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!
Happy Friday! This edition is being brought to you by the RepresentWomen team, reporting on the latest in women’s representation, while founder and executive director of RepresentWomen Cynthia Richie Terrell catches up on her summer reading on the beach in the Yucatan.
Serena Williams’ Farewell Shows Shortcomings In Women’s Representation
By: Nicole M. Bailey
As we seek gender balance in political representation, we must also call for gender balance in the C-suite, fields, courts and boardrooms of our lives.
In Vogue’s September issue, @serenawilliams prepares to say farewell to tennis on her own terms and in her own words. “It’s the hardest thing that I could ever imagine,” she says. “I don’t want it to be over, but at the same time I’m ready for what’s next” https://t.co/6Zr0UXVTH1 pic.twitter.com/YtGtcc18a9— Vogue Magazine (@voguemagazine) August 9, 2022
Serena Williams’ recent retirement announcement reverberated throughout the sports world and beyond. Inarguably one of the greatest athletes of all time, Serena has accomplished what many can only dream of attempting—yet at a time when she should be preparing for many more years as the leader of her field, she is retiring. Is it on her terms, or on the terms our society has presented women?
From executives to politicians to athletes, when it comes to the responsibility and labor of family and family planning, the burden often falls on child-bearing bodies. As we seek gender balance in political representation, we must also call for gender balance in the C-suite, fields, courts and boardrooms of our lives. A truly representative society earnestly addresses the barriers faced by marginalized groups so that everyone has a chance to succeed, on their own terms.
“If I were a guy, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labor of expanding our family. Maybe I’d be more of a Tom Brady if I had that opportunity. Don’t get me wrong: I love being a woman, and I loved every second of being pregnant with Olympia. I was one of those annoying women who adored being pregnant and was working until the day I had to report to the hospital—although things got super complicated on the other side. And I almost did do the impossible: A lot of people don’t realize that I was two months pregnant when I won the Australian Open in 2017. But I’m turning 41 this month, and something’s got to give.
I’ve been reluctant to admit that I have to move on from playing tennis. It’s like a taboo topic. It comes up, and I start to cry. I think the only person I’ve really gone there with is my therapist.
I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me. I’ve been thinking of this as a transition, but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people. Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me. A few years ago I quietly started Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm. Soon after that, I started a family. I want to grow that family.”
Kenya Hits Historic Number of Women Governors
By: Steph Scaglia
The Council of Governors Congratulates H.E Fatuma Achani Governor Elect and H.E Josphat Chirema Kombo Deputy Governor Elect Kwale County. H.E Achani previously served as the Deputy Governor for Kwale County in the last two terms. She is among the 7 elected Women Governors. pic.twitter.com/6DSXZommhx— Council of Governors (@KenyaGovernors) August 18, 2022
On Tuesday, August 9, Kenya elected a historic number of female governors to office. In the previous government there were only three women that held office, but this year there are at least seven of the 47 total governors (15 percent).
Women have made advances not just in governorships, but have won 26 parliamentary seats and three Senate seats. This may seem small given close to half of registered Kenyan voters are women, but Kenya’s government has never held many women.
In 2010 a constitutional provision known as the “two-thirds gender principle” was enacted in order to increase women’s representation in government, but the quotas have never been met.
Furthermore, many women candidates faced physical harassment and abuse and have been humiliated in public while on the campaign trail. Although it is unclear who orchestrates these attacks, many suspect political opponents. Nearly half of all women in Kenya experience gender-based violence.
Kenya lags behind many of its neighbors in East Africa in terms of reaching gender parity, but these advances show that women are pushing forward and making improvements. Over 2000 women ran for office out of over 16000 total candidates (13 percent), and Kenyan political analysts have said the public appears ready to accept more diverse political leaders.
Not everyone appreciates this type of analysis, though. Politician and deputy presidential candidate Martha Karua, argues:
“That question suggests that women ought not to be on the ballot, because I have never had anybody question whether Kenyans are ready for yet another male. So that question is in itself discriminatory.”
Having women in government is key to achieving economic and political stability. Gender quotas are one method of increasing representation, but implementation matters and so do societal norms. According to the IPU, Kenya ranked 102nd in 2022 in regards to women’s representation. Nevertheless, Kenya’s path towards parity shows progress, and that women will not give up, despite the barriers they face.
The 75th Anniversary of Indian Independence
By: Alissa Bombardier Shaw
On Aug. 15, 1947, India and Pakistan achieved independence through the Indian Independence Bill, a law that removed these nations from the former Mogul Empire and thereby ended 200 years of British rule in these areas.
Since then, India has established itself as the largest democracy and sixth largest economy in the world. The nation has made important strides for women, but still has a long way to go in numerous areas, particularly for women’s representation.
“The Global Gender Report 2022, which includes the Gender Gap Index, says it will now take 132 years to reach gender parity. India ranks 135 among a total of 146 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index 2022.
The index benchmarks gender parity across four key dimensions or subindices economic such as participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment…
If the country intends to soar above the rest of the world, it has to break women free from the socio-cultural constraints that hold them back. And gender equality in terms of equal opportunities, financial independence, equal access to education, and job is the way forward for achieving this. India will need to have a targeted approach to lure more women into the labour force.”
The Heartbreaking Detention of Brittney Griner and Why It Matters For All Women
By: Nicole M. Bailey
As our country faces a looming recession many of us have turned to second jobs, the gig economy, and other side jobs to keep pace with inflation and the lasting effects of the pandemic. Can you imagine needing a second job if you were a professional athlete? This is the case for many WNBA players, including Griner, who is an American professional basketball player for the Phoenix Mercury. Griner chooses to play overseas during the offseason in order to supplement her WNBA salary. In 2020, Griner signed a three-year, $664,544 contract extension with Phoenix, making $221,450 during the 2021-2022 season and is on the books for $227,900 for the 2022-2023 season.
Brittney Griner’s career in the WNBA is noteworthy. She was drafted as the No. 1 overall pick by the Phoenix Mercury in 2013. At 6-foot-9, she’s one of the tallest women to ever play the sport and has continuously proven herself to be a dominant powerhouse since the beginning of her career. In spite of this, her WNBA salary pales in comparison to her earnings in Russia. Griner, who has played in Russia for the past seven seasons, earns over $1 million per season while playing for UMKC Ekaterinburg.
To fully understand the scope of the issue, please consider NBA player Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz. Gobert and Griner have been in their respective leagues for about the same length of time, they’re both dominant centers, and they both have multiple all-star appearances (Gobert has three while Griner has seven). However, Gobert’s base salary for the 2021-22 NBA season was $35,344,828. That’s $431,034 per regular-season game. Griner’s salary for the 2021-22 season was $221,450 as one of the WNBA’s highest-paid players. Rudy Gobert makes more money in a single game than Brittney Griner makes in an entire year as a WNBA superstar, who makes over $1 million playing in Russia.
Long before the passing of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 aimed to abolish wage disparity based on sex women have been fighting for equal pay, for equal work. In 2022, women earned 82 cents for every $1 men earned when comparing all women to all men, according to compensation data and software firm Payscale’s 2022 State of the Gender Pay Gap Report, released March 15. Many Black, indigenous and other women of color earned less than white men, both when looking at uncontrolled median earnings overall and when comparing controlled earnings of women of color in similar positions as white women and men, Payscale reported.
If women were paid equitably for their work, what choices could we make and what freedoms have we lost as a result of inequities in pay?
Griner has spent the last six months in Russian custody and was sentenced to nine years in prison last week. She will serve out her sentence in a Russian penal colony.
“The WNBA star and her lawyers had asked for leniency after officials at a Russian airport allegedly found less than a gram of hash oil in her luggage in February, but a Russian court sentenced Griner to nine years, just below the maximum-possible sentence of 10.
Across Russia, there are 35 women’s penal colonies that house an estimated 60,000 inmates, Ivan Melnikov, the vice president of the Russian Department of the International Human Rights Defense Committee, and Yekaterina Kalugina, a Russian human rights activist who observed Griner and her living conditions in March, tell PEOPLE.
Inside the colony… Griner will have to work eight hours a day. For most prisoners, this means sewing, cleaning, cooking and serving food, but, because of her career as a WNBA player, Griner can see about coaching women’s basketball. There’s a precedent for such an arrangement — Russian soccer players Alexander Kokorin and Pavel Mamayev coached inmates while they served time in one of the colonies.”
