Weekend Reading on Women’s Representation: Court Halts Fearless Fund’s Grants to Black Women; Mexico’s First and Iceland’s Next Women Presidents

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 was filled with celebration with Claudia Sheinbaum’s victory kicking off the festivities. We are thrilled to witness another woman ascending to the presidency, amplifying the increased need for women heads of state. We also celebrate Iceland electing another woman president which further reinforces our research that women are gaining political ground internationally. (Stay tuned for RepresentWomen’s conversation with Professor Jennifer Piscopo and Catherine Reyes-Housholder, along with Georgiana De La Fuentes, about President-Elect Sheinbaum’s victory and what this means for women’s representation, including what this means for our future here in the United States.)

This week:

  • Discover why the Fearless Fund has been halted by the courts and its implications for DEI programs.
  • Explore the ongoing challenges in achieving global gender balance despite historic gains.
  • Join us in celebrating the victories of Claudia Sheinbaum, Mexico’s first woman president, and Halla Tomasdottir, Iceland’s next president.
  • Dive into our Summer Reading series, where we spotlight the incredible books our team at RepresentWomen is delving into this summer.

Circuit Court Halts Fearless Fund’s Grants to Black Women

In a significant civil rights case, the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has temporarily halted the Fearless Fund from awarding $20,000 grants to businesses owned by Black women, siding with conservative activist Edward Blum. Blum argues that the grant program is likely racially discriminatory. This decision overturned a previous ruling by a federal judge in September, who found the lawsuit unlikely to succeed on First Amendment grounds.

The Fearless Fund, an Atlanta-based venture capital firm aimed at increasing funding for Black women entrepreneurs, may face broad implications for race-based private sector initiatives.

As an intersectional organization, RepresentWomen believes in addressing the unique struggles Black women face. Check out our brief “Breaking Barriers for Black Women Candidates

Jessica Guynn from USA Today reports:

The appeals court disagreed with a federal judge who ruled in September that the lawsuit was unlikely to prevail on First Amendment grounds.

The defeat for the Atlanta firm working to boost scarce venture capital funding for Black women could have sweeping implications for race-based initiatives in the private sector.

“This is devastating for the Fearless Fund and Foundation, and for the women in which we have invested in. I am shattered for every girl of color who has a dream but will grow up in a nation determined not to give her a shot to live it. On their behalf, we will turn the pain into purpose and fight with all our might,” Arian Simone, CEO and founding partner of Fearless Fund and founder of the Fearless Foundation, said in a statement to USA TODAY

Simone said Fearless Fund was “still open for business.”

“The message these judges sent today is that diversity in Corporate America, education, or anywhere else should not exist. If this was truly about exercising free speech with your dollars − an American tradition as old as this nation itself − the results would have been different.

Despite Historic Gains, Global Gender Equality in Politics Remains Elusive

Claudia Sheinbaum after the first results released by the election authorities show that she leads the polls by a wide margin in Zocalo Square on June 3, 2024, in Mexico City. (Manuel Velasquez / Getty Images)

While Mexico’s election of its first woman president, Claudia Sheinbaum, and the record number of women elected to South Korea’s National Assembly are notable milestones, they remain exceptions rather than the norm. Despite significant strides in gender equality, many countries, including South Africa, Portugal, Indonesia, India, and the United States, have seen limited progress in electing women to the highest offices

The United States can certainly learn some lessons abroad regarding women’s representation. Our website contains a plethora of international research that provides data-driven solutions to  representation problems in the U.S. Check out this snapshot to learn more:

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Binaifer Nowrojee write for the Project Syndicate:

Ensuring that women have political power and are equally represented in decision-making is not only morally right; it also yields practical benefits. When women occupy positions of political leadership, they are more likely to emphasize the policies that are central to sustainable development – from ensuring that people have access to safe drinking water to providing affordable childcare. Moreover, countries that pursue these goals and strive for gender equality in government are more likely to have strong protections for human rights. Research even shows that overall economic performance improves as women bring their unique experiences to bear on policymaking.

While life in much of the world has come to feel more turbulent, regressive, and authoritarian in recent years, women have been resisting these trends, by supporting national mobilizations for political change and combating exclusionary policies. Their efforts show that it is not too late to reverse the disturbing trend that we are seeing in this year’s elections.

The Need for More Mothers in Office

Sen. Merika Coleman, D-Pleasant Grove, speaks in the Alabama Senate on May 2, 2024 at the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Alabama. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

A new article by Jemma Stephenson from The Alabama Reflector (which also appears in Ms.) covers Merika Coleman’s story in the Alabama state legislature. Merika Coleman joined the Alabama Legislature in 2002 as a young mother, bringing her kids to community events. By 2022, Alabama was the only state without mothers of children under 18 in its legislature. Coleman, now in the Senate, emphasizes the unique perspective mothers offer to legislative discussions.

