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Updates from Representation20/20

Weekend Reading on Women's Representation July 21, 2017

By Cynthia Terrell on July 21, 2017

​Speakers at the Galvanize launch in Chicago this week

Dear friends,

This week marked the 169th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention where a group of women - who had been excluded from a abolitionist convention because of their gender - met to discuss women's equality. While it took another 70 years to win suffrage the bonds that formed in July of 1848 grounded the conversation that is still evolving today.

Many of us were reminded of the power of gatherings like Seneca Falls at the incredibly successful event that IGNITE and Running Start hosted in Washington, DC this week. Nearly every hand went up when the room full of diverse young women was asked if they plan to run for office. It was a thrill to be on a panel with other women's representation enthusiasts that included Erin Vilardi from VoteRunLead, Monica Ramirez from Latinas Represent, Kimberly Peeler-Allen from Higher Heights, Mindy Finn from Empowered Women, Erin Loos Cutraro from She Should Run, and  Larissa Martinez from RightNOW. Here is a link to our segment of the two day program that was packed with impressive and inspiring speakers.

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Starting from the Bottom is Why We're Here: Representation in Political Theory

By Katie Shewfelt on July 21, 2017


Dear friends,

Let me first introduce myself. My name is Emma Stewart, I am a rising junior at Smith College and I am interning this summer with the Wilson Center’s Women in Public Service Project. We are currently working on the Global Women's Public Leadership Index which measures women’s public leadership across the world. We are fortunate to have Representation 2020 as a partner in this endeavor.

Over the past year we’ve been looking at powerful women, and the lack thereof, in executive, legislative, judicial, civil service, and security positions. We want to provide data to help contextualize questions of barriers preventing women from climbing up the public service ladder, and eventually provide a tool for overcoming these barriers - from legislation to grassroots organizing.

But these questions got me thinking, not necessarily about the pathways and obstacles that individual women face in their journeys to public leadership, but about the pathway that our society is currently on, and how unchanged that pathway has remained since Athens in the fifth century B.C. It is called “the canon” – specifically, the political theory canon. This canon, and the men that have created it, defined not only western political thinking, but western political structures. These works are considered timeless– which means that not only are their grandiose ideas of liberty and democracy carried into the 21st century, but their bigotry and biases come along too.

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The Declaration of Sentiments: Then and Now

By Neeknaz Abari on July 20, 2017


Today is a day to celebrate - exactly 169 years ago, the Seneca Falls Convention changed the course of women’s history. Seneca Falls was where great feminists of the time, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Martha C. Wright, and Mary Ann McClintock, came together to sign the Declaration of Sentiments - the first affirmative declaration of women’s rights in United States history. The Declaration of Sentiments, which Elizabeth Cady Stanton modeled after the Declaration of Independence, was the framework for the women’s suffrage movement, as it argued for equal rights for women and men. Frederick Douglass, who was among the 32 men and 68 women who signed the document, described it as the “grand movement for attaining the civil, social, political, and religious rights of women.”

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Public Versus Private Realms: Women’s Empowerment in Rwanda

By Neeknaz Abari on July 17, 2017



In the context of electoral gender parity, Rwanda is a fascinating case study. Women currently hold 55.7 percent of parliamentary seats in Rwanda, the highest percentage of women in national parliaments globally, and women also constitute half of the country’s 14-member supreme court.


The catalyst for the country’s progress was the Rwandan Genocide of 1994.  After the genocide, President Paul Kagame had to face the challenge of rebuilding a broken country with little remaining infrastructure and shattered political structures. Only 20 of Rwanda’s 785 judges survived the genocide, and none of the members of the post-genocide Transitional National Assembly had served in the previous government.


In addition to the destruction of these institutions, a large portion of the men in Rwanda had been slaughtered, arrested, or forced to leave the country by the end of the genocide. The result was a country where women made up 70 percent of the population. It was clear that in order for the country to become functional again, women would have to take an active role in rebuilding it. In a patriarchal society where women had always been expected to stay at home and serve their husbands, they now took up a variety of active roles in public life. Specifically, women became very involved in the Rwandan government.

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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation July 14, 2017

By Cynthia Terrell on July 14, 2017

Inline image 1

Happy Bastille Day!

There was a fascinating story from Malta Today about the proposal there to use separate ballots to triple the number of female MPs - a great example of party leaders engaging with the challenge of how to increase women's representation meaningfully. Malta and Ireland share the distinction of being the two countries in the world that use the single transferable vote (STV) to elect their national legislature - gender quotas are a natural complement to this ranked voting system - STV is used in Cambridge, MA as well.

