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 were several articles this week relating to women’s representation on corporate sector boards which is of course a key ingredient in the work for gender equity and equality.
In this interesting piece, Evelyn Regner, chair of Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, calls for immediate action on initiatives to get more women in the European Union on public sector boards, in The Parliament Magazine:
For eight years, we have been waiting for the European Council to unblock the Proposal for a Directive on improving the gender balance among non-executive directors of companies listed on stock exchanges and related measures. It is now high time that we move forward with this.
Numerous studies have shown that increasing gender diversity on company boards significantly improves their wellbeing and makes them much more profitable as well as sustainable. And, during the COVID crisis, we have seen many women prove how qualified they are as leaders.
Many Member States have already recognised this fact, among them are France and more recently, Germany, which has introduced landmark legislation. Both countries’ approaches should be considered as best practices in this field when it comes to national legislation.
They have introduced binding quotas not only for company boards but also for management roles within companies. This is an important step towards economic and professional equality between men and women.
Their high standards would be safeguarded by the proposal for a ‘Directive on improving the gender balance among non-executive directors of companies listed on stock exchanges and related measures’.
This is because the European Parliament has proposed a guarantee for this and reiterated that this safeguard clause will not be questioned during trilateral negotiations.
Yet Germany and other best practice Member States, such as Denmark and Sweden, continue to oppose this legislation at European level and are consequently blocking progress on this matter in other Member States too. But this progress is urgently needed, the sooner the better.A key element for achieving equality between men and women lies in having female leaders in all areas of society and empowering women to achieve their full potential. Binding quotas (particularly when paired with financial sanctions) have been shown to be the only effective measure for achieving this.
Therefore, today’s glass ceiling can only be shattered through binding quotas. At European level, the majority of political groups recognise this fact, as proven by their joint call on the Presidents of the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the European Council to support this Directive.
After historic Black Lives Matter protests last year and an economic crisis that disproportionately sidelined women, corporate America vowed to be more inclusive. It threw its weight behind policies, like child care, that would foster an equitable recovery from the pandemic, promises that seemed to represent a sea change in what has until recently been an apolitical corporate landscape.
But in corporate boardrooms, little has changed; boards have been, and continue to be, predominantly male and white, according to a new study that will be released on Tuesday.
The study, by the Alliance for Board Diversity and Deloitte, found that white women gained the most number of seats, increasing their presence at Fortune 100 companies by 15 percent and at Fortune 500 companies by 21 percent. But, in total, they still represent just about a fifth of all board seats. And minority women — which includes Black, Hispanic and Asian women — represent the smallest slice of boardrooms at both Fortune 100 (around 7 percent) and Fortune 500 (around 6 percent) companies. More than half of directors newly appointed to board seats last year were white men…
Substantial change, though, will still take time, experts said. A typical tenure of a board director is eight years and adding more seats can be costly, with director pay often reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars.
And looking for directors beyond the “pond” might not help much either: As boards try to diversify, directors have started recruiting from lower down the corporate ranks, beyond the C-suite that is also white and male. But, as The New York Times’s DealBook column reported in February, many companies don’t allow their employees, particularly their lower-level managers, to join outside boards, citing the commitments that board seats require, which could take away from employees’ focus on their jobs, and potential conflicts of interest.
The A.B.D. and Deloitte report noted that, at the current rate of change, it would take decades for boardrooms to reach representation proportional to the demographics of the American population. Women of color, for example, make up 20 percent of the U.S. population, but it would take until 2046 for them to make up 20 percent of Fortune 100 board seats.
“The fact remains,” the authors of the report write, “progress has been painfully slow.”
There was a new report released this week by The Westminster Foundation for Democracy in which authors Rebecca Gordon, Shannon O’Connell, Sophia Fernandes, Keerti Rajagopalan and Rosie Frost discuss how women get selected as candidates and rise to positions of leadership. The focus on engaging with parties and holding them accountable for recruiting more women to run are part of RepresentWomen’s best practices as well:
Women’s political leadership is important for ensuring that women’s perspectives and experiences are included in political decision-making. Over the past 25 years, the overall percentage of women in parliaments has more than doubled. However, the pace of progress has slowed in the past five years and women still make up less than a quarter of representatives in legislatures worldwide. Whilst theories that explore women’s political recruitment are well developed, we need more research on how women get selected. We need to know more about how they win positions as political representatives and how they adapt to the realities of political life.
