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 promise of representative democracy is what drives the work of so many of us so I thought I would lead this week with an excellent essay in Foreign Affairs that discusses the relationship between women’s rights and autocracy—here is an excerpt:
As an engine of genuine democratic progress, activism by women and gender minorities threatens authoritarian leaders. Although many autocrats and aspiring autocrats no doubt believe the sexist and misogynistic things they say, their campaigns to restrict women’s empowerment and human rights also seek to undermine potential popular democratic movements that would oust them.
Those who wish to combat the rising tide of authoritarianism will need to make promoting women’s political participation central to their work. Domestically, democratic governments and their supporters should model and protect the equal inclusion of women, especially from diverse backgrounds, in all places where decisions are being made—from community groups to corporate boards to local, state, and national governments. Democratic governments should also prioritize issues that directly affect women’s ability to play an equal role in public life, such as reproductive autonomy, domestic violence, economic opportunity, and access to health care and childcare. All these issues are central to the broader battle over the future of democracy in the United States and around the world, and they should be treated as such.
Democratic governments and international institutions must also put defending women’s empowerment and human rights at the center of their fight against authoritarianism worldwide. Violent, misogynistic threats and attacks against women—whether in the home or in public—should be denounced as assaults on both women and democracy, and the perpetrators of such attacks should be held accountable. The “Year of Action” promoted by the Biden administration to renew and bolster democracy should include an uncompromising commitment to stand up for gender equity at home and abroad. Efforts by the U.S. Agency for International Development to support human rights activists and civil society groups could likewise make explicit that women’s empowerment and political participation need to be integrated throughout all democracy renewal efforts.
Economic necessity can create opportunities for women and drive progress towards equality as this charming article about the “Herring Girls” in the Smithsonian Magazine explains:
Iceland, like every other nation in the world, has yet to close the gender pay gap. But it’s come closer than many, achieving a 14 percent disparity between men’s and women’s incomes (the U.S.’ wage gap is closer to 19 percent) and leading a concerted government effort to eliminate the pay gap. In 1975, 90 percent of women in the country went on strike, demanding—and winning—passage of a law that prohibited gender discrimination in the workplace. As of 2018, the law also requires Icelandic companies to demonstrate that they pay their male and female employees fairly.
Progressive laws in Iceland mandate gender equality lessons as part of school curriculums, offer some of the world’s most generous parental leave policies, and require company boards and government councils to be comprised of at least 40 percent women. For nearly half of the past 50 years, Iceland has had a woman president or prime minister; in 2021, almost 50 percent of Iceland’s elected representatives in parliament were women.
Today, observers often cite Iceland as a model of gender parity for other nations to follow. The historical arc of those achievements leads back to a period of rapid change in the country—to the salting stations of Siglufjörður and towns like it, and to the hard work of the herring girls.
Efforts to reduce the wage gap in the United States got a boost when the majority-women NYC council adopted a new law that requires businesses to list the minimum and maximum salary for positions as this story on Bloomberg Equality reports:
New York City is betting that publicly showcasing salaries will narrow its gender wage gap. Women working year-round and full-time in the world’s leading financial center took in only 85 cents for every dollar their male colleagues earned in 2019, according to Census data.
Starting on May 15, New York City will require all job postings to list the minimum and maximum salary for each position. The rule applies to jobs that are remote or in-person, salaried or hourly, that will be performed in the city by an employee working for a company with four or more employees.
Until recently, that sort of pay detail was uncommon. But now, at least 7 states will produce salary information with job postings, or upon the request of job seekers. Colorado, Nevada, Connecticut, California, Washington, and Maryland have laws with some form of salary-range disclosure required; Rhode Island will join them in January 2023. Similar laws are under consideration in Massachusetts and South Carolina. New York is the first major metropolitan city in the U.S. to enact such legislation.
“It is a game changer and it is a fabulous move in the right direction,” said Rachel Ellis, a managing partner at Livelihood Law in Denver, who worked on Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, which went into effect in 2021.
