Weekend Reading on Women’s Representation: Remembering the First Black Woman to Run for President; Teenage Girls Are in Crisis

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!

As RepresentWomen reflects on the Beyond Winner Take All Conference (hosted by the Ash Center) a week later, we remember that progress in women’s representation is slow going. This week’s Weekend Reading highlights the importance of women in politics, and why our democracy falls short when we let them down.

‘Unbought and Unbossed’: The First Black Woman to Run for President

Rep. Shirley Chisholm announcing her candidacy for president in 1972. (Thomas J. Ohalloran / Public Domain)

This article from KCRA news channel 3 highlights Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to become a member of U.S. Congress and to run for president. She was a fearless leader who broke barriers throughout her career.

In 1946, she graduated from Brooklyn College and began a career in teaching. She had a passion for helping others, which inspired her to run for political office. She survived three assassination attempts during her presidential run, yet she did not let that stop her. “Unbought and unbossed” was her motto. 

“Shirley Chisholm had a spirit unlike any other. She was a woman of many firsts: the first Black woman to be elected into Congress and the first Black woman to run for president.”

“Chisholm said in a previous interview Barbados was where she gained the ‘spirit and spunk’ to challenge the status quo – characteristics she would carry for the rest of her life…

In 1972, Chisholm announced she was running for president – becoming the first woman and African American to seek a major party’s nomination…

In a previous interview, one reporter questioned whether she believed America was ready for a president that was both Black and a woman…

“I think what is even more important than whether or not America is ready for me as a president is to begin to prepare America for the fact that it is time that other people in America besides white males run for the highest office of this flag,” Chisholm said. “It’s a preparation for the atmosphere to bring about the realization that someday Blacks will lead this country … that someday women will lead this country. That’s what this is all about.”

Teenage Girls Are Overwhelmed With Violence and Trauma

Activists rally outside the State Capitol in support of abortion rights in Atlanta, Ga., on May 14, 2022. (Elijah Nouvelage / AFP via Getty Images)

Young people are in crisis. According to CDC research, across the country, teenage girls are increasingly “engulfed in a growing wave of violence and trauma.” 

According to experts, a multitude of factors are at play, but what remains evident is that across the spectrum, teenage girls are suffering. Importantly, those girls which are a part of minority groups are bearing the brunt of these struggles. 

Nearly 1 in 3 high school girls reported in 2021 that they seriously considered suicide — up nearly 60 percent from a decade ago — according to new findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Almost 15 percent of teen girls said they were forced to have sex, an increase of 27 percent over two years and the first increase since the CDC began tracking it…

Sharon Hoover, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine and co-director of the National Center for School Mental Health, said she was struck by “the magnitude of the increases and the gender difference…”

Richard Weissbourd, a psychologist and senior lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, said there is probably not a single cause to explain the data but rather interacting causes that vary by race, ethnicity, class, culture and access to mental health resources.

Senator Diane Feinstein Officially Announces Retirement

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) arrives at the Senate for a vote on Feb. 14, 2023. California’s longest-serving senator, she announced she will not run for reelection next year, marking the end to one of the state’s most storied political careers. She plans to remain in office through the end of her term. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

On Tuesday, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) made her official announcement that she will not seek reelection in 2024. 

Feinstein was among the women first elected in the 1992 “Year of the Woman,” an arguably problematic phrase that RepresentWomen’s communications manager Alissa Bombardier Shaw elaborates on in her article in DemocracySOS.

With Rep. Pelosi stepping down as speaker along with the official news of Feinstein’s retirement, Annie Karni‘s piece in The New York Times reminds us of the importance of continuing women’s leadership.

Some California Democrats did not wait for Ms. Feinstein to announce her plans to start campaigning for her seat. Representative Katie Porter, who flipped a previously Republican district in Orange County in 2018 and has earned Democratic accolades for her sharp questioning of corporate executives in congressional hearings, was the first to announce her campaign last month. Representative Adam B. Schiff, a former leader of the House Intelligence Committee and the manager of President Donald J. Trump’s first impeachment trial, entered the race a couple of weeks later.

Representative Barbara Lee, a progressive stalwart from the Bay Area, is expected to announce her candidacy by the end of the month. Representative Ro Khanna is seen as another possible candidate.

The Republican field is less clear. In California, all candidates run on the same primary ballot regardless of party, and the top two advance to the general election, so two Democrats could potentially face each other in November 2024.

Ms. Feinstein said Tuesday she would hold off on issuing any endorsement in the race, at least for a few months.

Women Are Essential to a Peaceful and Stable Democracy 

New Zealand’s former prime minister Jacinda Ardern and partner Clarke Gayford with new baby Neve Te Aroha Ardern Gayford on June 24, 2018, in Auckland. Ardern was the second world leader to give birth in office, and the first elected leader to take maternity leave. (Fiona Goodall / Getty Images)

In an article for the Chatham House, Margot Wallström perfectly articulates why there should be more women in politics. She suggests that including women in decision-making can lead to peaceful conflict resolutions by bringing a different, more feminist perspective. 

Gender balance in politics is a vision that RepresentWomen holds. Our work is dedicated to researching barriers and solutions for increasing women’s representation worldwide. Visit our website to learn more. 

Perhaps we are too familiar with men’s dominance at these top-level meetings that we take the absence of women for granted and fail to recognize it. But when women are left out of the picture, constrained or silenced in any way, it poses a serious threat to democracy…

For policies to support women in a meaningful way, women need to be at the table…

The state of women’s rights around the world is bleak. In 104 countries, laws prevent women from performing certain types of work. Women lack the legal right to own land in many countries. Around 40 countries have no laws to protect women against violence in the home. In developing regions, 214 million women and girls lack access to contraceptives as conservative forces continue to try to limit and qualify their right to make their own decisions about their bodies and lives.

Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon Steps Down 

Scotland’s leader Nicola Sturgeon will be stepping down, citing being worn down by the “brutality” of political life. This echoes Jacinda Ardern‘s reasons for stepping down as PM of New Zealand because of exhaustion.

Here at RepresentWomen we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for who will replace her, especially since Scotland has been leading the UK on women’s representation in parliament since 1999 when 48 of the 129 MPs elected were women (37.2 percent). In 2003 this climbed to 51 women (39.5 percent), and a record 58 women in 2021 (45 percent).

Republican Nikki Haley Is Running for President

Ambassador Nikki Haley addresses the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2017. (U.S. Mission Photo / Eric Bridiers)

In her first campaign advertisement, Haley stared directly into the camera to say, “You should know this about me: I don’t put up with bullies, and when you kick back, it hurts them more if you’re wearing heels.”

Trump has his first challenger for 2024: former governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley has tossed her name into the race for president of the United States. The American politician will be competing for the Republican nomination. No stranger to national service, Haley, who is of Indian decent, served as the U.S. ambassador the United Nations under the Trump administration. Her candidacy signifies a step forward for women of color. 

On paper, Nikki Haley should be a top-tier contender in the 2024 Republican primary. She’s a successful former governor from an important, early primary state. She has an impressive personal backstory, solid foreign policy chops, and great candidate skills, too. This used to be an extremely attractive package for GOP primary voters.

Used to be.

But not anymore.

Instead, Haley’s candidacy represents the best of the “meh” middle tier of 2024 candidates, which for now includes the notional campaigns of Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, and Chris Christie. No one is really asking any of those guys to run.

A recent poll published by The Bulwark and conducted by GOP polling firm North Star Opinion Research found similar results. Haley had a decent favorability/unfavorability rating–47 percent fav and only 9 percent unfav among likely Republican primary voters.

But on a 10-way ballot test, Haley only got 4 percent of the vote compared to DeSantis’s 39 percent and Trump’s 28 percent. It’s not that at least half of the respondents didn’t like her—they did.

The problem is they didn’t like her enough to cast their vote for her.

As Lauren Leader wrote for Politico, Haley is “running at a time of maximal sexism in Republican politics.”

Given the reality of Republican Party politics today, her presidential dream could become a nightmare. Under the best of circumstances, women who run for president face a particularly pernicious strain of American gender bias that has overshadowed every previous campaign. Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign was plagued with sexist double standards that played a huge part in derailing her. …

On the Republican side, Carly Fiorina faced an endless barrage of sexist attacks from then candidate Donald Trump and others when she ran for president in 2016. And women of color in the political arena, like Haley, are twice as likely as other candidates to be targeted with misinformation and disinformation. …

The base of the Republican Party, the most rabid and committed primary voters, has become more male and more far-right since Trump became the party standard bearer. Misogynist ideology and hate has proliferated so much among in recent years that the Southern Poverty Law Center has begun tracking “Male Supremacy” groups. …

Politics is as much about time and place as it is about talent. And in this time and place, the hurdles for a woman in the Republican Party are exceptionally high. Whether we agree with Haley’s positions or not, we should all root for a level political playing field that stays in the bounds of decency and civility.

Record Numbers of Republican Women Are Serving in Congress—But They Still Lag Compared to Democrats

An article from CNN explores the increase in Republican women in Congress. While the number of Republican women in Congress still lags significantly behind the number of Democratic women, recent election cycles have yielded gains for women on the right. It’s interesting to examine how party leadership on both sides of the aisle can contribute to shifts in gender balance.

Still, GOP women are far from reaching parity with Democrats. Thirty-three of them will serve in the House alone this term, compared with 91 Democratic women. Though many women (and men who care about electing them) applaud a recent shift in attitude among GOP leadership and a segment of the donor class – for whom identity politics has often been anathema – long-term hurdles remain.

The article goes on to examine the GOP’s use of the very strategies RepresentWomen has championed — providing individual candidate support alongside changes in the systems that serve as barriers to women’s political progress.

The GOP still has a lot of catching up to do. Even with leadership PACs and outside groups committed to boosting women in Republican primaries, the party lacks the firepower of a group like EMILY’s List, which has been helping elect Democratic women who support abortion rights since the mid-1980s.

Some of the outside groups backing GOP women have diverged in primaries, either not engaging in the same races or even backing different women in the same primaries.

To expand institutional support, McDaniel pointed to the example of programs such as League of Our Own, a campaign program she worked with in her home state of Michigan that has focused on training female candidates.

“We talked about things like, ‘How do you raise money? How do you pick a campaign manager?’” McDaniel said. “You’d see these women who were graduates, going on to be state reps or state senators. It’s really, really impactful to see how even just that little bit of campaign school and that little bit of help can go a long way in bringing women into the conversation.”

If you want to hear about solutions to women’s underrepresentation, register for the 2023 Democracy Solutions Summit! You will hear from our expert speakers, who just happen to be women, on what actions we can take to strengthen our democracy. Register here.

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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.


Cynthia Richie Terrell is the founder and executive director of RepresentWomen and a founding board member of the ReflectUS coalition of non-partisan women’s representation organizations. Terrell is an outspoken advocate for innovative rules and systems reforms to advance women’s representation and leadership in the United States. Terrell and her husband Rob Richie helped to found FairVote—a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms that give voters greater choice, a stronger voice and a truly representative democracy. Terrell has worked on projects related to women's representation, voting system reform and democracy in the United States and abroad.