This report focuses on women’s experience of candidate selection and elections and their experience of political leadership. It asks:
1. How can women political leaders build their profile?
2. What factors support and hinder women’s candidate selection and election success?
3. How do women cope with, and adapt to, the realities of political leadership?
4. How can programmes and policies effectively support women in political leadership roles?
The Gender Equality Advisory Council of the G7 countries released a set of recommendations and call to action on a range of topics relating to the economic, physical and political health of women and girls. I have included the full list because I think it’s critically important that we understand the complexity of the challenges that women and girls face:
We, the Gender Equality Advisory Council (GEAC), welcome the open society values shared by the Group of Seven (G7) and the recognition that gender equality is integral to those values. We further recognise the strength of collective commitments made by G7 countries. Women and girls must have the same opportunities and rights – political, economic, social and cultural – as men. Just as women have been at the centre of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic as health workers, care workers, scientists and teachers, they must equally be at the heart of a recovery that ensures their rights, meets their needs and recognises their contributions. We challenge G7 Leaders to be ambitious for all women, including but not limited to those marginalised by race, ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and socio-economic status.
Our starting point this year is the mounting evidence that COVID-19 risks a step back for gender equality globally, unless governments take urgent action. Despite the centrality of women in the response, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women and girls everywhere by exacerbating existing inequalities. The GEAC’s analysis has focused in particular on three linked, core themes: girls’ education and the participation of women and girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); women’s empowerment; and eradicating violence against women and girls.
GEAC members have pooled their experience, expertise and skills to develop recommendations that are practical, concrete and actionable. Across the three themes there are common mechanisms: measurement and accountability, representation, inclusion and legislation. We need to measure women’s participation so that we know if action is needed. We need women to be visible in positions of authority, and to bring a diversity of experience to all organisations. We need to acknowledge and tackle the barriers to women’s inclusion. And finally, we need governments to legislate in a way that supports increased gender equality. This all starts with a quality education for every girl on the planet.
The GEAC calls for:
An acknowledgement of the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on women and girls, globally, and increased funding for, and dedicated action towards gender-transformative development programming, sexual and reproductive health services, and addressing the ‘shadow pandemic’ of violence against women and girls (VAWG).
A pandemic response and recovery that takes account of the needs of women and girls, and tracks the effect of recovery initiatives on men and women, taking into account factors such as age, income, disability and ethnicity.
At least 12 years of gender-transformative education for all, building on G7 Foreign and Development Ministers’ commitments on girls’ education and, domestically, supporting schools to implement gender-responsive policies to benefit girls’ physical and mental wellbeing.
Strengthened domestic and international social care infrastructure, and access to affordable quality care, including childcare, through increased public investment to address gender imbalances in care work, both paid and unpaid.
Equal access to capital and labour markets, through removing barriers and creating opportunities for jobs and funding for women to thrive in the modern economy, and tailoring policies to support women-owned micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).
Recognition of the impact that global trade has on women as traders, workers and consumers, with G7 Leaders building trading relationships that benefit women and girls around the world.
A gender-responsive approach to climate financing, investment and policies, including at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26), and for G7 Leaders to target investment in girls’ education, re-skilling of women, and lifelong learning to ensure that women and girls can benefit from the ‘green revolution’.
Acknowledgement of the risk to global prosperity and women’s economic empowerment caused by a gender imbalance in STEM education and careers, and commitment to prioritising progress towards gender parity through concrete action.
Action to address the digital gender divide by supporting initiatives that provide women and girls in all areas with affordable, reliable and safe internet and mobile services; and to counteract algorithm bias which puts women, girls and marginalised groups at a disadvantage.
An end to the stereotyping and unequal treatment of women in the media, including by endorsing the Generation Equality Forum Charter of Commitments for Cultural and Creative Industries.
Global action to end violence against women and girls through increased investment in prevention and response; the ratification of relevant conventions, including the Istanbul Convention; and enhanced support for eradicating female genital mutilation (FGM).
Action to tackle online harassment and abuse of women and girls, through the introduction of legislation that establishes a duty of care on technology companies to improve the safety of users online, including appropriate controls for online pornography sites.
Condemnation of sexual violence used as a weapon of war as an international red line, by developing an International Convention to denounce it, in line with other prohibited weapons in war such as landmines and chemical weapons.
Continued action to drive monitoring of progress on gender equality, and accountability on commitments, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, through the establishment of a G7 GEAC observatory mechanism to measure and report on G7 progress.
The GEAC also notes that women are under-represented politically, as voters and as leaders in international institutions, local and national governments; including G7 decision-making structures. We call on G7 Leaders to reconvene the GEAC under each G7 Presidency to ensure women’s voices are hard-wired into the process, and to monitor gender balance among leaders and their delegations in future years.