Chile’s new president is continuing to demonstrate the power of executives to advance women’s leadership through appointments, by naming Maisa Rojas as the new minister of the environment—according to this story in The Impakter:
Chile has a new government and even before taking office and operating, it has broken a record of sorts, with the highest number of women in key positions, a clear majority – 14 out of 24 – and one of them, María Heloísa (Maisa) Rojas, taking the challenging post of Minister for the Environment.
Maisa Rojas is an independent Chilean physicist and climatologist. Her long career defending the environment and warning of the dangers of climate change made her the ideal candidate for Minister of Environment in Chile.
She holds a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Physics from the University of Oxford, is an academic at the University of Chile, and director of the Center for Climate Science and Resilience, she is also one of the authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report (IPCC, under the UN) and served as coordinator of the scientific advisory committee for COP25.
Women candidates face barriers when running for all offices but running for statewide executive office can be especially challenging for women as Barbara Lee writes in Ms.:
2022 marks the 30th anniversary of the famous Year of the Woman, when Barbara Boxer, Carol Moseley Braun, Dianne Feinstein and Patty Murray were all elected to the U.S. Senate, joining Senators Nancy Kassebaum and Barbara Mikulski. They broke the record for the number of female senators serving at the same time. Thirty years later, the number of women in Congress has increased from one-tenth to more than a quarter.
We are now on the verge of what I hope will be another historic wave of women’s representation—this time in governors’ offices. More than a dozen women are running for governor across the country, and it’s clear that women candidates have made great progress. However, women running for governor are still held back by sexist stereotypes and double standards.
Throughout American history, men have dominated governorships. Forty-one men currently serve as governor—whereas only 45 women have ever served as governor in the entire history of our country. Nineteen states have never had a woman governor. For women of color, the barriers to executive office are even higher—no Black or Native American woman has ever been governor of her state.
Percentage of Women in Various Political Offices Since 1789
Maryland gets a D on RepresentWomen’s Gender Parity Index because there are just so few women elected to statewide or federal office—but that may change in this election cycle, as Julie Statland writes in Riveting Women:
Just when it looked as if the 2022 midterm election would see few women running for higher office in Maryland, a crew of highly qualified and impressive candidates has stepped up and out!
Sadly, many voters do little if any research on the candidates until a week or so before they cast their ballot. Our current pattern of low turnout in midterm elections and lack of information about candidates must change if we want women representing us at the highest levels of state and federal government….
…Women will get elected, but only if we amplify their voices; say their names; tell our sisters, brothers, friends, and others about them, and encourage everyone to vote in the primary. If they are to have a chance, we must educate ourselves and our families, friends, and neighbors about the importance and advantages of supporting qualified female candidates, beginning with campaign contributions. Next, we must work to increase both primary election and general election turnout, which are both historically low in off years. Remember, early money helps women win!
One of the reasons that women are under-represented in Maryland is that winner-take-all voting rules often split the vote. This is still true of course in a lot of communities but advocates in Vermont have launched a serious legislative effort to adopt ranked-choice voting which would help eliminate a split vote among the women candidates vying for the lone House seat:
A bill has been introduced in the Vermont Senate that would implement the system for federal elections and the presidential primary in the state.
The Vermont Public Interest Research Group worked with RepresentUs to create an ad for broadcast,streaming and digital media. It features co-sponsors Kesha Ram Hinsdale and Senate Pro Tem Becca Balint, both of whom are Democrats running for Congress, and Progressive/Democratic Senator Chris Pearson.
“Together we can strengthen our democracy with ranked choice voting. It’s a simple reform. As easy as 1-2-3. It gives voters more choice. More voice. And a stronger democracy.”
VPIRG Executive Director Paul Burns says this is an important campaign as democracy is challenged.
“Ranked Choice Voting, it’s the next logical step toward making Vermont the most voter friendly state in the country. It’s one of the fundamental tenants of democracy that elections are supposed to be about representing the will of the majority of people and that’s another key reason why Ranked Choice Voting is so important,” said Burns. “Now S.229 applies, or would apply, to races for federal offices in Vermont, U.S. House and U.S. Senate as well as the presidential primary and presidential general election and this would start in 2024.”