Primary Wins for Diverse, Young, Women Politicians
By: Steph Scaglia
Thank you, South Minneapolis!— Zaynab Mohamed (@ZaynabForSenate) August 10, 2022
Whether you made phone calls, knocked doors, donated, or supported our campaign on Primary Day — I appreciate your contribution and the trust you’ve placed in me.
Now it’s time to build a Senate DFL majority! #EasierNotHarder pic.twitter.com/CalHuwY1BJ
In Minnesota, women of color are well-positioned to take power after their primaries last week.
“The Minnesota Senate is likely to add two senators of Hmong ancestry, two Black women and a Muslim woman, all DFLers, based on their primary wins. Likely new lawmakers also include several young Republicans and a DFLer expected to be the first transgender person to win a seat in the Legislature.
Collectively, the results from the Aug. 9 ballots signal some of the biggest shifts seen in a single Minnesota election cycle as communities of color reshape the state’s political and social landscape.
“Minnesota is being very clear right now that we are ready for young people and people of color to lead the state,” said Zaynab Mohamed, 25, who won her primary in Senate District 63, a reliably DFL district in the Twin Cities area.
“I will be one of the first Black women, the youngest woman, the first Muslim woman, the first woman wearing a hijab” in the Senate, she said. “It’s heavy, but it all should have happened a long time ago.”
Women candidates of color have also been looking to each other for support, and have coined their small community a “sisterhood”. They appreciate the common barriers they face, but also recognize their differences and embrace this. The candidates have emphasized the importance of seeing candidates that look like them, and that this has inspired them to run.
FairVote MN has long been a strong supporter of increasing representation in Minnesota and has supported many women candidates. Candidates who support ranked choice voting statewide can be found here.
Will the Record Number for Concurrent Women Governors Finally be Broken in 2022?
By: Courtney Lamendola
Of the 2,573 people to have served as governor, just 45 (2%) have been women. The U.S. has never had more than nine women governors serve simultaneously; according to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), this record was first achieved in 2004, and then again in 2007, 2019, 2021, and 2022. With 36 states holding gubernatorial elections this year, including all nine states with women governors, this record may finally be broken.
Of the nine states with women governors, incumbent women are running for re-election in all but one state, Oregon (Governor Kate Brown). If the remaining eight women keep their seats, at least two more women would need to win their races to break the current record. If, on the other hand, any of the incumbent women lose their reelection bids, as may happen in Kansas, more women will need to win in other states to break this record. Frontrunner women candidates in the Arkansas and Massachusetts open seat races this fall help to rebalance the odds in favor of maintaining the current number of women governors; further gains increase the odds that this record will be broken.
As of this month, a record number of women have been nominated by their parties to run in the generals this fall. For the first time in history, at least five states will have women vs. women matchups in gubernatorial elections, including Alabama, Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, and Oregon; four of the five currently have women governors; Arizona is the first and only sure gain for women in 2022. Depending on the outcome of the September 13th primaries, Rhode Island may become the second.In the news this week, a new poll from Roger Williams University/WPRI 12 found that many Democratic primary voters remain undecided in their choice for governor:
“R.I. Gov. Daniel J. McKee is leading among Democratic primary voters with 28 percent of the vote, with R.I. Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea close behind with 25 percent. However, 21 percent of those polled remain undecided for the Democratic candidate for Governor.
Of the other candidates, former CVS executive Helena Foulkes received 14 percent, former secretary of state Matt Brown received 8 percent, and Luis Daniel Muñoz, a member of the state Equity Council, received 1 percent of the vote.”
Women have a competitive chance of winning the Democratic Party’s nomination in the Rhode Island Primary; if either Nellie Gorbea or Helena Foulkes pulls ahead on the day of the primary, we’ll likely gain another woman governor. At present, Democrats have nominated 15 women; should women win the Florida and Rhode Island primaries, they will have full parity in their nominees this cycle.
Meanwhile, Ashley Kalus, who has budgeted over $2.5 million for her own campaign, is likely to defeat her opponent, Jonathan Riccitelli, in the Republican primary. So far, Republicans have nominated 8 women across all gubernatorial primaries. Most are in a strong position to win the general. Between the Democratic and Republican nominees, the U.S. will likely break its record for concurrent women governors this cycle.