We are pleased to present these recommendations to G7 Leaders ahead of a further report in the autumn. We look for greater horizons of opportunity for women and girls and the tearing down of barriers which impede them. We call on the G7 to take on board the recommendations and advice of the Women 7 and the Generation Equality Forum, and to make bold commitments and deliver game-changing results for women and girls in all their diversity to build back better.
On June 6, voters in Mexico elected six female governors. That’s a breakthrough: Until these results, only nine women had been governors in Mexico since women got the vote in 1953.
These new female governors are the latest evidence of Mexico’s progress toward “parity in everything,” a 2019 constitutional reform requiring gender balance for all elected and appointed posts in the legislative, executive and judicial branches at the federal, state and municipal level. Yet Mexico’s political parties remain old boys’ clubs.
Here’s what you need to know about female politicians’ latest successes in Mexico.
Fighting for gender parity in Mexico
Argentina adopted the modern era’s first gender quota law in 1991, requiring each political party’s nominees for legislative office had to be at least 30 percent women. When parties control candidate nominations, as they do in most countries, gender quotas are a popular way to boost women’s political representation. Today, more than 75 countries have gender quotas in some form. But no country has implemented gender parity as thoroughly as Mexico.
Mexico adopted its 30 percent quota law in 2003. That didn’t guarantee that women would actually reach office, however. Female members of political parties had to pressure Congress to ensure that reality matched the law.
They won three key victories. In 2011, the electoral court struck down some loopholes, eliminating party leaders’ ability to do things like nominate insincere female candidates — women who resigned immediately after winning, to be replaced by a male substitute. In 2014, Congress reformed the constitution, adding gender parity for the federal and state legislative elections. Finally, in 2019, they won parity in everything.
Beginning in this past election, federal rules required each political party to nominate at least seven women for the 15 gubernatorial races in contention. The parties complied with this minimum but dodged in other ways. They informally coordinated to designate certain states for women, mostly nominating women to compete among each other in the least important states. Parties also largely put women on the ballot in the states they expected to lose…Even though the parties resisted, these are important milestones. In less than 20 years, Mexico went from having a 30 percent gender quota for female congressional candidates to “parity in everything.” These electoral gains send critical signals about women’s abilities to govern, even though hurdles remain for achieving gender parity.
During Pride Month, Argentina once again became a leader for Latin America in terms of progressive legislation. This time, the Chamber of Deputies passed into law the bill to promote gender parity from a sexual diversity perspective in the radio and television broadcasting services of the State, whatever the platform used, and gave half approval to transgender labor quota and inclusion.
The president of the Communications Committee, Pablo Carro, explained that it is not a “quota or parity project,” but a “gender equity” project, which he considered to be a “more powerful concept” that will generate “more opportunities,” since “more women are needed on the boards of directors of the media.”
With 134 deputies in favor, the bill was approved in a vote in which most of the deputies of the opposition Juntos por el Cambio (Together for Change) were absent. With the green light of the chamber, the regulation becomes law, so that not only “there will be more women,” but also “a gender perspective” in the media. It is a law that will only apply to public media, and also includes a section that guarantees private media must comply with some requirements.
Just a few years ago, Virginia ranked close to last on RepresentWomen’s Gender Parity Index that measures women’s representation at the local, state and federal level—combined. In previous election cycles many races went uncontested but according to this story in The Washington Post there are a record-breaking number of women running for the General Assembly this year:
This fall’s elections for all 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates will look unlike any the state has ever seen, with women leading the way in unprecedented fashion for Democrats and contests playing out in parts of the state that haven’t seen competitive races in years.
While both major parties are fielding a record number of female candidates, Democrats have crossed a historic threshold: For the first time, women account for more than half of the party’s House nominees, 50 out of a total of 97.
The slate that took final form after the June 8 primary elections will battle for control of the House, with Democrats defending the majority they won two years ago after a generation in the wilderness and Republicans fired up to reclaim power.
The size and diversity of the slate of candidates for both parties underlines the stakes in a wealthy, politically evolving state that always draws national attention for its post-presidential election contests. The only other statewide races this year are in New Jersey, which is seen as safely Democratic.
There have been a slew of stories about the use of ranked-choice voting in the NYC primary which is next Tuesday—including this good piece in Vox, this story on ABC, this sweet video for a candidate for NYC council Amoy Barnes, a nice “guest essay” by my husband Rob Richie in the The New York Times, and this piece in The 19th by Barbara Rodriguez featuring research from FairVote about the increased number of candidates of color getting elected in jurisdictions with RCV and research from RepresentWomen that tracks increases for women in office in jurisdictions with RCV:
One of Susan Lerner’s favorite moments of this year’s New York City mayoral race happened toward the end of a Democratic candidate debate in May, when — assuming their first choice would be themselves — the participating contenders were asked about their second choice for the job.
