Weekend Reading on Women's Representation October 27, 2017

By Cynthia Terrell on October 27, 2017

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The Barbara Lee Family Foundation released their report Opportunity Knocks that tracks the recent increase in the number of women running for office and makes the compelling case that there has never been a better time for women to run for office - tune in to their webinar on November 9th at 1pm to learn more. Barbara Lee had a great column in the Detroit News this week:

Many of the characteristics voters associate with women — including honesty, integrity and authenticity — are highly prized by today’s electorate. Unsurprisingly, the strength and impact of these perceptions depends largely on candidates’ and voters’ respective party affiliations. Still, in many categories, women on both sides of the aisle benefit from their gender, with Democratic women candidates accentuating traditional Democratic advantages and Republican women overcoming some of the weaknesses voters typically associate with women and Republican candidates...

In 2018, 468 seats in Congress, 36 governorships and more than 5,000 state and local office positions will be up for grabs, and women have an unprecedented opportunity to fill more of them than ever before. The field is wide open, and first-time candidates, even those with little or no experience in elected office, have a real shot at winning if they can convince voters they have what it takes to bring about change.

Knowledge is power, and while every candidate brings a different set of experiences to the table, understanding voter perceptions of gender can help women lean into their advantages while controlling areas in which they may be more vulnerable. Our research affirms that women can win when they showcase their accomplishments, demonstrate their passion for key campaign issues, and highlight the difference women make when they serve as elected officials. By deploying these insights, women candidates of all backgrounds can make the most of this opportune moment, make the leap into leadership, and make better policy that reflects the rich diversity of our nation.

 

 

The Reflective Democracy Campaign released new data this week that shows that women and people of color are severely under-represented at all levels of government - the new data set includes information about the demographics of representation in the 200 largest cities in the US.
Overall, these cities are 60% people of color, but the demographics of power are as skewed as they are nationally. 80% of mayors are men, and 64% are white men. In many major cities -- including Miami, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Charleston, and Milwaukee -- women are virtually unrepresented in city government. And even in cities where people of color represent super majorities, white people still hold the majority of elected offices.

So even in our 200 largest cities—the most diverse and purportedly most progressive places in the country—political power remains in the hands of the old boys’ club. And in this increasingly racist, misogynist and reckless political environment, the fact that the old boys’ club is still in charge is not just an issue of fairness.  It's a crisis for our democracy.
 

Roll Call had an informative piece on the number of female donors:

The number of female donors to federal candidates and committees has skyrocketed by roughly 284 percent so far in the 2017-18 election cycle compared with this time in the 2015-16 cycle, according to research from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The number of women donating to a federal campaign has increased by a staggering 670 percent when compared with the early months of the 2011-12 cycle.
 
Spending on women candidates has quadrupled in the last four election cycles and we have one fewer woman in the House of Representatives making it clear that spending money on women candidates alone is not a proven solution to the under-representation of women.
In fact, FairVote's analysis predicts winners of House races in the vast majority of seats regardless of money spent or raised by female candidate challengers. This piece from Salon.com provides a little more detail:
FairVote, a nonpartisan think tank that analyzes elections and proposes electoral reforms, has issued its new Monopoly Politics 2018 report on U.S. House elections. Using its proven model, the organization projects that Republicans are likely to maintain a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives absent an historic partisan wave in 2018.

FairVote’s model has missed only one high-confidence projection in more than a 1,000 congressional races in the 2012, 2014 and 2016 cycles. This year we have made high-confidence projections in 374 of 435 U.S. House races, including 208 sure wins for Republicans and 166 for Democrats. That means the GOP needs only to win 10 of the 61 potentially competitive seats to keep control of the chamber. Democrats would need to win 52 of them to deny them that control.

The University of Syracuse paper The Daily Orange ran an interesting piece entitled "Here's Why We Should Consider Partisan Gerrymandering a Women's Issue":
Paying attention to the issues of gerrymandering also provides us with opportunities to scrutinize, and maybe even combat, gender inequality in politics. At the very least, questions surrounding partisan gerrymandering can inspire more meaningful investigations into the causes and effects of gendered partisanship.

“If you have a party that is going to be in the majority for long periods of time, and there are eight percent women, do I think that matters for the issues that get put on the agenda? Absolutely,” Thomsen said. “Do I think that if you would draw districts a different way, it would fix it? No.”

This distinction between gendered partisanship and the effects of gerrymandering on gender representation is important. Yet we cannot ignore how gerrymandering affects women in U.S. politics. The current Supreme Court case can prompt critical debate on how we can avoid voter suppression.

The New York Times had an interesting yet sobering piece on the status of women's representation in Japan which ranks 165th on the Inter-Parliamentary Union's rank of nations.

Japan has one of the worst records in the world for female political representation. With women holding just over 9 percent of seats in the lower house of parliament, the nation ranks 165th out of 193 countries in the proportion of women in its national legislature, according to international data. Among the world’s richest countries, it is dead last.

It seemed as if this election could change some of that. It won’t.

Yuriko Koike, the popular governor of Tokyo, founded a new party to great fanfare this year and toyed with running for parliament herself. Many thought she presented the tantalizing possibility of becoming the first female prime minister in Japan.

But two weeks ago, Ms. Koike decided not to run. And even in her own party, only one-fifth of the candidates are women..Fewer than one in five of the 1,180 candidates running in this Sunday’s election for the lower house of parliament are women — and that is a record high for Japan. Among candidates for the governing Liberal Democratic Party of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has repeatedly said he wants to create a society where women can “shine,” fewer than one in 12 are women.

I found an interesting piece on indigenous women's representation in Canada that is well worth the read:
Clearly, Indigenous women are politically active. Why, then, are they not more visible in formal political processes? Simply put, Indigenous women have been disempowered in specifically gendered ways by the colonial process, in particular by the sexist discrimination of the Indian Act. As a result, Indigenous women’s leadership and organizing capacities have not held sway in formal Canadian governance structures, including in the colonially imposed band council system. (Granted, not all Indigenous peoples share an equal desire to participate in Canadian political processes. Their myriad reasons for this position are beyond the scope of this essay.)
I will offer one more very good read - The Washington Post compiled a list of 38 ideas to fix democracy - I like them all but I am especially glad to see Ann Marie Slaughter's strong case for ranked choice voting:

Fixing American democracy requires electoral rules that reward consensus-building and broad-based appeals, instead of narrow targeting, divisive mobilization and negative partisanship. The plurality two-party winner-take-all system pushes zero-sum negative campaigning because tearing down your opponent and mobilizing an intense core of supporters is the surest path to electoral victory. Moreover, that winner can win with only a minority of the votes cast, and an even smaller share of the electorate as a whole.

The solution is ranked-choice voting, in which voters rank their first, second, third or more choices for the office in question. If no candidate wins a majority of first choices, then the last-place finisher is eliminated and his or her supporters’ votes are transferred to their second-choice candidate in an instant runoff. That process continues until one candidate has won the support of a majority of voters.

According to this story women lead all three branches of government in New Zealand with Jacinda Ardern's election as prime minister last week:

The last time the top three political positions in the country were all held by women was in 2006, when former Prime Minister Helen Clark held the top job.

However, Equal Employment Opportunities commissioner Jackie Blue says this all female leadership line-up only lasted 17 months and warns there is still a lot of work to be done, particularly in closing the gender pay gap.

"I think it's fantastic that we have women in these positions but we do not want to become complacent," Ms Blue said.

Agreed, we must never be complacent!

Have a terrific weekend,

Cynthia

P.S. I'll end on another positive note with this article about GoDaddy which has reached gender equality!

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