Women are underrepresented in Alabama’s legislature, with only 21 percent in the House and 11.4 percent in the Senate. Jean Sinzdak from the Center for American Women and Politics stresses the need for intentional efforts to increase women’s representation. 

Our ally, Vote Mama does excellent work on increasing the visibility and representation of mothers in office 

But as of 2022, Alabama was the only state without mothers of children under 18 in the state legislature, according to the Vote Mama Foundation.

“That really saddens me when you said that, when I listened to that,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God, we got to do something about that.’”

Coleman, whose children are now adults, said that she felt that her role as a mother of young kids gave her a different perspective in the House.

“Then when I became a single mother of these kids, again, that was a whole other dynamic that I could add to the legislative discussion,” she said. 

Women have historically been underrepresented in the Alabama Legislature. Though two women – Reps. Marilyn Lands, D-Huntsville, and Jeana Ross, R-Guntersville – joined the Legislature in special elections this spring, only 22 of the House’s 105 seats (21%) are occupied by women. Coleman is one of only four women (11.4%) in the 35-member Alabama Senate. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, Alabama ranked 46th for female representation.

Jean Sinzdak, associate director of CAWP, said in a phone interview that increasing women in state legislatures requires intentional effort and support.

Dr. Claudia Sheimbaum Is Elected as Mexico’s First Woman President

RepresentWomen data as of April 2024

Mexico, traditionally known for its macho culture, has made significant strides in gender parity, electing its first woman president, Dr. Claudia Sheinbaum. Sheinbaum, who won with 59 percent of the vote against Xóchitl Gálvez‘s 28 percent, represents a shift as women now hold half the seats in Mexico’s legislature, lead the Supreme Court, and the Central Bank. This progress is attributed to women politicians and activists pushing for quotas, culminating in a 2019 amendment ensuring “parity in everything.”

Mary Beth Sheridan from The Washington Post reports:

So many senior positions in government here are held by women that gender wasn’t a big topic in the presidential race. There was, of course, recognition of the historic nature of the campaign. Sheinbaum’s slogans included “It’s time for women”; Gálvez proclaimed she had the “ovaries” to take on organized crime. Yet there was nothing like the sense of anticipation that accompanied Hillary Clinton’s presidential run in 2016.

“For most of the population, the gender theme isn’t all that important in and of itself,” said Lorena Becerra, a prominent pollster. “We had already internalized the idea that the next president would be a woman.”

Iceland Elects Another Woman President

RepresentWomen data as of April 2024.

Danica Kirka covers another presidential victory for women in the Associated Press. Halla Tomasdottir, a businesswoman and investor, was elected Iceland’s next president. She secured 34.3 percent of the vote, surpassing former Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir with 25.2 percent and Halla Hrund Logadottir with 15.5 percent.

Halla Tomasdottir (R) addresses supporters next to husband Bjorn Skulason after the exit polls suggested she won the race for the presidency in Reykjavik, on June 2, 2024. (Halldor Kolbeins / AFP via Getty Images)

Iceland has been rather progressive when it comes to women’s representation. The country first elected a woman president, Vigdis Finbogadottir (the first democratically elected woman leader in history), in 1980, and has had two women prime ministers, Johanna Sigurdardottir and Katrin Jakobsdottir since.

Halla Tomasdottir, a businesswoman and investor, has won Iceland’s presidential election, topping a crowded field of candidates in which the top three finishers were women, the country’s national broadcast service reported.

Tomasdottir was elected to the largely ceremonial post with 34.3% of the vote, defeating former Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir, with 25.2%, and Halla Hrund Logadottir, with 15.5%, RUV said Sunday.

Tomasdottir, 55, campaigned as someone who was above party politics and could help open discussions on fundamental issues such as the effect of social media on the mental health of young people, Iceland’s development as a tourist destination, and the role of artificial intelligence.

Pictured with Vigdas Finbogadottir, former president of Iceland, and Laura Liswood, president of the Council of Women World Leaders, in 2022 in Reykjavik.

Recognizing Democracy Champions

Several of the RepresentWomen team joined me in New York City this week to celebrate as FairVote honored me, my husband Rob RichieRashad Robinson from Color of Change and Eric Liu from Citizen University as democracy champions. Working alongside my fellow honorees fuels my dedication to continue in this work for a stronger democracy. I was humbled to be honored amongst my peers, alongside my family, loved ones, and the incredible team and board of RepresentWomen. Many thanks to the FairVote team for the wonderful evening and this video featuring Representatives Jamie Raskin and Teresa Leger-Fernandez. Read on for highlights from my trip to NYC!

