Weekend Reading on Women’s Representation: France’s Second-Ever Woman PM Resigns; Threats to Nutrition Program for Low-Income Women and Children

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!

We’re only two weeks into 2024, and we already have so much news surrounding women’s representation. Last week, we focused on the 2024 elections and voting systems. While advocating for greater female representation in 2024, it’s also crucial to recognize the ongoing contributions of women currently serving. This weekend, dive in to learn more about resignations, challenges surrounding maternal health inequities, the latest on gender-based violence, and the promise for change for city council leadership.

France’s Prime Minister Steps Down After Less Than Two Years in Office

Élisabeth Borne’s official portrait from 2022. She was France’s second female prime minister.

An article for the BBC by Sean Seddon covers France’s prime minister Élisabeth Borne’s resignation after less than two years in office. The move precedes a potential cabinet shake-up by President Macron, which is believed to be a strategic political move ahead of the European elections. Macron commended Borne for her “courage, commitment and determination” as the second female prime minister and the longest-serving in French history. Gabriel Attal, the first openly gay and youngest-ever French prime minister, was sworn in on January 9.

The Council for Women World Leaders, led by RepresentWomen ally Laura Liswood, is an incredible organization that enhances the visibility and influence of women in political leadership roles. For more information on the experiences of women heads of state, check out the website.

Her resignation comes with President Emmanuel Macron widely expected to reshuffle his top team ahead of European elections due later this year.

In a statement, Mr. Macron said Ms. Borne had shown “courage, commitment and determination” during her time in office…

Ms. Borne will remain in post until a new prime minister takes over, a statement from the Élysée Palace said.

She was France’s second female prime minister and longest serving, outlasting Édith Cresson, who served in the role under François Mitterrand from 1991-92.

Reports of an overhaul of the government have been rife in recent weeks as Mr. Macron looks to boost his political fortunes ahead of June’s election and in a year when France will be centre stage when it hosts the Olympic Games…

Ms. Borne’s departure will be seen as the beginning of that overhaul, with several key figures in government tipped to replace her.

The 34-year-old education minister, Gabriel Attal, is considered the frontrunner for the job. He would become France’s youngest and first openly gay prime minister.

New York City’s Continued Fight Against Maternal Mortality

 Severe Maternal Mortality (SMM) “refers to outcomes during labor and delivery that result in adverse short- or long-term consequences to a woman’s health.” (2020 NY Health Foundation Study)

Improving maternal health outcomes in New York City, with a focus on reducing disparities impacting Black and Latina women, has been a priority for the city’s council, which currently has a female majority. Our 2023 Impact Analysis of NYC’s Woman Majority Council highlights their efforts to address maternal health disparities.

Last July 2023, the council introduced a landmark 11-piece maternal health and mortality package. However, an additional factor contributing to racial disparities in maternal mortality has been identified alongside unaddressed pre-conditions and staff shortages: variations in hospital quality.

Joseph Goldstein described this in a front-page story in Monday’s New York Times. Recent research identifies variations in hospital quality as an additional factor contributing to these disparities, alongside existing challenges like pre-existing conditions and staff shortages.

[Maternal mortality shows] one of the most striking racial disparities in New York: Black women are nine times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth than white women in New York City, a far starker disparity than the national one…

On Thursday, Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed her own six-point plan to address the problem, which includes paid prenatal leave, no co-pays for prenatal visits, and a monitoring system for unnecessary cesarean sections…

The reasons for the racial disparities are complex and varied, experts say. In New York City, chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension, which can make pregnancy riskier, are more prevalent in Black and Hispanic residents than white residents…

[But,] one 2016 study estimated that the differing performance of hospitals could account for nearly half of the racial disparity in severe maternal morbidity rates.

In New York, white women are more likely than Black women to deliver at top-notch academic medical centers. Black women are more likely to deliver at public hospitals or struggling private “safety-net” hospitals, where understaffing is more of a problem and the safety records tend to be lower.

Funding Shortfall Threatens Vital Nutrition Program for Low-Income Women and Children in the U.S.

Carl G. Purvenas-Smith (L) sells produce to Sunday Smith (C) and Vanessa Edwards at the Ward 8 Farmers Market Cooperative in York, Pa., where farmers accept cash, credit, WIC coupons and food stamps. (Tracy A. Woodward / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

An article for the New York Times by Madeline Ngo discusses the potential risk to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), a federally funded program providing critical food access to low-income women and children. Due to a $1 billion shortfall, the program may be unable to accommodate all eligible applicants. Some members of the House are proposing budget cuts to the program. This means that millions of pregnant and postpartum women and children may miss out on nutrition assistance.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, a federally funded program known as WIC, has traditionally received bipartisan support from lawmakers. But the broader push for spending cuts among some House Republicans has threatened the program’s ability to provide benefits to every eligible person who applies.

