Weekend Reading on Women’s Representation: Challenges and Progress for Mothers in Political Office; North Macedonia Elects First Woman President

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!

Politics is heating up as we get closer and closer to fall, so we have a full edition for you this week—including a collaboration RepresentWomen did with Cosmopolitan magazine!

Melinda French Gates: ‘This Is a Critical Moment for Women and Girls in the U.S. and Around the World’

First off, Melinda French Gates, founder and CEO of Pivotal Ventures, announced her decision this week to resign from her role as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She wrote about the move on Linkedin:

I am immensely proud of the foundation that Bill and I built together and of the extraordinary work it is doing to address inequities around the world. I care deeply about the foundation team, our partners around the world, and everyone who is touched by its work.

I am taking this step with full confidence that the foundation is in strong shape, with its extremely capable CEO Mark Suzman, the Executive Leadership Team, and an experienced board of trustees in place to ensure all its important work continues. The time is right for me to move forward into the next chapter of my philanthropy.

This is a critical moment for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world—and those fighting to protect and advance equality are in urgent need of support. Under the terms of my agreement with Bill, in leaving the foundation, I will have an additional $12.5 billion to commit to my work on behalf of women and families. I’ll be sharing more about what that will look like in the near future.

Pivotal Ventures President Says We Need More Women in the Rooms Where It Happens

Speaking of Pivotal Ventures, The Fulcrum published a piece by Brooke Anderson, president of the foundation, who shared why expanding women’s power isn’t a single-issue effort but is a prerequisite to progress across the board. We couldn’t agree more! Brooke says:

Before I became the president of Pivotal Ventures, I spent most of my career in national security. In my roles at the United Nations, the White House and the State Department, I had the chance to work on big, audacious challenges with teams I deeply respected and admired. But as much as I valued my colleagues, I was also conscious of who was missing from the rooms where decisions were made. It was not unusual over my long career to find myself the only woman in the room — or one of only a few.

Unfortunately, women’s underrepresentation in those rooms probably made us less effective. Research makes clear that peace agreements are longer-lasting and more durable when women help make them.

We are missing opportunities across many other aspects of American life, too. Women hold less than one-third of the jobs in the technical workforce, about one-third of elected offices, and approximately one-sixth of check-writing positions in venture capital — and in every case, women of color are even more underrepresented than white women.

In other words, the power centers that will do the most to determine the future are mired in the past. If women were proportionately represented in these areas, our technology would be more innovative, our politics would engage a whole new range of issues, and our companies would serve the needs of many more customers.

That’s why, at Pivotal, we see expanding women’s power and influence not as a single issue but rather as a prerequisite to progress on more or less every issue. We believe dismantling barriers to equality for women of all backgrounds will spark widespread social progress. And if equal representation benefits everyone, then it means that there are a lot of potential allies for our work, including people who don’t currently think of themselves as advocates for women.

Ongoing Challenges for Women in Politics: Childcare Access, Discrimination and Safety Concerns Plague Legislative Workplace

It’s been a busy week for Pivotal Ventures! Cosmopolitan also partnered with the foundation on an article that features the work of RepresentWomen and many other organizations and sheds light on the ongoing challenges women in politics face. Childcare responsibilities often clash with the demanding schedules and lack of support systems in legislative workplaces. Discrimination, both overt and subtle, such as sexist microaggressions, further exacerbates the issue. Additionally, threats, physical attacks and harassment are disturbingly common, leading many women to reconsider their roles in public office.

Jessica Goodman and Nicole Passulka report:

Say you’ve just scored your dream job. And that dream job involves representing your town, county, state, or even country, dedicating your time and energy to making a difference in people’s lives. You’re feeling energized, hopeful, idealistic even. And then, on day one, you face a harsh reality: The majority of governments in this country weren’t set up with women in mind. You knew your job would be tough, but maybe you didn’t realize how tough.

It’s a previously underreported scenario we heard again and again while talking to elected women for How to Succeed in Office. They face far more roadblocks than their male counterparts on all fronts—financial, logistical, physical, mental, emotional, we could go on—with women of color and working parents often being even more affected…

Sexism ranked as the largest perceived challenge for elected women in our Cosmopolitan/Pivotal Ventures poll. And while those on the ground tend to agree, the discrimination they face isn’t always blatant (though there’s that too). Sexist microaggressions can be a huge source of stress and frustration for women in office, says Cynthia Richie Terrell, executive director and founder of RepresentWomen, a group focussed on systemic interventions that increase women’s representation. As in, male colleagues making decisions at 10 p.m. at a bar instead of during work hours. Or male elected officials asking female elected officials to pick up coffee. Or male lawmakers consistently interrupting female lawmakers when they’re speaking.

