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, leaders of the G7 countries along with representatives of the European Union will meet in a seaside resort in Cornwall in the United Kingdom to tackle pressing issues including climate change and the pandemic. While just one of the countries participating has a woman leader, Andrea Merkel, five of the seven use some type of gender quota and rank higher than the remaining two—the United States and Japan—for women’s representation in parliament.
According to the Reykjavík Index for Leadership 2020/2021, “only 52% of people across the G7 group of wealthy countries — 46% of men and 59% of women — has expressed that they would feel ‘very comfortable’ with a woman as head of their government.”
Despite all the excellent management displayed by female leaders during the pandemic, studies have also shown that attitudes toward women leaders still have not changed.
What would it take for the workplace to be equal? What’s the pathway for every female employee to find parity in governments and businesses alike? The vision seems a distance away but there is something women leaders can do today in every company, every business and every organization…
Adaptability is one of the most important characteristics a leader needs in volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) times. Good leadership is not static — it evolves with time. As leaders create a vision and make plans to reach that goal, the approach must be adjusted. Use science and data to understand more about prejudices that cause a leaky pipeline for women in your company and industry. Effective leaders always observe, reflect and review for a better future. That’s the role of the Agilist. With a positive attitude and the humility to continuously improve, a woman leader naturally strives to be a better leader.
The road to achieving gender parity could be a long one. It’s more than simply a case of leadership qualities or skills. It’s time for women leaders to take matters into their own hands and work their way around the prejudice using agile leadership traits.
Japan ranks last for women’s representation among the G7 countries but there are efforts underway to increase women in political leadership according to this story in the Kyodo News:
Japanese political parties are competing with each other to promote female candidates ahead of a lower house election that must be held by this fall, but some worry that, like similar efforts before, the initiative may be more sloganeering than a harbinger of real change.
With Japan’s male-dominated political world forming a large part of the reason why the country places a shocking 120th out of 156 countries in a gender gap ranking, many parties have or are considering setting numerical goals for female candidates.
In the Diet, women comprised just 9.9 percent of lawmakers in the powerful lower house, or House of Representatives, and 22.9 percent in the House of Councillors as of June 2020 as Japan found itself ranking as low as 147th in the political field in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index for 2020.
Taimei Yamaguchi, chair of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Election Strategy Committee, said recently that he felt “a strong sense of crisis” about the country’s standing in the gender gap index. “There is room to further promote women’s participation” in politics, also including in local assemblies, he said.
Since the LDP, currently holding some 60 percent of seats in the lower house, is likely to have many successful candidates, the level of increase in its female lawmakers will be a direct indication of its seriousness on the issue.
The party’s committee on women’s empowerment put forward some proposed goals in April ahead of the lower house election. These include requiring 15 percent of all the party’s candidates to be women and giving top slots to female hopefuls in at least three out of the 11 regional electoral blocks under the proportional representation system.
The LDP has previously prioritized female candidates in the proportional representation system. In the 2005 lower house poll, it placed 13 female candidates at the top of proportional representation lists, which resulted in eight of them winning seats, excluding those who ended up taking seats by winning in single-seat constituencies. That effort was overseen by the ruling party’s current No. 2, Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai.
But the hurdles are high this time around.
Currently, most of the 289 single-seat constituencies have male incumbents, and among them, weaker candidates who are hoping to ensure they retain seats in the lower house via simultaneous inclusion in the proportional representation lists under the duplicate candidacy system are certain to oppose being ranked lower than female candidates.
While Japan is struggling to promote women’s leadership and get to 10 percent women in government, women’s representation is surging in Mexico due to the enforcement of gender quotas and a proportional voting system. Though election results are still being processed, women have made huge strides toward parity at all levels of government—including gubernatorial races—as Jennifer Piscopo explains in this excellent article in Ms.:
In 2018, women won half the seats in Mexico’s Congress. They then championed a groundbreaking constitutional reform: gender parity for all candidates for elected office, and for top posts in the executive and judicial branches. Called “parity in everything,” the reform sailed to victory in May 2019. Not a single member of Congress voted against it.
