report maps out six areas where the world could stand to improve in order to empower all women: gender-based violence, child marriage, unpaid work, representation in decision-making, and reproductive health.
A new digital collection of historical portraits and artifacts that aims to tell a more complete story about the movement to secure women’s right to vote in America launched today by Pivotal Ventures. The collection comes as the country prepares to recognize the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment on August 26, a milestone in America’s ongoing journey toward gender equality.
The Truth Be Told collection shines a light on parts of the women’s suffrage story that tend to go untold, especially the leadership of Black women and the systemic racism they encountered along the way. Even after the 19th Amendment’s ratification, many women of color continued to be denied their right to vote.
Our society’s historical narratives systematically omit women, especially women of color. Less than 3% of the words in history textbooks are specifically about women and only 5% of all images of historic figures are women of color. What we learn about the past shapes how we see ourselves today, which is why, as part of our broader mission to expand women’s power and influence, Pivotal Ventures is supporting efforts to tell a more inclusive story about women’s contributions to history.
“Truth Be Told” features portraits and artifacts from partners including the Digital Public Library of America, the New York Historical Society, the Arthur & Elizabeth Schlesinger Library, the Schomburg Center, the Library of Congress, and Gates Archive and Collections.
A record number of Black women have filed to run for Congress this year according to this story on NBC:
Joyce Elliott, an Arkansas state senator who is seeking a U.S. congressional seat in November, was the second Black student to attend her local public high school; the first was her older sister. If elected in November, she will be the first Black lawmaker in Congress from Arkansas, ever.
Joyce Elliot, a Democratic U.S. congressional candidate for Arkansas’ 2nd district (AR-02) which represents Little Rock and the surrounding areas, works from her office in Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S., July 20, 2020. REUTERS/Gerard Matthews
On the campaign trail in June, Elliott attended a demonstration against racism in White County, which is more than 90% white, and spoke to attendees in the shadow of a Confederate monument.
The November election is a “chance to change our history,” she told Reuters afterward. “I really decided I needed to run because I could see a pathway to winning.”
As the United States grapples with a deadly coronavirus pandemic that has disproportionately sickened and killed Black Americans and recent upheaval over police brutality, a record number of Black women are running for Congress.
Elliott is one of at least 122 Black or multi-racial Black women who filed to run for congressional seats in this year’s election; this figure has increased steadily since 2012, when it was 48, according to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP).
As primary season draws to a close, nearly 60 Black women are still in the running, according to Collective PAC.
Congratulations to our dear friends at She Should Run for partnering with Mattel to provide girls and boys the opportunity to internalize women’s leadership in their everyday play. While I love that more girls will get to envision their powerful futures, I am also excited for the boys whose parents buy them these dolls. (I am reminded of one of my mother’s favorite children’s books, William’s Doll.)
We may still be speculating about who presidential candidate Joe Biden will ultimately pick for his running mate, but Mattel’s latest release already has our vote. On Tuesday, the beloved toy brand announced its Campaign Team Set, created “to expose girls to public leadership roles and pique their interest in shaping the future,” according to a release shared with The Glow Up.
Barbie has some excellent campaign advisers for 2020, teaming up with longtime partner She Should Run, a nonpartisan nonprofit providing “guidance and support to women considering a run for office.” The new collection of Barbies includes not only the candidate (an unambiguously Black doll), but three female counterparts: campaign manager, fundraiser and voter. All are vital to any electoral process and are collectively intended “to show girls the importance of a political team working together to win,” says Mattel, which also explained the very deliberate casting of their candidate and cohorts, telling The Glow Up:
“[T]he brand made the political candidate Black because there are fewer Black female elected officials and fewer Black women exploring a path to political leadership. Of the 127 women serving in the 116th Congress, 22 are Black and of the 90 women serving in statewide elective executive offices, only 5 are Black. Additionally, since voter turnout for Latinos lags around 20 percent behind that of white and Black voters, Barbie designed the voter doll to highlight this underrepresentation for girls.”
Congratulations to Sharon Nelson and her team, and many thanks to Maura Reilly for her thoughtful blogs about the speakers for Crewomen‘s Seneca Falls Revisited virtual celebration of the suffrage centennial—here is the last one in the series:
Last week Civically Re-Engaged Women (CREW) hosted the Seneca Falls Revisited virtual centennial experience celebrating 100 years of the 19th Amendment and the road ahead. The virtual conference featured many women and men leading the conversation of women’s equality, civil rights and affecting change. The celebration of the 100th Anniversary of women’s right to vote included speakers, spoken word and amazing visual experiences!
This amazing experience would not have been possible without the leadership of Sharon Nelson, CEO of CREW and a champion for women’s equality who worked tirelessly to organize the virtual experience and bring the event to the public with the online platform this year.
In addition to the organization of Sharon and her whole team, we would also like to thank the fiscal sponsors of the virtual event, RepresentWomen and Pivotal Ventures. Pivotal Ventures, started by Melinda Gates, is working to push the conversation on equality forward and bring the future of the women’s rights movement to the forefront. RepresentWomen is a research and advocacy hub that works to increase the representation of all women by advocating for innovative, systems-based reforms to our electoral process.
If you missed the virtual conference it is not too late to support CREW and subscribe to CREW TV and keep up to date with the women’s equality movement and issues. And you can learn more about all of the amazing virtual experience speakers from our speaker bio and experience countdown blog series by visiting the RepresentWomen Medium account. Thank you to everyone who helped organize, attended and participated in the once in a lifetime centennial experience!
Happy birthday to Ellie Smeal whom I met 30 or so years ago at a hearing of a commission on democracy that sparked the formation of the modern movement for electoral reform.
A few years later, Ellie hired me to run the Iowa Women’s Equality Campaign—a statewide effort for the ERA where we took on Phyllis Schlafly, Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed in the midst of the busy 1992 election season in Iowa. Ellie and the team from the Feminist Majority attended my wedding on a sweltering day in June in a centuries-old Quaker meetinghouse in Philadelphia. Ellie went on to serve on the board of FairVote and has been a wise and loyal supporter to RepresentWomen. Thank you Ellie.
Finally, there is a great collaboration from a number of D.C. artists called ArtWatchDC who are raising visibility around the importance of voting and raising money through T-shirt sales—buy yours here—to support the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote!
In late February, pre-COVID lockdowns, an ArtWatcher and her Lyft driver engaged in casual conversation. Turns out he’s an immigrant who fled Cameroon to escape impending civil war. The driver described rigged elections and dictatorship in his homeland as well as reasons to vote in a democracy. When asked why voting is so important, he replied, without hesitation: “Because your life depends on it.”
A couple months later, accepting BET’s Humanitarian Award, Beyoncé said” “We have to vote like our life depends on it, because it does.”
From the lips of a Cameroonian immigrant to the megaphone of Beyoncé — whether redressing racial, gender, and economic inequities; reforming the criminal justice system; creating better schools for all; ensuring decent universal healthcare; reversing climate change; providing affordable housing — our lives depend on our voices demanding change through the ballot box.
So ArtWatch created Vote: Your Life Depends on It, a voting rights fundraiser. We’ve designed and produced t-shirts, profits of which will go to the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote.
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