Weekend Reading on Women’s Representation: U.N. Report Shows How Far We Are From Gender Equality; the Intersection of Gender Parity and Climate Change

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!

This week, RepresentWomen hosted our second annual Democracy Solutions Summit. Thank you to everyone that attended, and a special thank you to our speakers. The fact that so many people attended and enjoyed the summit brings me hope for a healthier democracy.

E.U. Progress Towards Gender Equality

Dr. Berit Ebert wrote a terrific piece in DemocracySOS on the history of women’s rights in the European Union. She highlights how individual women had the power to spark much bigger action, from legal struggles to community activism:

The EEC legislative framework, and since 1993 the European Union framework, have encouraged and inspired individual participation, albeit by using judicial instead of political means. Court rulings from the Defrenne trilogy are still cited today as the landmark rulings that established a woman’s right to equal treatment in the workplace.

So like the federal government in the United States, the EU and its court system have been an instrumental vehicle for advancing women’s rights. Showing the importance of indirect democracy outside the electoral arena, citizens have played a decisive role in paving the way for social policy deliberations to enter Community law via filing complaints and lawsuits using EU law. European law has been used to enshrine new and binding understandings of gender roles in the law about part-time work, pregnancy, and maternity and parental leave. Decisions related to access to employment and pension benefits have followed, going well beyond the original intention of equal pay for women and men from the 1950s.

This pathway for social change—individuals using legal avenues and precedents—have continued throughout subsequent decades. In 2000, the political debate and heightened public awareness following the CJEU’s famous Kreil decision led Germany to change its constitution to enable women to work in the armed forces. Again, it was one woman, the electronic technician Tanja Kreil, who initiated the change when her application was rejected by the Bundeswehr, the German army. She was certainly not aware of the profound legal changes she was to evoke in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Jane Hirschfield Uses Poetry to Illuminate Real World Issues

(Curt Richter)

RepresentWomen research associate Steph Scaglia shared this powerful poem with our team this week called “Let Them Not Say” by Jane Hirshfield, along with her interview with Ezra Klein that I highly recommend you all take a moment to read. 

For Jane Hirshfield, an award-winning poet, “Poetry is the attempt to understand fully what is real, what is present, what is imaginable, what is feelable, and how can [she] loosen the grip of what [she] already knows to find some new, changed relationship.” 

Hirshfield’s work also raises some profound questions: What does it mean to grapple with our complicity in the climate crisis? Where does the self end and the rest of the world begin? How do we learn to desire what we previously dreaded or despised?

The Intersection of Gender Parity and Climate Change

Multiple studies show a clear positive correlation between female representation in parliaments and the robustness of climate action. (Courtesy of Climate Clock)

With International Women’s Day this week, we collaborated with Climate Clock for the release of their new Gender Parity Lifeline! According to the Climate Clock:

The Climate Clock’s Gender Parity lifeline tracks the global averages of women in all national parliaments, according to IPU Parline. The demand to achieve gender parity remains a key factor in all negotiations and agreements to combat the adverse effects of climate change. With just six years left, the Climate Clock emphasizes the need to fast track gender parity as a climate solution. 

My daughter Becca Richie and RepresentWomen Outreach Manager Alissa Bombardier Shaw shared the importance of women’s leadership in addressing the climate crisis:

“Around the world, women are disproportionately impacted by climate change. For reasons of justice, democracy, and survival, we must strive to achieve gender parity in national parliaments. Tackling the climate crisis is a collective mission, and to create an even playing field for all, we must include women in the decision-making process. By ensuring that women are better represented in parliament, we can improve the quality of decision-making and increase the likelihood of climate policies that benefit all members of society.”

Becca Richie, global community manager, Climate Clock

“Increasing women’s representation at every level of government is essential not only for protecting our climate, but for improving our democracy as a whole. We cannot sufficiently address or resolve the most prominent issues facing our society today, like the climate crisis, when not everyone has a seat at the table. Electoral reforms such as ranked-choice voting help to promote gender balance and have the power to create a truly representative democracy. We must advance reforms like these to ensure that the needs of the people are being met by those who have the power to enact change.”

Alissa Bombardier Shaw, outreach manager, RepresentWomen

U.N. Report Shows How Far We Are From Gender Equality Globally

A women’s collective processes sardinella in Senegal. (U.N. Women / Bruno Demeocq)

A report from U.N. Women and the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs paints a bleak picture of the state of women’s rights and gender equality around the world. Measuring a number of factors, including economic opportunity, safety, education and health, the report warns that it will take nearly 300 years to achieve true gender equality at the current rate of progress.

In July 2022, women held only 26.4% of parliamentary seats globally; in 23 countries, representation was below 10. At the current pace of progress, parity will not be achieved until 2062. Women hold over one third of seats in local decision making bodies (34.3%). Achieving parity in local government by 2030 requires widely implementing well-designed gender quotas…

In all the places where decisions are made, gender parity is far from being achieved To protect human rights, uphold the rule of law and provide redress to victims of abuse and injustice, all public institutions must represent and respond to women and girls. Equal representation is a goal and a conduit for more just, peaceful societies yet has not been attained.

Ranked-Choice Voting is Expanded in Burlington, Vt.

Burlington, Vermont, residents have spoken! On March 7, Burlington voted to expand its use of ranked-choice voting beyond city council elections to include all city offices for future elections. We would also like to celebrate Burlington City Council member Zoraya Hightower, the woman of color who was at the helm of the 2021 campaign to bring ranked-choice voting to Burlington city council races. Women are leading the charge on election reform across the nation!

RepresentWomen ally Rachel Hutchinson of FairVote writes,

Prior to the race, Shannon said, “I think ranked-choice voting will better reflect the will of the voters. I won my first election in a three-way race. But I was 6 votes short of 50 percent and that always kind of bothered me that it was in fact a little more than 50 percent of the voters that voted against me. You know I didn’t really have the full endorsement of the voters in that election. I think it’s important for those of us who are elected to have the endorsement of the majority.”

Anderson also commented on the state of the race a few weeks ago: “There’s a lot of people that are looking for a new voice and representation in city council . . . So I don’t think it’s entirely a disadvantage that I’m not as well known.” Though Anderson came up short and placed second, his sentiment is consistent with the spirit of RCV. When voters have the freedom to consider backup choices, they may give greater consideration to new, startup candidates.

We can look forward to more RCV races in Burlington in the future, including for mayor, school commissioners, and ward election officers after last night’s ballot measure victory!

It’s wonderful to see our ally Lauren Leader from All In Together working to advance women’s representation internationally at the Know Your Value x Forbes 30/50 Summit in Abu Dhabi! She sat down with the incredible Mika Brzezinski on Morning Joe to talk about the importance and value of women gathering to support one another. What a great way to spend International Women’s Day!

Up next:

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.