Weekend Reading on Women’s Representation: Laphonza Butler Fills Sen. Feinstein’s Seat; Will Burlington 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!


This week, the National Organization for Women (NOW) unveiled a new podcast called Feminism NOW, led by NOW’s national president, Christian F. Nunes. The podcast will tackle contemporary feminist issues such as constitutional equality, economic justice and reproductive rights, analyzing current news topics through an intersectional feminist lens. Nunes highlights NOW’s historical role in the women’s movement and expresses the importance of reaching young activists through the voices of cultural and political leaders.

Listen to the first episode with Alyssa Milano here, or below:


Will Burlington Have its First Woman Mayor in 2024?

Patrick Crowley in the Vermont Digger reported on the possibility of having a woman mayor soon in Burlington, Vermont. Burlington uses ranked-choice voting (RCV) in local elections and has never had a woman mayor. Following Mayor Miro Weinberger’s announcement that he would not seek reelection after 12 years in office, three women have expressed an interest in running for his seat. These include CD Mattison, a consultant and nonprofit board member; state Representative Emma Mulvaney-Stanak (P/D-Burlington); and City Councilwoman Joan Shannon (D-South District).

Open-seat elections tend to draw large numbers of candidates. In cities with plurality elections, this leads to split votes between similar candidates, negative campaigning, and disfavorable odds for women candidates. As seen in our signature research, RCV mitigates vote-splitting and rewards positive campaigning by allowing voters to rank candidates in order of preference, which levels the playing field for women candidates. 

As of January 2023, 40 percent of RCV mayors were women. Our team will closely monitor Burlington’s mayoral race in 2024 to see how RCV impacts this race. 

Mulvaney-Stanak, who first noted her interest Thursday on social media, said the other names she’s heard floated as possible candidates for mayor were mostly women.

“There’s never been a mayor who has been a female-identified person in the history of the Queen City, which hurts my brain,” Mulvaney-Stanak told VTDigger on Friday. “So I’m excited that, regardless, it seems like there are some women out there thinking about it.”

…“A lot of people are asking me to run and I’m just considering what Burlington needs, what I can deliver for Burlington,” Shannon said… “if I run it’s because I think I am the best person to address those problems.”

Mattison…said she was “in exploration of all options” and was “in the midst of a lot of conversations with people who’ve been doing the work for the city, people who are committed to this town, and I’m gonna continue to do that.”

If elected, Mattison would also be the first person of color elected mayor of Burlington. She said that she would run as a Democrat if she entered the race.


Laphonza Butler, Women’s Rights Advocate, Fills Feinstein’s U.S. Senate Seat

Channel News Asia reported that Governor Gavin Newsom has appointed Laphonza Butler, an ardent supporter of women’s rights and a previous labor union leader, to fill the late Dianne Feinstein’s seat in the U.S. Senate. Renowned for her extensive contributions to California’s politics and the former president of Emily’s List, she will be the first openly Black lesbian to serve in the U.S. Senate. Upon entering office, Senator Butler will champion the causes dear to Feinstein and continue her legacy, with her term ending in 2024.

Newsom posted on social media platform X, lauding the new senator for her work “fighting for women and girls” and working people.

She was previously an adviser to U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and also served as the head of California’s largest labour union.

“I have no doubt she will carry the baton left by Senator Feinstein, continue to break glass ceilings, and fight for all Californians in Washington.


100 Years Later, the Equal Rights Amendment Is Still Not the Law of the Land

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) announces a joint resolution to affirm the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment on Jan. 31, 2023 in Washington, D.C. In April, she also filed a discharge petition, which seeks to compel the House of Representatives to vote on H.J. Res. 25 to remove the arbitrary deadline for ratification. (Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

Donna Kelly from the Standard-Examiner wrote about the slow progress to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). 

At RepresentWomen, we know that increasing women’s political representation is vital to achieving gender equity. Our research shows that women politicians are more likely to view women’s issues as a priority. Increasing women’s representation will make it more feasible for legislators to pass laws that prevent gender-based discrimination and safeguard women’s rights, including the Equal Rights Amendment. Therefore, we need to adopt systems-based reforms, such as ranked-choice voting and multi-member districts, to elect more women at all levels of government and pass legislation protecting women’s fundamental rights. 

The Seneca Falls event was about commemorating all the work that has been done and committing to the work that still must be done. These women, past and present, remind us that we have to push beyond barriers and suggestions that our fight for equal rights is radical or controversial. The efforts from young people leading Generation Ratify, as a partner in the National ERA Coalition, inspired us to remember what is at stake and to be bold in our efforts to move the ERA forward. Nicholson asked those present to reflect on the actions we, as those in attendance, would be willing to take in order to achieve our fundamental equal rights.

