Dismantling Old Boys Clubs, One Creepy Boss at a Time: Weekend Reading on Women’s Representation

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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 the private sector in the U.S. and worldwide—with a bit of gardening and goodwill mixed in for refreshment!


Icarus, Leer or Cuomo? At the beginning of the COVID-19, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was a national beacon, a truthful leader amongst those who gaslit the nation with denials of our evolving pandemic reality. 

I remember talking about his political prospects via zoom to my grandmother, a New York City native now transplanted to the Beltway bubble. “President Cuomo,” she and her other Red Hat ladies called him; there was an incredible trust given to this man.  

Sometimes I wish that the headlines could be as blunt about a situation. I hope it was an AP-style guide to say “Grabby Man in Power, faces the consequences for his actions” instead of a blurb about political legacies and whatnot.

But I’ll take a win when I see one! I am A-okay seeing a historic victory for women come out of a male downfall story that’s so woefully common. So, let’s focus on history being made! 

By the way, I’m Kaycie, communications fellow for RepresentWomen. On to the headlines!


In the 19th’s coverage of former Governor Cuomo’s unexpectedly speedy resignation, breaking news reporter Orion Rummler explained why this moment is historic for women’s representation. 

“Lt. Gov Kathy Hochul will soon become New York’s first woman governor, ushering in a historic first for women’s political leadership at the state level. 

“New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins is next in line to replace Hochul as lieutenant governor. She would be the first Black woman to serve in the role in New York — and her appointment to the position would mark the first time in U.S. history that a state has been led by a woman governor and a woman lieutenant governor. Stewart-Cousins was already the first woman Senate majority leader in the state’s history.”

Only eight out of 50 U.S. states have women governors; 19 women serve as lieutenant governors. Nineteen states have NEVER elected a woman governor.

This is a problem, obviously—but what we’ve seen here in New York offers a case study for how we can improve women’s representation in state executive office. How? Well, those in power should appoint more women to serve in their administrations. This will facilitate a change in workplace culture that is so desperately needed.

See: definition of the term “old boys club” below:

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In 11 days, Hochul becomes the Governor of New York. In her statement, Hochul promised to change the norms and systems of the New York state government that allowed such rampant abuse and harassment of women. She also plans for a more robust network to ensure the safety of women and the reporting of sexual harassment. 

“There’s a difference between being an affectionate and warm person. Sexual harassment is completely different,” Brittany Commisso, one of Cuomo’s accusers and a former executive assistant in the governor’s office, told CBS This Morning. “The governor knows that what he did to me and what he did to these 10 other women, whether it be a comment or an actual physical contact, was sexual harassment. He broke the laws that he created.”


A couple of months ago, I wrote an op-ed in Ms. about similar strategies leaders can use to change their workplaces and retain women leadership.

Structurally, women face challenges because legislatures are part-time, second jobs for influential and independently wealthy people. For many women, especially those with children or are caretakers, the job’s financial and time burdens are too high to justify traveling long distances and being away from family.

Enacting systems changes such as:

  • Affordable on-site child care;
  • Telecommuting and proxy voting opportunities;
  • Family-friendly schedules;
  • Living wages; And
  • Establishing bi-partisan women’s spaces ….

… should be next on the docket for Hochul if she wants to overhaul the New York State political ecosystem. And there’s a video to go along with it! 


It’s not just the U.S. that needs reform. This piece from the Sydney Morning Herald provides another viewpoint to the challenges women politicians face across the globe and how young women see themselves politically. Harleen Singh, a young Australian woman, and about 20 other young women spoke to party MPs about enacting credible change in their political ecosystem to welcome women. 

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“A lot of the actions that parliament has taken and a lot of parliamentarians’ responses, including some of the highest [ranked] politicians in Australia, are tokenistic and not genuine at all. There’s not credible change actually being agreed to—it’s bandaid solutions and ‘let’s try and sweep it under the rug,’” said Olivia Causer, youth activist and student, 18, who is studying law and interested in political involvement.

Former Liberal staffer Dhaya Mani, one of two to come forward with sexual assault allegations in 2019, backed the young women’s call for more widespread consent training. But she said it should be extended to “healthy relationships training” which would include understanding risk factors that enable sexual assault.


Eunice Lee is the second Black woman to serve on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

On the good news front….

This past Saturday, the Senate dropped a surprise appointment victory for women’s representation! The Senate confirmed New York lawyer Eunice Lee to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. She will become the only former federal public defender among the bench’s 10 active judges and the second Black woman to serve on the court. 

“Eunice Lee is not only an excellent lawyer, with sound judgment and a jurist’s temperament, but she brings the kind of legal experience that is all too rare on the federal bench,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said on Wednesday in floor remarks. “Ms. Lee spent her entire career in public service, representing criminal defendants who could not afford counsel.”