Of the eight candidates, four said they were still weighing their options. But the others named a combination of the three leading women candidates at the time, recognizing that under the city’s new ranked-choice voting, their answers could provide value to supporters.
“Just the fact that that question is being asked, I think, is indicative of a change in mindset,” said Lerner, executive director of New York Common Cause, a national organization that has been educating voters about the system.
Ranked-choice voting has been a boon for underrepresented candidates: Women and people of color’s representation in elected politics has grown in communities that have implemented the system in recent years, potentially creating another solution to reach gender parity and inclusive representation more quickly in local, state and federal elections. And it could help make history when New York City voters finish casting ballots in the mayoral primary election Tuesday: A woman has never been elected mayor of America’s largest city, and only one person of color has ever held the job…Some voting experts believe ranked-choice voting has lowered barriers for candidates who are women or people of color. The single-winner plurality system that dominates American politics often favors incumbents, can lead to more expensive campaigns and run-offs and, most importantly, can create the narrative that two or more women candidates or candidates of color with similar priorities will split the vote for like-minded voters.
“Ranked-choice voting elections can accommodate multiple women candidates without having to pigeonhole these candidates as just the one woman running,” said Deb Otis, a senior research analyst at FairVote, a national organization that has studied ranked-choice voting and previously partnered with RepresentWomen.
“If we’re electing folks with ranked-choice voting, they’re more accountable to the needs of their voters or else they lose their seats,” said Otis, who co-authored a recent report that looked at the effects of ranked-choice voting on people of color candidates and voters. “They have to build a campaign that speaks to a broad base of voters rather than pandering to any one niche base. So we can definitely get more accountable elected officials and a reduction of polarization by changing the way that we elect our officials.”
Cynthia Richie Terrell, founder and director of RepresentWomen, pointed to the recent Democratic gubernatorial race in Virginia, where state Sen. Jennifer McClellan and former state Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy — Black women who would have made history if either had won the nomination and were elected — ran alongside Terry McAuliffe, a former governor who is a White man.
Richie Terrell emphasized that it’s not clear if ranked-choice voting would have changed the outcome of the race given McAuliffe’s strong lead going into the primary. But she believes more civic engagement groups would have made multi-candidate endorsements that could have raised the profiles of McClellan, Carroll Foy and others in the race. McAuliffe, who had the backing of several Black lawmakers and leaders, also might have sought even more support from voters who backed McClellan and Carroll Foy to ensure he was their second choice.
“McAuliffe might have felt more pressure from needing to appeal to Black woman voters and be attentive to their needs and their concerns. Because in order to win a majority he would have had to have said, ‘I’m really prioritizing the concerns of Black women in my agenda for the economy, for transportation, for health care, for child care,’” she said.
Many thanks to Courtney Lamendola and Maura Reilly for writing this peer-reviewed journal article on the impact of ranked-choice voting on women’s representation—this new piece should be a terrific resource for all who are interested in better understanding the barriers women face in our winner-take-all electoral system and the solution offered by ranked-choice voting:
Ranked choice voting first gained a foothold in the U.S. during the Progressive Movement in the 20th century as calls for electoral reforms grew. Ranked choice voting was implemented in many cities across the U.S. in both single- and multi-seat districts. But, by the 1940s it became a victim of its own success, turning the tides of the hegemonic white male leadership in U.S. legislative bodies with the election of women. Since the 1990s, ranked choice voting has once again gained traction in the U.S., this time with the focus on implementing single seat ranked choice voting.
This article will build on the existing literature by filling in the gaps on how ranked choice voting—in both forms—has impacted women’s representation both historically and in currently elected bodies in the U.S.
One of the best parts of my job is getting to work with other amazing women leaders, many of whom are pictured above and below. This month two incredible women, Anne Moses and Kristin Hayden are moving on from IGNITE to pursue other passions. I hope that you will join me in thanking them for their incredible service to the cause of women’s representation and leadership and welcoming IGNITE’s new CEO Sara Guillermo. Thank you Anne and Kristin!
Don’t forget to check out RepresentWomen’s new Spanish language microsite, our Uswerway accessibility tools (look for the icon on the bottom left hand corner of our website), and this week’s suggested reading from the team:
These lead weights encased in silk, which are designed to hold a Quaker wedding certificate in place, have been used in my family for many generations. It’s so nice to know that my wedding anniversary, June 19, will now be a federal holiday!
All the best for a wonderful weekend,