Carolyn Maloney Elevates the Importance of Women in Congress
By: Steph Scaglia
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) has been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for nearly three decades, and was a New York City Council member prior to joining the House. She is one of the most influential women in Congress, but new district lines have exposed her to a primary against Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.). New York City has not had such an intensive primary since 1972, when two popular liberals fought for a West Side seat.
For the Maloney campaign,
“The race has increasingly centered on women — both their electoral potential to sway the outcome and the importance of protecting one of their own at a moment when the Supreme Court and Republican-led states are rolling back reproductive rights secured half a century ago.
The congresswoman […] is spending a sizable chunk of it on a television ad reinforcing the message: “You cannot send a man to do a woman’s job,” she tells New Yorkers. “He maybe can speak better than me,” Ms. Maloney said in an interview after the event, referring to Mr. Nadler. “Men are more likely to be trusted. But I am a fighter. Women fight for women.”
In terms of endorsements, the New York Times endorsed three white men in New York’s Democratic primary races. These are also the only white men in their respective races. One of these endorsements is for Rep. Nadler.
The U.S. has lagged behind many countries when it comes to women’s representation in elected office. Adopting systems changes such as gender quotas, implementing systems of proportional representation, or passing the Fair Representation Act are all viable solutions.
The Rise of Ranked-Choice Voting as a Better Voting System Alternative
By: Alissa Bombardier Shaw
With several primaries taking place over the last few weeks, GOP candidates who voted to impeach Donald Trump are seeing the consequences of their actions now, with only two candidates of the ten that voted to impeach advancing through their primary races to the general election. As a result, alternative voting systems like ranked choice voting, a key reform RepresentWomen advocates for, are drawing more attention and appeal:
“At a time of rising political polarization and growing frustration with the two-party system, Trump’s impeachment revenge tour has put these alternative voting systems in the national spotlight.
It’s clear that voters are fed up and ready for serious change. This July, a New York Times/Siena College poll found that 58 percent of voters believe our democracy needs “major reforms” or “a complete overhaul.” New ways of voting for our elected representatives promise a more accurate representation of the will of the people — or at the very least a fighting chance for politicians who don’t gravitate toward extremes.
“Candidates who do well in ranked choice elections tend to be those who connect with the widest group of voters possible,” said Deb Otis, the director of research at FairVote, an advocacy organization focused on electoral reform. “Our current elections often appeal to only one niche base of voters.” ”
With ranked choice voting being used in the Alaska primaries this week, it’s important to note that delays in election results are not due to RCV, but rather Alaskan law that provides ample time for overseas military votes to be counted.
Vote for Our Two SXSW 2023 Conference Panels!
RepresentWomen has not one but two proposals for panels at the SXSW 2023 Conference! Here is why you should vote for ours:
Many people are highly aware of the immense lack of women’s representation in politics, government and leadership. However, conversations surrounding these issues focus primarily on that: the issues. More emphasis must be placed on the innovative, transformative reforms and solutions we can implement to achieve gender balance in politics. That’s where our panels come in to inspire us to create a democracy that is truly representative.
Our first panel, 3 Reforms to Build Women’s Political Power Now will feature a discussion with empowering women leaders including founder and executive director of RepresentWomen Cynthia Richie Terrell; national election expert, former election official and USPS Governor Amber McReynolds; New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver; and Harvard University professor Danielle Allen.
This panel will dive deep into the three research-driven signature solutions outlined by RepresentWomen that work to remove structural barriers that hinder women from gaining political power. Read more and vote for our first panel here.
Our second panel entitled Solutions to Increasing Women’s Representation will feature a discussion with the inspiring geopolitical and strategic advisor of Rilax Strategies Rina Shah and women in public office strategy lead of Pivotal Ventures Emily Lockwood.
This panel will delve into the need to change both our socio-political values as well as our voting systems in order to increase women’s representation in all levels of government. To do this, we can use the ‘twin track solution,’ which is composed of the empowerment track and systems track. Read more about our second panel and cast your vote here.
Electable by Ali Vitali, a former MSNBC “Road Warrior” and now NBC Capitol Hill correspondent, is a fearless deep dive into the 2020 election and her coverage of the campaign trail every step of the way—investigating the gendered double standards placed on women presidential candidates of that cycle and those who came before, plus what it will take for a woman to break the glass ceiling and win the White House finally. Her book is out Aug. 23; available for pre-order now.
U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.