This easy success seems astounding, but parity in everything capped a decades-long process of increasing Mexican women’s access to political power. By 2019, political parties already respected 50–50 rules when nominating candidates for the federal Congress, the state legislatures, and the municipal governments, including mayors. The last holdout among elected positions were coveted governor positions. Only seven of Mexico’s 32 states have ever elected a woman governor: That’s seven women compared to 344 men since Mexican women gained the right to vote in 1953.
Feminists hope that number changes on June 6, 2021, when Mexico holds midterm elections and gender parity applies to gubernatorial nominees for the first time. Other newly-implemented rules further tilt the electoral playing field in women’s favor, and not just in the governor races. Those convicted of violence against women cannot stand for elected office. And of the campaign resources that parties distribute to candidates, 40 percent of the money and 40 percent of the advertising time must go to women.
While U.S. feminists were focused on breaking the 25 percent barrier for women in the House of Representatives, Mexico became the world’s leader on gender parity. Mexican women spent decades chipping away at men’s political dominance, turning incremental gains into deeper changes. Working across ideological divides, women in Mexico’s political parties forged partnerships with activists and election authorities, and together they held party leaders accountable for fulfilling democracy’s promise of political equality.
Forcing Parties to Change
The idea of gender quotas for women candidates goes back nearly 50 years, to the United Nations’ First World Conference on Women, coincidentally held in Mexico City in 1975. At the time, the U.N. recommendations merely emphasized the importance of women’s political inclusion, but women activists and elected officials knew party leaders would need requirements, not pretty words. So in Latin America and elsewhere, women began pushing party leaders to set targets for nominating women.
In 1991, Argentina became the first country in Latin America and the world to adopt a 30 percent gender quota law for women candidates. Mexico followed, with a 1996 law recommending that parties nominate 30 percent women for the federal Congress, and a 2002 law requiring them to do so. Key to this shift was Mexico’s democratization.
The Institutional Revolution Party (PRI)—a big-tent party with many internal factions—had dominated Mexican politics since the 1930s. For about 50 years, the PRI used its legislative majorities to write election laws that made it hard for new parties to form and compete. But starting in the 1980s, the PRI began losing federal and state races, flanked on the left by Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and on the right by the National Action Party (PAN). The balance of power shifted, and PRD and PAN legislators used their growing numbers to rewrite the laws, making elections fairer and freer.
This virtuous cycle of electoral reform gave women legislators—who comprised about 15 percent of Congress throughout the 1990s—an opportunity. They could introduce gender quotas as amendments to election laws, tying targets for women candidates to parties’ broader efforts to kick out the old-timers and the dinosaurs. They connected women’s inclusion to improving democracy. As academic and political leader Rosa Icela Ojeda Rivera wrote at the time, representative models that excluded half the population lacked democratic legitimacy…
Mexican Women Rule
Mexico is the first country in the world to implement gender parity so thoroughly and effectively. The journey has not been easy. From running sham candidates to keeping the most prestigious races the preserve of men, political parties have resisted women’s inclusion at every turn. But women fought back, making common cause across ideological divides and finding strength in their shared resolve. They went to war with the dinosaurs, and they won.
There will not be a woman nominee for governor in Virginia this year, but there will be two women vying for the office of lieutenant governor—both of whom are women of color. This story in The Washington Post discusses this historic first:
No matter which party prevails in Virginia’s elections in November, the result of the lieutenant governor’s race will be the same in one way: A woman of color will hold a statewide office in the commonwealth for the first time in history.
That detail has been central to the campaigns of both Del. Hala S. Ayala (D-Prince William), an Afro-Latina, Lebanese and Irish woman who won her party’s nomination Tuesday, and former delegate Winsome E. Sears (R-Norfolk), a Jamaican-born Black woman who won her nomination in a convention last month.
And it will put Virginia in rare company among the rest of the nation, where just six Black women, three Latinas and three Asian Pacific Islander women have been elected as lieutenant governor, according to Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics.
No Black women have been elected governor, while nationwide, one Asian woman and two Latinas have served in that position.
In Virginia, both sides are looking to energize voters around their lieutenant governor nominees in an election featuring two White men at the top of the ticket — former Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe and Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin. The second-highest elected position in the commonwealth has often been a stepping stone for a later run for governor.
The difficulties Black women face running
During Virginia’s Democratic primary race, two Black women were vying for the nomination – former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy and state Sen. Jennifer McClellan. Their loss to former Gov. Terry McAuliffe – who was the front-runner in the race and outraised both candidates – is the latest example of the difficult path Black women running for statewide office across the nation face.
McAuliffe raised $12 million, more than double the almost $4 million raised by Carroll Foy and the almost $2 million McClellan raised. McAuliffe won with more than 60% of the vote. Carroll Foy finished second with about 20% of the vote. McClellan finished in third place with about 11% of the vote.
Nadia E. Brown, an associate professor of political science and African American studies at Purdue University, said a focus group with Black women candidates in Texas illustrated the frustrations they felt.
Brown said some women talked about the discrepancies in fundraising and why they wished the Democratic Party would get involved in the primaries, particularly in races where a win in the primary almost guarantees a win in the general election.
“Black women overwhelmingly vote for the Democratic Party. So, the Democratic Party doesn’t have the incentive to outreach and do the work of cultivating candidates and leaders, the same way it does for other groups,” said Brown, who also wrote the book “Sisters in the Statehouse: Black Women and Legislative Decision Making.”
Women in Iran hold just 6 percent or 17 of the 290 seats in parliament and hold very few roles in decision making bodies. It’s unclear if the elections planned for June 18 will increase or jeopardize women’s power according to this story on France24:
Iranian women’s poor political representation could be set to worsen under an ultraconservative poised to win next week’s presidential election.
Ebrahim Raisi, who heads Iran’s judiciary, is the clear favourite from an all-male field of seven candidates to replace President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate elected on promises of social and cultural reform.
Women’s rights campaigners in Iran have criticised Rouhani for breaking his promises to create a women’s ministry and appoint three female ministers — instead presiding over a decrease in women’s representation over his two terms in office.
Only two women — Masoumeh Ebtekar, vice president for women and families, and Laya Joneydi, vice president for legal affairs — are represented in Rouhani’s outgoing executive.
Unlike ministerial positions, the posts of vice president do not require parliamentary approval, and critics have accused Rouhani of not daring to submit female ministerial nominations to parliament for approval, even when moderates held a majority.
Now, after conservatives and ultraconservatives swept last year’s parliamentary elections, the chances of an ultraconservative president doing so seem even less likely.
“The biggest challenge for Iranian women is linked to their total absence from decision-making bodies,” Elaheh Koulaei, a former reformist lawmaker, told AFP.
Women’s representation does not appear to be a priority for any of the seven candidates vying to replace Rouhani on June 18.
Election day in NYC is June 22 and there has been a lot of interesting commentary on ranked-choice voting and the election:
- I had a piece in Ms. on how ranked-choice voting is improving the campaign process for women and candidates of color.
- Curb asked leading New Yorkers about their rankings in the mayoral contest.
- The New York Women’s Foundation, PowHer NY and the League of Women Voters of NY launched a Mayor for NYC Women effort, according to Cision.
- The Wall Street Journal used bagels to explain how ranked-choice voting works.
- Rep Jamaal Brown and Jumaane Williams wrote about ranked-choice voting in The Nation.
- A.G. Tish James shared a great video explaining how RCV works.
- The New York Times editorial board writes that New Yorkers shouldn’t overthink their ranked-choice ballot.
- Emma Fitzsimmons writes for The New York Times about ranked-choice voting.
Elections were held via ranked choice voting this week in Portland, Maine, where a #RoseSlate of women candidates won including the first Cambodian American to win a seat in the state—stay tuned for more news on this encouraging development!
Our friends at The Center for Responsive Politics are hosting a forum on the systemic barriers women face in the political process. Register here for the panel discussion to be held on Monday, June 14. And check out their resources on gender, race and money in politics!
Politico reports Vice President Kamala Harris is reviving a tradition started by former Senators Barbara Mikulski and Kay Bailey Hutchison by inviting all 24 women senators to a dinner party at her home—I sure would like to be on that guest list—as a policy advisor on strategies to elect more women (!):
VP KAMALA HARRIS has invited all of the female senators to her residence for dinner next week — bringing back what were regular bipartisan dinner parties that dwindled after tough election cycles in 2016 and 2020.
All 24 female senators (16 Democrats and eight Republicans) were invited to the dinner on June 15 at the Observatory, according to three Senate sources — a get-together coming at the height of negotiations over infrastructure. A Harris aide confirmed the dinner is a go.
The quarterly dinners were started by former Sens. BARBARA MIKULSKI (D-Md.) and KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R-Texas). They were hosted at the home of a different senator every six weeks, with each lawmaker bringing a different dish.
But since Mikulski retired in 2017, the dinners became less regular.
Two Republican sources said the bond between the women started to fracture with the aggressive campaigning against former Sen. KELLY AYOTTE (R-N.H.) in 2016, and then worsened during the 2020 election cycle with the fight against Sen. SUSAN COLLINS (R-Maine). One of the Republican sources said there was an “unofficial pact” that the women wouldn’t campaign against each other aggressively.
Another complicating factor was that four Democratic senators were running against each other for president in 2020 — Harris, KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-N.Y.), AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-Minn.) and ELIZABETH WARREN (D-Mass.). The pandemic also kept the women apart.
“The sisterhood has certainly faded,” one of our sources said.
Another source said it’s been difficult to get together because the number of women attending the dinner has expanded substantially. When the dinners started in the 1990s there were fewer women. Now women make up almost a quarter of the Senate, making it more difficult to organize.
When my three children were young I loved sewing and buying matching dresses for them. My son made clear from an early age that he wanted to be part of every swirling fabric opportunity. My mother was completely supportive of his choices and bought him many a new dress to match his sisters, books like William’s Doll that sought to normalize the role of fathers as caregivers, and American Girl dolls and their accessories were prized holiday gifts for all three children. And so I was charmed to read this article in The New York Times about the finally-shifting attitudes about clothing:
“For the longest time, people were so stuck on being one way or the other,” Mx. Sinclair said, referring to waning gendered dress codes. “Queer people have been playing with this for a long time. But now you see a lot of guys in dresses that don’t identify as all that feminine.”
You see the hip-hop eminence and tastemaker ASAP Rocky clad in a Vivienne Westwood kilt on the cover of the latest GQ. You see Madonna’s 15-year-old soccer-player son, David Banda, gliding down a long hallway in a viral video while dressed in a white silk floor-length Mae Couture number that he says is “so freeing.’’
You see a wave of male teachers in Spain come to school wearing skirts in support of a student expelled from class and forced to seek counseling after wearing one. You spot Lil Nas Xon “The Tonight Show” in a long tartan skirt — a manly symbol in Scotland, though in few other places — and Bad Bunny at the Grammys in a Burberry coat worn over a classic black Riccardo Tisci tunic resembling a nun’s habit.
You observe, on a recent balmy afternoon in Washington Square Park, guys dressed variously in a tattered frock reminiscent of Kurt Cobain’s 1993 cover of “The Face”; a plaid Britney Spears schoolgirl mini; and a cap-sleeve blouse and skirt set, also from Issey Miyake, accessorized with black ankle socks and patent leather lug-sole shoes…
“It was a serious life hack to discover that we can make our own rules,” Mr. Dunlap said, noting that the freedoms he enjoys may not be available to all. “I have a certain amount of body privilege as a tall, thin white man who is conventionally attractive.”
Still, there is something refreshing about a cultural pivot point that allows for someone like Mr. Dunlap to wear jeans and sneakers when the mood strikes or else, “to wear the shortest mini I have and the highest heels to go out to the grocery store.”
The RW interns have a terrific collection of feminist book suggestions for you this week!