Aaron Farrugia suggested that, as a stopgap measure, women candidates should be able to contest on two separate ballot sheets – the current district-based sheet and a new national sheet specifically for women candidates. From this latter list, ten women candidates will be elected to Parliament, based both on their individual votes obtained and as a proportional representation of the parties’ shares of votes in the election.

They will be elected over and above the 65 constitutionally elected MPs, meaning that Malta’s Parliament will rise to 75 MPs so long as this measure is in place.

Farrugia insisted that this proposal should only be introduced as a stopgap measure until the root causes of the shortage of female election candidates are addressed – such as by introducing the concept of full-time MPs, and by encouraging political parties to urge their women mayors, councilors and activists to run for election with as much zest as they do to their “star candidates”. 


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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation July 7, 2017

By Cynthia Terrell on July 07, 2017

It's easy to count the number of female heads of state at the G20 Summit - just 4 of 36...
Dear allies and friends,

If you only have to skim this email I hope you will read the prose below from an interview with Sir Martin Donnelly, outgoing secretary at the Department for International Trade in the UK, by Jess Bowie in Civil Service World:
I used to encourage my daughters when they were small by telling them that on the whole girls were smarter and lived longer than boys – both true. When their mother died and I had a stint as a lone parent I began to realise that being carer of last resort was different to sharing the job, and that for a lot of women they were expected to be the family safety net, with their careers seen as secondary.

Then when I became gender diversity champion in the FCO I saw the effects of a traditional culture which – nearly 15 years ago now – often expected women to behave like men, and single men at that. I heard a lot of anger and frustration expressed behind closed doors about sexist attitudes and realised that change had to start with specific improvements, like guaranteed flexible working after maternity leave, improved mentoring and keeping in effective touch during career breaks.

Over time, I saw men become less embarrassed at leaving an early evening meeting in order to pick up children before the nursery closed; and we changed our ways of working to be more family-friendly. Morale and efficiency both improved. In BIS, our leadership team committed to going further, and we did – again by changing the culture to build trust and openness around people’s personal circumstances and then by doing things that helped them feel a valued part of our organisation, whatever their working patterns.

I have seen firsthand that real gender equality delivers high performing organisations where people want to work. And, more importantly, it is the way to treat everyone fairly and with respect. I don’t know if that makes me a feminist, but I don’t object to the term!

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Where in the World are the Women Leaders?

By Katie Shewfelt on July 07, 2017

Taken the morning of July 7, this photo captures a pivotal gathering of the G20 leaders, the key drivers of the international economy. This is, of course, a noteworthy image, but not just because of the striking concentration of global power and authority in a single frame. There is something amiss in this group - and it is revealed in the sea of suits, ties, and balding heads that compose this photograph.

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Why You Don't Know Who Pauli Murray Is, and Why You Should

By Katie Shewfelt on July 03, 2017

pauli-murray-214111-1-402.jpgI have to preface this article with a confession: up until this month, I didn’t know who she was either. The first time I ever heard Pauli Murray’s name spoken, it came from the mouth of Professor Brittney Cooper amidst an impassioned speech on racial politics. As an enthusiastic feminist and a connoisseur of empowered women’s narratives, I was disappointed that I had no idea who Murray was until that moment. But I understood why I didn’t know – and why you probably don’t.


So, have you heard of Pauli Murray?


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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation June 30, 2017

By Cynthia Terrell on June 30, 2017

I am thrilled to report that the Fair Representation Act (H.R. #3057) was introduced by Rep Don Beyer (D VA) on Monday. When passed (!), THe FairRepAct will eliminate gerrymandering, reduce polarization, elect more women & partisans everywhere, and encourage civility by establishing ranked choice voting in multi-winner districts. In the shorter term we hope its introduction will spur a deeper conversation about the root causes of our electoral crisis and the innovative reforms necessary for a voter-driven democracy. Here are some of the press hits from this week's launch:

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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation June 23, 2017

By Cynthia Terrell on June 23, 2017


Happy 45th anniversary of Title IX!

I find Title IX inspiring because it established equitable educational and athletic opportunity for generations of girls and women in the United States but also because it provides a terrific model for the type of reform package we need to embrace to win gender parity for women in elected office - in our lifetimes! So let's all raise a glass tonight to toast this landmark legislation.

Tuti Scott, a woman I am thrilled to call a friend and colleague, wrote an excellent piece on HuffingtonPost on Title IX that is well worth reading. While another friend and colleague, Representation2020 intern Anna Sheibmeir wrote a great piece on how Title IX can inform this generation's call for political equality.

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