Election Analysis from the Center for American Women and Politics

Kelly Dittmar, director of research at CAWP, just dropped an insightful analysis on the current state of women in the 2024 congressional elections. Here’s a sneak peek:

  • Major Findings: The number of women running for the U.S. House is down, with Republican women seeing the greatest decline. However, Democratic women’s share of all candidacies remains steady.
  • Unfortunate Records: A record high of 13 congresswomen, including both Democrats and Republicans, have announced they’re not running for re-election to the U.S. House. 
  • Inequity: Women’s representation in the House candidate pool is still significantly lower than men’s, especially among Republicans.
  • Key Races to Watch: There are several House contests, including AZ-03, CA-12, CA-29, and TX-32, where non-incumbent women have strong prospects for success, potentially achieving significant milestones if elected.

Angela Alsobrooks Wins Senate Primary in Maryland

Cynthia Richie Terrell and Angela Alsobrooks in Annapolis in February.

Prince George’s county executive Angela Alsobrooks won an impressive victory in the U.S. Senate primary in Maryland despite her opponent spending over 60 million dollars of his own money to defeat her – making it one of the most expensive primary contests, ever. Alsobrooks garnered the support of most of the Maryland Congressional delegation and numerous elected officials which positions her to do well against former Republican governor Larry Hogan whom she will face in the general election in November.  

Pamela Wood wrote this piece about the race in the Baltimore Banner:

From the outside, it looked like Trone, a three-term member of Congress, might sail past Alsobrooks, in her second term as Prince George’s County executive. As Election Day approached, the race appeared to tighten and both campaigns quietly suggested it might take a few days to determine a winner.

But as the numbers rolled in Tuesday night it quickly became clear not only that Alsobrooks had won, but she won big. By the end of the night, she held a 54%-42% advantage over Trone. Even with some mail and provisional ballots left to count, there was no way for Trone to win, and he conceded.

“Tonight, we made history,” Alsobrooks told the crowd at her election night party. “And we did it while overcoming steep odds.”

So how did she engineer a come-from-behind win?

Alsobrooks worked hard early on to sew up endorsements from much of Maryland’s Democratic political establishment. She had Gov. Wes Moore, Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller, most of the state’s congressional delegation and an array of local officials and state lawmakers in her corner.

Those political endorsers didn’t just put their names on a list for Alsobrooks, they went to bat for her, opening doors to potential donors, community leaders and voters across the state.

Suzanne LaFrance Likely Winner in Anchorage Mayoral Race

Former Anchorage Assembly chair Suzanne LaFrance has a substantial lead over her opponent in the runoff for mayor of Anchorage. If elected LaFrance will be the city’s first woman to hold that office, according to this piece from Alaska Public Media:

Suzanne LaFrance is poised to unseat incumbent Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson and become the city’s first elected female mayor. 

Partial, unofficial election night results Tuesday show the former Anchorage Assembly chair leading Bronson by 9.8%. 

There are still thousands of ballots left to count, but the lead will be difficult for Bronson to overcome. If voter turnout patterns continue from recent mayoral elections, Bronson would need the outstanding ballots to favor him nearly 2-to-1 to overcome the deficit.

LaFrance supporters erupted in cheers as she talked to a television crew at her campaign party downtown Tuesday night, and again as she took the stage. 

“I feel really optimistic and grateful to everyone for all their work and support, and bringing us to this moment,” LaFrance said in an interview.

North Macedonia Elects First Woman President

Konstantin Testorides’ article in the Associated Press covers the historic presidential election in North Macedonia, where Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova became the first woman president to be elected in the country. Backed by the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, she won the presidency with nearly 65 percent of the vote in the runoff. The election raised concerns about the country’s slow progress toward E.U. membership, corruption, and the economy, but the victory signals a potential shift in the country’s political landscape and its aspirations toward E.U. integration.

Conservative-backed Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova, a 70-year-old law professor, was declared the winner after receiving nearly 65% support with more than two-thirds of the vote counted in a presidential runoff. “Is there a bigger change than electing a woman as president?” Siljanovska-Davkova told party supporters. “I will stand with women in taking this great step forward, a step towards reform.”

Incumbent Stevo Pendarovski conceded after garnering just over 29% of the vote. Siljanovska-Davkova was backed by the conservative VMRO-DPMNE party, which made sweeping gains on popular discontent over the country’s slow path toward European Union membership and its sluggish economy. A coalition led by VMRO-DPMNE was ahead with nearly 43% in the parliamentary election, while the Social Democrat-led coalition that has held power for the least seven years struggled to hold onto second place with 14.8.% – just ahead of a group of parties led by the ethnic Albanian minority party DUI.