The team at RepresentWomen has also released a new report this week on disabled women’s representation. 

RepresentWomen’s Intersectional Disempowerment Report identifies numerous structural barriers that prevent disabled people from participating in U.S. politics and discusses how we can improve elected representation for the disabled community, more specifically, disabled women.

Today, 26 percent of American adults experience some type of disability, and the disabled community continues to grow. Research has shown the number of eligible disabled voters increased by more than 10 percent between 2008 and 2016.

Despite this, the number of disabled politicians is a staggering 10 percent of sampled U.S. elected officials
Women with disabilities are even more invisible. Although the CDC has found disability is more prevalent among women than men, disabled women experience roughly double the rate of electoral underrepresentation than their male counterparts.

The purpose of this report is to give our audience an overview of disabled political representation in the United States, the barriers that disabled voters and candidates face, and what steps need to be taken to rectify the gender disparity in disabled political representation. Specifically, this report covers: 

  • Key terms, 
  • Domestic trends, 
  • Examples of disabled women currently serving in government, 
  • International case studies,
  • Relevant legislation, 
  • The Biden administration’s efforts for accessibility, 
  • Action items that can be taken to reduce intersectional disempowerment and promote disabled representation in campaigning and government.
  • And further reading materials and other resources on this topic.

 

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“This report argues that Disabled women pursuing office experience intersectional disempowerment, which is defined as intertwined, undue burdens of oppression. Specifically, Disabled female candidates have to overcome structural barriers related to gender, socioeconomic status, political institutions, accessibility, and even race that create a uniquely challenging experience to pursue elected candidacy. Broadly, this argument disagrees with the notion that underrepresentation is only caused by women running for office at lower rates than men. Accordingly, we argue that there is a need for pairing candidate-focused, pipeline strategies with structural, systems-based solutions that reduce these barriers to the participation of women with disabilities in politics.”

Read the full report from our team here and access the plain text version here


Our brand new outreach coordinator, Katie Usalis, wrote an excellent piece featured in On Gender discussing the transformative power of accessibility and how universal design and systems changes can work to level the playing field for us all. 

Curb cuts in sidewalks, Remote Working, Audiobooks: In the words of Professor Aimi Hamraie, “when disabled people enact politics, they also design and build new worlds” for us all. So it’s plainly essential that our political system becomes accessible to all as well. 

From the attitudes of party gatekeepers to the absence of wheelchair ramps at polling stations, disabled people have to overcome significant obstacles to access their fundamental right of political engagement.

 Historically, we have attempted to address these barriers by ‘fixing’ impairments through medical interventions and treatments. This places the ‘problem’ on the person, putting the burden of inclusion on the disabled individual. But, those barriers are structural, meaning that they result from our social norms and the systems that inform the way society works.

 So, an impairment only becomes a disability when it runs into these structural barriers- things like negative attitudes and beliefs about disability, exclusionary policies or a lack of legislation that promote or protect the rights of disabled people, physically inaccessible spaces, and lack of accessible information (e.g., in Braille, sign language, large print).


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Sen. Tammy Duckworth. (Twitter)

As is the mantra of RepresentWomen, the only way to address systemic barriers like these is through structural solutions, not changing the individual. Disabled representation in policy-making decisions is critical, and we must change our systems to be accessible to all.”

And Alisha Saxena and Laura DeMarco, two former research interns who helped write our new report, wrote a great piece in the fulcrum and discussed the state of Disabled women’s representation today! 

 “So, how can we improve elected representation for the Disabled community and, more specifically, Disabled women? Our report believes that political parties are critical gatekeepers to elected office, but their inadequate engagement with Disabled voters and candidates has contributed to the underrepresentation of the Disabled community. To reduce the persistent turnout gap between disabled and non-disabled voters, political underrepresentation of the Disabled community, and the gender gap within that underrepresentation, our report suggests a myriad of action items for political parties to adopt, such as accessibility funds and recruitment quotas.

“Disabled voters, candidates, and officials deserve an equal right to political representation — let’s move beyond good equity and focus on enacting it.”


 This is usually the part where our fearless leader Cynthia discusses her beautiful garden haul or some of the mouthwatering baking she’s done during the week. I, on the other hand, live in an apartment with some very unhappy greenery! 

I you have any tips on reviving a partially deceased orchid, please reach out to KaycieGoral@representwomen.org. Until then, my green thumb will be relegated to use on the farm I share with my partner when we play Stardew Valley together! 

That’s it! Have a great weekend, everyone!
-Kaycie 

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About

Kaycie is a Communications Fellow for RepresentWomen. She is a recent graduate from American University with a BA in communications and criminal justice. Follow Kaycie on Twitter @d_Kaycie.