The Agriculture Department warned last month that the program could see a $1 billion shortfall and that millions of eligible pregnant and postpartum women and their children could risk missing out on nutrition assistance this year if Congress does not increase funding…

In the 2023 fiscal year, average monthly participation in the program grew 5 percent from the year before, with about 6.6 million total participants, according to Agriculture Department data. The year before marked the first time in more than a decade that total participation increased.

Roughly half of all infants born in the United States receive WIC benefits. Research has shown that children who participate eat more nutritious foods and are more likely to have better long-term health. Spending on the program has also been associated with fewer infant deaths and premature births, along with savings in health care costs after birth, according to studies.

As Abby J. Leibman wrote in Ms.,

We should not have to beg lawmakers to fund federal programs that curb hunger, improve birth outcomes, reduce infant mortality, and promote healthy growth and child development.

Our Impact Analysis of NYC’s Woman-Majority Council Brief continues to highlight that women’s issues are prioritized when women are in power. This story reflects the need for diverse leadership so that certain members of the population are not forgotten by leadership.

New U.N. Women Study Examines Violence Against Women in Politics In Turkey

A presentation in Ankara on a new study on violence against Women in politics in Turkey. (U.N. Women)

U.N. Women and Terra Development Cooperative has published a joint study on violence against women in politics in Turkey. The comprehensive study examines the reasons for the acts of violence women in politics were subjected to by analyzing international and local legislation. The organizations also collected data from interviews and focus groups.

U.N. Women Türkiye director Asya Varbanova commended women for overcoming obstacles, “to prove that when they lead, they bring transformative change to societies and the world.”

In her opening speech at the event, UN Women Türkiye Country Director Asya Varbanova said: “Violence against women in politics is a widespread human rights violation and a significant obstacle to women’s full, equal and effective participation in political life. Today, as we release this study report, we call on all stakeholders to take action to create the conditions for women to exercise their political and civil rights without fear, discrimination, or violence. Despite the challenges they face, women continue to prove that when they lead, they bring transformative change to societies and the world. We must do all we can to ensure their full and effective participation at all levels of decision-making in political and public life and equal opportunities for leadership…”

This research aims to shed light on the problems of violence against women in politics in Türkiye and make an important contribution to advocacy work and change processes. Furthermore, the research results emphasize the importance of developing democracy in the country to eliminate violence against women, realize gender equality and establish a society free from violence.

Check out RepresentWomen’s Report on International Women’s Representation to learn more about how progress toward gender parity in elected office is made globally. 

President of All-Women City Council in St. Paul, Minn., Discusses Council Plans 

2023 Gender Parity Index state card for Minnesota.

As we’ve highlighted in previous editions, St. Paul, Minn., elected an historic all-women city council last year using ranked-choice voting. The council was sworn in and had its first meeting this week.

In MPR News, Cathy Wurzer and Lindsey Seavert interviewed Mitra Jalali on not only the areas of policy the council will focus on but also the broader impact they hope to have on their communities.

Much attention has been given to the all-women council, but its members are also young. All seven members are under the age of 40. Six are women of color. Leading the council in her first meeting as that body’s president, is Mitra Jalali. She represents Ward 4…

As president of the council, you get to set the policy agenda. But how do you see yourself as setting the tone of the culture of the council politically?

Jalali: I think over the five years that I have been a council member, people know me for always finding the way through, in a difficult time. For really looking for a way we can solve this problem within our purview as a local government. For projecting a combination of tenacity, humor and optimism, not one that glosses over what’s really painful or hard.

I’ve served our community through the toughest times in recent city history. I represent the Midway, served through the pandemic. But also it’s really about how are we going to help people today and I just think that energy is what is felt across the whole council. It’s not just me. And that is how the city hall feels right now…

As you go forward as council president, do you have specific goals for your leadership?

Jalali: …Leadership is like a one-person show and what I’m trying to do here is bring our community strength to that council table and help the new leaders that we’ve elected and the returning ones who have experience and perspective to offer, work really well together. That’s what I hoped for out of this next chapter in my leadership entering into the council presidency.

Weigh in: Who Is the Most Effective Woman Head of State?

Today marks 298 days until the United States general election. While the U.S. has never had a woman president, several other women heads of state have been influential leaders and changemakers in their respective countries.

Which of these candidates do you think was the most effective? Let us know with this poll!

Join the Democracy Solutions Summit

Our 2024 Democracy Solutions Summit is just two months away! Save the date for March 5-7th, 2024, for a multiple-day event featuring women leaders and experts in democracy. You can explore last year’s Democracy Solutions Summit here

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.


RepresentWomen’s mission is to strengthen U.S. 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 U.S. and abroad, understand the underlying reasons women are underrepresented, and find evidence-based solutions to mitigate the problem.