Lead sponsor Democratic state Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale says Ranked Choice voting brings more voters to the polls and encourages more engagement by candidates.
Bloomberg announced this week that 418 companies are included in its Gender Equality Index, according to this report:
Today, Bloomberg announced that 418 companies representing a combined market capitalization of USD16 Trillion and headquartered in 45 countries and regions are included in the 2022 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index (GEI). The GEI helps bring transparency to gender-related practices and policies at publicly-listed companies around the world, increasing the breadth and depth of environmental, social, governance (ESG) data available to investors.
A record number of companies disclosed their data for this year’s GEI by using the GEI Framework, an increase of 20% year-over-year. This demonstrates a growing commitment to gender equality and recognition that the global business community can lead the charge for meaningful change by committing to more transparent reporting and disclosure of social data.
“The changing nature of work due to the pandemic has highlighted the importance of addressing gender equality issues in a rapidly-evolving global workforce,” said Peter T. Grauer, Chairman of Bloomberg. “The Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index recognizes companies that are maintaining a strong focus on providing an inclusive work environment that supports the evolving needs of employees and retains the competitive strengths gained through gender diversity, which is increasingly critical in this challenging business environment.”
The GEI framework scores companies across five key pillars: female leadership and talent pipeline, equal pay and gender pay parity, inclusive culture, anti-sexual harassment policies, and pro-women brand. There are also expanded areas of information requested to support the broader goal of providing more robust ESG data to investors. For example, GEI disclosure data now contributes to Bloomberg’s EEO-1 data including race and ethnicity demographics from U.S. companies that disclose this as part of their reporting requirements to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The International Olympic Committee announced this week that the 2022 winter Olympic games are the most gender balanced ever, while Chabeli Carrazana writes in The 19th that “calls for a cultural shift in figure skating have led to small changes in terminology and costume rules and larger changes that have created a more accepting culture for women and LGBTQ+ skaters.”
Barbara Rodriguez interviewed Michele Donnelly about gender balance and inclusion at the 2022 games for The 19th:
Michele Donnelly is a snowboarding fan. But when she watches the Winter Olympics this year, she’ll be focused on more than just the halfpipe: The Canadian researcher will also have an eye toward how she can measure the inclusion — and exclusion — of women athletes at the Games.
Donnelly has worked with a handful of researchers to study gender equality at the world’s foremost sports competition since the 2012 Summer Olympics, when media coverage during the London Games emphasized how Olympic officials were promoting gender equality.
“We were left really kind of wondering, what is actually happening?” Donnelly said. “ … So really wanting to ask in terms of participation, where are we in terms of gender equality? And not just kind of accepting at face value this very celebratory sense of, ‘We’re there!’”
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), the governing organization that oversees the Olympics, has committed publicly to gender equality at the Games. The IOC says Beijing is the most “gender-balanced Olympic Winter Games to date,” with women at a record 45 percent in terms of athletes. That follows the Summer Games in Tokyo, which officials said reached 48 percent participation from women.
But Donnelly, who teaches sport management at Brock University in Ontario, believes the metrics have room for improvement. So for every Games, she starts another spreadsheet to map out the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that gender differences emerge in competition. (An IOC working group has responded to some of those criticisms in a list of recommendations.)
RepresentWomen’s artist in residence Melanie Humble is launching a new series on notable women, starting this week with Johnetta Cole who is an American educator and anthropologist who served as president of Spelman College.
There will be a terrific lineup of speakers at RepresentWomen’s Solutions Summit March 8-10th from 3-5pm EST each day! Click here to learn more and to register for this democracy summit featuring women experts and advocates who will speak about election administration, campaign finance reform, voting rights, ranked-choice voting and the national popular vote effort among other topics!
Remember to check out this week’s suggested reading from the team at RepresentWomen: