Weekend Reading on Women’s Representation: How Is Life for Texas Women? Will Denver Get Its First Woman Mayor?

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 we continue to fight for gender parity in politics, RepresentWomen focuses on women leaders worldwide. This week’s Weekend Reading features elections, systemic changes, and what they mean for women.

After a Tightly Fought Contest, a Concession

In Finland, the youngest minister to take office in 2019 has been a role model for many during her time in and out of office. This election has been an exciting contest for the many who have been following it along the way. In the end, Prime Minister Sanna Marin conceded the election.

“The pro-business NCP was expected to win 48 of the 200 seats in parliament, narrowly ahead of the nationalist Finns Party with 46 seats and Marin’s Social Democrats on 43 seats, justice ministry election data showed with all ballots counted…

‘We have gained support, we have gained more seats (in parliament). That’s an excellent achievement, even if we did not finish first today,’ the prime minister said in a speech to party members…

The NCP has led in polls for almost two years although its lead had melted away in recent months. It has promised to curb spending and stop the rise of public debt, which has reached just over 70% of GDP since Marin took office in 2019.”

Will Denver Elect Its First Woman Mayor?

In its 164-year history, Denver has never elected a woman mayor. This cycle, five women are eying the opportunity to be Denver’s mayor. Jamie Giellis, a former mayoral candidate, told Axios that Denver has a “real shot” at electing a woman mayor this time. In 2022, Colorado received a C grade in RepresentWomen’s Gender Parity Index, ranking 19th in the country.

At-large Denver City Councilmember Robin Kniech said fundraising can be a challenge for women, especially when the top-dollar donors in the city are men. 

Kniech, who has served three terms, said it was challenging to “crack” into donors with deeper pockets, who were often men. “I think those barriers still exist for women trying to succeed,” she says. Kniech said it’s a stereotype that women are caretakers — but it’s one she said is rooted in the factual, disproportionate burden women face to be one.

“I think any woman who is living in our world understands that caretaking is not yet 50-50,” she adds.

Colorado has also never elected a woman governor or U.S. senator. “For some reason, women have had trouble getting elected to executive positions in Colorado,” [Mary] DeGroot tells us.

New Zealand Women’s Soccer Team Retires White Shorts, Citing Period Concerns

The New Zealand women’s soccer team will remove white shorts from their uniform and wear teal blue shorts instead. This change will address the period anxiety many players face and indicate institutions have women’s health in mind. 

“The absence of white shorts now is fantastic for women with any kind of period anxiety,” New Zealand striker Hannah Wilkinson said.

“It’s always something that women athletes, not just footballers have had to deal with. In the end, it just helps us focus more on performance and shows a recognition and appreciation of women’s health.”

NZF’s decision follows similar moves by the England women’s team, clubs including Manchester City, and the Ireland women’s rugby team.

“It’s really important to us as players,” England’s Lauren Hemp said.

“It’s been in discussions for many years and it’s important that we feel confident whilst playing and this is a massive step in the right direction.

Just Released: State of the Texas Woman Report

In Texas, 101 counties out of 254 elected candidates at parity in 2022. Only 3.4 million of the 29.1 million people in Texas live in a parity county. (State of the Texas Woman / Lone Star Parity Project)

Our allies over at Lone Star Parity Project released their latest report this week: State of the Texas Woman 2023. Here is an excerpt from the report summary:

With 1,261 women+ elected during the 2022 midterm elections, Texas trended closer than ever before to achieving parity (electing the same number of men and women) during the 2022 cycle. That’s not the only good news though. Women+ continue to solidify their role in history with political gains throughout the state. To start, more women+ sought national seats: 68 women ran for U.S. House positions collectively. 

Republican women had several “firsts.” Monica De La Cruz became the first Republican to win the 15th U.S. Congressional District located in South Texas. Mayra Flores (TX CD-34) became the first U.S. Congresswoman elect born in Mexico. Caroline Harris (TX HD-52) became the youngest Republican woman elected to the Texas House of Representatives. 

Democratic U.S. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX CD-30) retired, ending 30 years of service as the longest-serving U.S. House representative from Texas. Erin Gámez (TX HD-38) became the first woman elected to House District 38 and youngest individual in the Texas House of Representatives at the time of her special election. 

At the local level. Harris County elected two Latinas to the Commissioner’s Court for the first time: Lina Hidalgo and Lesley Briones. Travis County elected women+ into all twelve civil district judge seats. These women’s stories are part of the progress towards parity.

Ranked-Choice Voting’s Positive Impact on Women’s Political Representation

RepresentWomen’s partnerships director Katie Usalis was interviewed by Mark Harris for The New Political, an independent publication run by Ohio University students. She spoke about how ranked-choice voting (RCV) improves representation for women and leads to better policy outcomes:

“(RepresentWomen’s) research indicates that ranked-choice voting has a positive impact on women’s representation in politics by enabling more women to run without being told to wait their turn and without fear of splitting the vote,” Usalis said about the positive impact of RCV on representation.

“In regions that use a ranked choice voting system, women make up 51% of seats on elected city councils. Recently, New York City became the largest U.S. city to use ranked choice voting in the modern era. Record-breaking numbers of women ran and won in the city’s ranked primaries in June 2021, making the New York City Council majority-led by women for the first time in history.”

It is clear to me from what I already know about RCV and from speaking with Usalis that ranked-choice voting can really be a game changer when it comes to representation in government, not just for women.

Representation is just the first step, it is what that representation can mean for policy that really matters. Katie spoke further about New York City Council saying, “this gender-balanced council has improved policy outcomes and introduced groundbreaking legislation on wage equity and other bills that advance women’s rights.” 

To take nothing away from the work of the members of the council, this kind of advancement would not have been possible without the adoption of RCV allowing for better representation of women on the council. This exemplifies the need for changes in the mechanics of our governmental systems to be able to achieve the changes we want to see in legislation.

Up next:

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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.