Posted on Blog on September 15, 2017
The New York Times had several interesting pieces this week including this opinion piece entitled "Women's Voice Remains Faint in Politics" that decries the lack of women's representation in New York and other cities. And this piece on Angela Merkel who has lead Germany for the past 12 years examines the role that she has played and her legacy: Ms. Merkel has not made gender equality a signature issue. But during her time in office things have quietly evolved. Schools, which traditionally closed at lunchtime, relying on stay-at-home mothers, have gradually lengthened their hours. Child care, once anathema for children under 3, has been vastly extended. A paid parental leave has been introduced that nudges fathers to take at least two months. More recently, the government passed a law obliging large companies to replace departing members of their nonexecutive boards with women until they made up at least 30 percent. “She uses the same style of politics for gender that she uses elsewhere: She does not call for a revolution, she starts an evolution,” said Annette Widmann-Mauz, head of the Christian Democrats’ Women’s Union. But women in Germany are still paid 21 percent less than men — the European average is 16 percent — not least because they do not climb the career ladder. In some areas the number of women in leadership positions has actually been sliding back.
Posted on Blog on September 08, 2017
There was a fascinating story on NPR about a new study on attitudes about women lawmakers which found that women think that women legislators have more integrity and are more competent: On the whole, women tend to view a female representative as being more competent, having more integrity and representing the district well. They also tend to approve of female legislators more. Meanwhile, men, on the whole, don't view women and men very differently on these measures. But these attitudes don't hold steady across parties — Republican women in particular get a boost from fellow women. "Women rate female Republican legislators more positively than they do male Republican legislators," the researchers write, "but neither women nor men rate Democratic legislators differently based on their gender." Another story in the Washington Post examined the impact that Chile's female president had on a major policy victory for women noting that women leaders do not always push 'women's policies' but that women leaders do develop networks of constituencies that are vital to legislative success: ...being a woman leader is not enough. Bachelet is one of the few female leaders in the world who has aggressively deployed her constitutional powers to pursue gender equality. About a quarter of countries today — including economic powerhouses like Germany, Brazil and the United Kingdom — have had at least one female president or prime minister, and yet few of these leaders pursued a “women-specific” agenda...New research suggests that networks and constituencies better explain why female presidents are more likely than male presidents to try to advance pro-women policies. Analyzing these factors shows why a president’s sex sometimes, but not always, matters.
Posted on Blog on August 30, 2017
This past Saturday was Women’s Equality Day, which marked the anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment. In the United States, women make up just 25% of state legislators, and even less at the federal level. And of course, we have never elected a woman as President. After 97 years of women’s suffrage, we should do better. But how? We looked to the rest of the world, and we found a solution: monarchy. You may be thinking of monarchy as an old-fashioned, outdated institution, and in many ways it is. But there is one way in which it strides ahead of democracy, and that is the number of women who have, as queens and empresses, led their countries. In these monarchies, throughout history and all over the world, there are countless examples of women’s political capabilities.
Posted on Blog on August 18, 2017
In the last few decades "identity politics" has been more acceptable to democratic voters than to republican voters but a heated debate is now brewing among democratic party loyalists around whether to jettison specific identity groups and instead embrace a big tent of issues and policy platforms. I have been thinking a lot about this issue and feeling increasingly dismayed by those who would seem to suggest that it's women and people of color who have identities while white, rural, men are identityless. All of us have identities and should have the opportunity to have our interests represented in government. Our current winner take all voting system pits constituencies against one another - fueling the perception that some voters are liabilities - despite their unparalleled party loyalty - while other voters are the ticket to success. I found some answers to my questions about identity politics at a lovely dinner last week in Cambridge, MA with Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier. Many of you will remember that then-president Bill Clinton nominated her to be Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the spring of 1993 and then withdrew the nomination when others attacked Guinier for her writing about representative democracy and power. My husband Rob and I have known and admired Lani for a long time precisely because of her thinking and writing about authentic representation. Dubbed the 'quota queen' by the press who vilified her she cheerfully passed on that mantle to me last week! Lani reaffirmed my belief that identity does and should matter - she believes that women must rise up and support (qualified) women because yes, they are women.
Posted on Blog on July 21, 2017
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.
Posted on Blog on July 21, 2017
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.
Posted on Blog on July 20, 2017
This week marks the 169th anniversary of a revolutionary event in the women's rights movement: the Seneca Falls Convention and the signing of the Declaration of Sentiments. It is an opportunity to reflect on how far our nation has come - or rather, how far we haven't.
Posted on Blog on July 14, 2017
Happy Bastille Day! Next week is the 169th anniversary of the gathering at Seneca Falls, NY of abolitionists and suffragists to talk about achieving women's equality. I find the story of that meeting, the issues that were addressed, and the unity they found, incredibly powerful. Here is the text from the Declaration of Sentiments which ends with this clarion call: In entering upon the great work before us, we anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, and ridicule; but we shall use every instrumentality within our power to effect our object. We shall employ agents, circulate tracts, petition the State and national Legislatures, and endeavor to enlist the pulpit and the press in our behalf. We hope this Convention will be followed by a series of Conventions, embracing every part of the country.
Posted on Blog on July 07, 2017
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!
Posted on Blog 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. This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel (in red) hosts the members of the G20 summit in Hamburg to discuss international trade, market regulation, and the gravest of global conflicts. Since its crucial role in restoring stability after the 2008 financial crisis, the G20 has served as the linchpin of global economic cooperation. The decisions made during this summit affect nearly every person in the world - yet, only four women are privy to the discussion. Chancellor Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May are the only two official participants, while Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde attend as invited guests. None of these women are of color.