The Challenges and Progress of Mothers in Political Office

An article by States Newsroom published in the New Hampshire Bulletin highlights the challenges and progress of mothers running for and serving in political office. While the number of mothers in office has increased over time, systemic barriers like high childcare costs and funding disparities. 

Our ally, Vote Mama focuses on removing barriers for women running for office. Check out their website to learn more.

As the nation’s groundbreaker when it comes to working moms in a state capital, Nevada made history in 2019 as the only female-majority legislative body in the U.S. Still, legislators like Cannizzaro acknowledge uncertainty before deciding to grow their families while serving, the Nevada Current reported.

“What does that look like? What does it mean to be in this building and pregnant? What does it mean if I have a 1½-year-old and have to leave a meeting to pick him up at daycare? Does that make me less able to fulfill my duties? There were questions that I had as I announced my first and second pregnancy,” Cannizzaro told the Current…

“We talk a lot up here about how representation matters, and I believe that to be true,” Georgia state Rep. Lauren Daniel, a Republican, said to her colleagues late last year.

“I hope as I stand here today, and every day, as the youngest female member of this body, that it shows any young girl in this state who may find herself pregnant that her life does not end when a new one begins,” said Daniel, who first became pregnant when she was 17 and is now mother to four.

Still, moms are struggling to get elected and remain in office. Beyond child care, there are myriad impediments. It takes money and an organized campaign infrastructure. As candidates, they are confronted with gender stereotypes that they often consider in executing their campaign strategy. And the time away from young children can be daunting.

Having run for office herself, Liuba Grechen Shirley said she sees why moms, especially moms of small children, are often missing from elected office. Grechen Shirley is the founder of Vote Mama, a political organization that seeks to increase the number of moms in office.

“If you are a mother with young children and you decide to step up and run, the first question you get asked is always ‘but who will watch your kids while you campaign?’” said Grechen Shirley, who ran for Congress in 2018 in New York’s 2nd Congressional District while wrangling her 1- and 3-year-old children on the campaign trail.

What’s Your Fave Branch of Government?

While all branches of government are essential for a thriving democracy, many people are more invested in one branch over another. For this week’s ranked-choice voting poll, let us know what your favorite branch of government is!

Cheers to the Graduates

Cheers to all who are celebrating a graduation, of one sort or another, this month!

My amazing daughter Becca Richie graduates from NYU this week with a degree in teaching. I know my parents and her paternal grandparents would be very proud of her and heartened by this impressive generation of educators and leaders in our midst. 

Hats off to my son Lucas Shoemaker Richie too, who is on track to complete the Appalachian Trail in just over three months and to my daughter Anna Richie who is completing another year as a devoted librarian at Sidwell Friends School. 

I am feeling very fortunate for my family, for my garden, and for the opportunity to build women’s power, together.

The Origins of Mother’s Day

My dear sister-in-law Marina Richie, a noted author and this year’s winner of the Burrough’s Award, sent me a link to a timely essay by Heather Cox Richardson about the origins of Mother’s Day:

If you google the history of Mother’s Day, the internet will tell you that Mother’s Day began in 1908 when Anna Jarvis decided to honor her mother. But “Mothers’ Day”—with the apostrophe not in the singular spot, but in the plural—actually started in the 1870s, when the sheer enormity of the death caused by the Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War convinced writer and reformer Julia Ward Howe that women must take control of politics from the men who had permitted such carnage. Mothers’ Day was not designed to encourage people to be nice to their mothers. It was part of women’s effort to gain power to change society.

Julie Ward Howe, painted by Melanie Humble.

The Civil War years taught naïve Americans what mass death meant in the modern era. Soldiers who had marched off to war with fantasies of heroism discovered that newly invented long-range weapons turned death into tortured anonymity. Men were trampled into blood-soaked mud, piled like cordwood in ditches, or withered into emaciated corpses after dysentery drained their lives away.

The women who had watched their hale and healthy men march off to war were haunted by its results. They lost fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers. The men who did come home were scarred in both body and mind.

Modern war, it seemed, was not a game.

But out of the war also came a new sense of empowerment. Women had bought bonds, paid taxes, raised money for the war effort, managed farms, harvested fields, worked in war industries, reared children, and nursed soldiers. When the war ended, they had every expectation that they would continue to be considered valuable participants in national affairs, and had every intention of continuing to take part in them. 

But the Fourteenth Amendment, which established that Black men were citizens, did not explicitly include women in that right. Worse, it introduced the word “male” into the Constitution when it warned states against preventing “male inhabitants” from voting. In 1869, the year after the Fourteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution, women organized two organizations—the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association—to promote women’s right to have a say in American government.

That’s all for this week. Have an excellent weekend!

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.