Has it been a long road? Yes. Has it been hard fought? Yes. Will equality prevail? Without any doubt, YES.


New Movement Advocates to Appoint First Black Woman Onto Brazil’s Supreme Court

(Courtesy of the Juízas Negras Pra Ontem Exhibit)

Somos Latinx contributor Beatriz Miranda wrote an article for Refinery29 drawing attention to how racism has shaped the composition of Brazil’s judicial branch. There has never been a Black or Indigenous woman on Brazil’s Supreme Court. The author notes that this is primarily due to the South American country’s long history of systemic racism, colorism, and featurism. In response, a new campaign, Preta Ministra, has been formed to pressure Brazil’s president into nominating a Black woman to the Supreme Court. 

As shown in our work, embracing the practice of appointing individuals from diverse backgrounds to executive cabinets, commissions, and vacant positions is one of the fastest ways to create diversity among our leaders.

Black and Indigenous women have been absent from the STF since its inception. In 132 years, 171 ministers have gone through the institution. Of them, three were Black men, and three were white women. The homogeneity that has configured the high court’s body of ministers through history is far from a random fact. 

“It’s a symptom of racism and misogyny, which have structured the institutionality in Brazil,” Tainah Pereira, political coordinator of Mulheres Negras Decidem, one of the groups campaigning for a Black woman minister, tells Refinery29 Somos. Currently, Lula’s allies have predominantly suggested jurists (judges and lawyers) who are affluent, white men from Southeastern Brazil. “The alienation of the majority [women and Black people] from the highest domes of power is material and symbolic,” she adds.

The campaign has been using media and public art to uplift its message. #PretaMinistra, created by the Defense of the Black Population and the Black Coalition for Rights, has recently been a trending topic on Brazil’s Twitter, or X, as the platform has been renamed. On social media, Brazilians are sharing the aforementioned fictional short film, including a short clip where the young girl says, “When I grow up, I want to be a Supreme Court Minister.” On September 11 and 12, the film was also displayed at New York City’s Times Square.


Gaelic Athletic Association’s New Gender Quota Will Reserve 40 Percent Representation For Women

A new Irish Examiner article by John Fogarty described the pioneering shift taken by the Irish government that will impact gender parity on a sports-centric congressional committee.

The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) / Coiste Bainisti’s management committee has voted on the passage of Motion 9, which will enact a new gender quota and expand the size of the committee. Under the new rule, women will hold 40% of the committee’s seats next year. The structural rule change comes after the GAA Special Congress faced scrutiny for failing to attain gender balance. Before the vote, only three of Coiste Bainisti’s 19 members were women. 

As seen in RepresentWomen’s international research, gender quotas are effective accelerators that work to increase the number of women in office. Similar mechanisms can be used for roles within political parties and corporate boards, demonstrating the universality of this reform. 

Fulfilling a stipulation by the Government, who have threatened to cut funding if sports organisations’ governing bodies don’t attain gender balance, 78.5% of delegates endorsed the motion. In explaining the motion, GAA Director General Tom Ryan admitted the proposal would likely not be put forward were the Government not insisting on it. He also said he was not unsympathetic to people who claimed the GAA were being forced to do it, although he noted that the organisation was “under pressure” and under scrutiny.

Ryan, who highlighted that the GAA receive between €15 million and €16m in state funding per annum, argued that it didn’t matter if other sports organisations were not meeting their gender balance responsibilities. Antrim, Clare, Galway, Offaly and New York were among the delegates who spoke in favour of the recommendation, as did GAA president Seán Kelly who maintained not voting it into rule would “send out all the wrong signals”.


How We Can Grow a Diverse Movement to Address Racism

On Oct. 25 at 12 p.m. EST, RepresentWomen is joining forces with She Should Run and YWCA for Lifting as We Climb: How We Can Grow a Diverse Movement to Address Racism. This webinar will help you articulate why addressing racism and racial justice for women is necessary to build a more equitable, inclusive society and understand how local policies and initiatives can have a meaningful impact. Our very own Partnerships Manager, Victoria Pelletier, will be a panelist! RSVP here.


Hayao Miyazaki, whose films often feature strong women, has announced that he is no longer retiring and will create a new animated movie. Rank your favorite Studio Ghibli films!

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About

RepresentWomen’s mission is to strengthen our democracy by advancing reforms that break down barriers to ensure more women can run, win, serve, and lead. The team engages in research to track the status of women’s representation in the US and abroad, understand the underlying reasons women are underrepresented, and find evidence-based solutions to mitigate the problem.