Pictured with Rashad Robinson, Rob Richie, Eric Liu and Meredith Sumpter.
Pictured with Jeanne Massey of FairVote MinnesotaLiz White of UpVote VirginiaEileen Reavey of Rank The VoteMarcela Miranda-Caballero of California RCV and Laura Saul Edwards, deputy to former ambassador Swanee Hunt.
Pictured with RepresentWomen staff: Tamaya Dennard, Katie Usalis, Ashley Thurston, Michele McCracy and Alissa Bombardier Shaw.

Empowering Change: RepresentWomen’s Partnerships Update from Partnerships Director Katie Usalis

On Monday, RepresentWomen took advantage of having the team in New York City and gathered some NYC-based friends and allies for a Friends of RepresentWomen Luncheon. We had a great turnout, dining and discussing with women leaders in business, advocacy, political parties, former parliamentarians, and academics – all about how we can build momentum around the need for systems strategies to build women’s political power. We all walked away feeling invigorated and inspired! Keep your eyes peeled for our forthcoming Building Women’s Political Power Roundtable, where we will continue to build a strong and unified movement for women’s political empowerment in the United States.

Live from the Big Apple: Highlights from My Trip to New York City

Final scene from Suffs on Broadway.

My family and I saw the musical Suffs this week on Broadway that tells the story of my fellow Swarthmore College alum Alice Paul and her pivotal leadership that led to passage of the 19th Amendment. Here are the lyrics from the finale, “Keep Marching“:

I won’t live to see the future that I fight for

Maybe no one gets to reach that perfect day

If the work is never over

Then how do you keep marching anyway?

Do you carry your banner as far as you can?

Rewriting the world with your imperfect pen?

’Til the next stubborn girl picks it up in a picket line over and over again?

And you join in the chorus of centuries chanting to her

The path will be twisted and risky and slow

But keep marching, keep marching

Will you fail or prevail? Well, you may never know

But keep marching, keep marching

‘Cause your ancestors are all the proof you need

That progress is possible, not guaranteed

It will only be made if we keep marching, keep marching on

Keep marching on

Keep marching on

And remember every mother that you came from

Learned as much from our success as our mistakes

Don’t forget you’re merely one of many others

On the journey every generation makes

We did not end injustice and neither will you

But still, we made strides, so we know you can too

Make peace with our incomplete power and use it for good

‘Cause there’s so much to do

The gains will feel small and the losses too large

Keep marching, keep marching

You’ll rarely agree with whoever’s in charge

Keep marching, keep marching

‘Cause your ancestors are all the proof you need

That progress is possible, not guaranteed

It will only be made if we keep marching, keep marching on

Keep marching on

Yes, the world can be changed, ’cause we’ve done it before

So keep marching, keep marching

We’re always behind you, so bang down the door

And keep marching, keep marching

And let history sound the alarm of how

The future demands that we fight for it now

It will only be ours if we keep marching, keep marching on…

Merchandise at Suffs
With Nikki James who plays Ida B. Wells, after the show.
With Shaina Taub, who wrote and directed Suffs and also stars as Alice Paul.

Summer Reads: The Hunger Games 

Continuing with the Summer Reading series, digital media manager Ria Deshmukh is re-reading one of her favorite books: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

I find myself learning more and more about the importance of democracy this time around than when I read it as a kid. The Capitol’s control over the districts, enforced through fear and violence, underscores the importance of democratic principles like representation and equality. The book is a cautionary tale of what could be when power is in the hands of a few people. We must continue to improve our democracy and not take it for granted.

What’s Your Favorite Young Adult Book Series?

Yesterday, Suzanne Collins announced that there would be another prequel book to The Hunger Games series. What is your favorite Young Adult book series? Let us know with this ranked-choice voting poll!

Women at the Front and Center of Mexican Politics: What Can the U.S. Learn?

Claudia Sheinbaum of ”Sigamos Haciendo Historia”—or Together We Will Make History—party waves at supporters after the first results released by the election authorities show that she leads the polls by wide margin on June 3, 2024, in Mexico City, Mexico. (Hector Vivas / Getty Images)

As we continue to celebrate the historic Mexican elections, take some time out this weekend to our latest op-ed written by our international research manager Fatma Tawfik and Georgina De la Fuente, legislative affairs manager at Tecnológico de Monterrey.

On June 2, over 60% of registered Mexican voters went to the polls for a historic election, with over 20,000 public offices up for grabs at the federal and local levels. This election was historic, as a woman will hold the highest office in Mexico for the first time, more than 70 years after women gained the right to vote and stand for election. Over the past few years, women in Mexico have gone from being fringe operatives in the political arena to taking center stage. Still, this transformation took time and deliberate action to achieve. 

While gender quotas have been used in Mexico since the early 2000s, they were not enough to achieve parity. In 2014, Mexico transitioned from relying on its gender quota system to a “gender parity system,” which mandates gender parity in candidate lists for local and national offices. This transition did not occur naturally; it resulted from consistent, permanent debate at all levels by activists, institutions, academics, and women in politics, who worked together across party lines to close the political gender gap. 

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.