Weekend Reading on Women's Representation October 6, 2017

By Cynthia Terrell on October 06, 2017

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Dear friends,

Read this great piece from Politico complete with an interview with the fabulous Gwen Young, director of the Wilson Center's Global Women's Leadership Initiative, about the launch of their Global Women's Leadership Initiative Index to measure women's political power around the world.

WR: What exactly is the Leadership Index trying to find out about women in government?

GY: What we’re trying to measure is how much formal and how much enacted power women hold. If you’re the president of the country, you have a certain amount of power. If you’re in parliament, you have a legislative power. If you’re a minister, you may or may not have budget power. Those are your formal powers. But what’s really important in the gender space is the informal or enacted powers: How do people perceive you? Do you use your power? Are you an effective leader in your field?

WR: Which countries are getting it right?

GY: It’s easy to point to the Nordic countries. Part of it is they have the laws and legislation in place. Part of it is they had quotas. Part of it is they’re a welfare state and they work a lot on trusting government. Most of the countries I look at have either a commitment that’s a quota or a commitment like Canada that comes down from the leader. And so [Canadian Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau’s getting it right, or [French President Emmanuel] Macron is getting it right, because they’re saying, “I as the leader am committed to appointing this many women.”

WR: What surprised you most about the research?

GY: I think the biggest surprise was how much data did not exist -- that there is so much that is simply not disaggregated by sex. For example: In the United States, we do not disaggregate the judiciary sector by sex. So you can call up court systems and national people, but they don’t naturally do that.

WR: What change do you hope to effect with this index?

GY: What we’re hoping the index will do will tell you which levers to move that will promote gender equality. You can separate out the indicators, hopefully change a policy and see which one’s going to actually end up with more women leaders. And so I think using it to assess and do some criteria for donors, investors and philanthropists will be very important.

WR: Your project’s goal is to get to global gender parity in governments by 2050. How likely is that?

GY: I do think we’ll get to the 2050 goal. It’s far enough. It’s ambitious enough that it’s not going to be easy. And it’s going to require a huge cultural change as much a systemic shift. But I have to be optimistic. And I have to believe that we’re going to get there. Because otherwise I’m not sure we can develop the solutions or the creativity to get there.

I thought I would share Higher Heights email from today marking the 100th birthday of civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer:
Today would have been civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer's 100th birthday.

Fannie Lou’s journey from a share cropper whose activism was sparked sitting in a local voter registration organizing meeting to a candidate for Congress provides a road map on how everyday #BlackWomenLead. 

As we celebrate her life, we are reminded that we are living in an unsettling time when so much of what Hamer fought for—voting rights, reproductive rights, an end to racial violence and poverty, access to early education—is still unrealized.

We must put our voting power, dollars and time behind the growing number of progressive Black women who are running for office.

If you are “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” help us move this country to higher heights.  Join our celebration and call to action today by adding your name!

And from the National Women's History Project:

On this day in 1976 Barbara Walters became the first woman co-anchor of an evening news program. Walters would later describe her initial experience as one of the loneliest of her life. Her co-anchor, Harry Reasonor, would not accept her and she was often left out of conversations behind the scenes. Walters ultimately triumphed however, going on to work as a co-anchor and producer for 20/20, a special interviewer for ABC News, and the creator of the talk show The View.
There was a lot of coverage of the gerrymandering case before the Supreme Court this week - FairVote's communications director Dave Daley wrote this piece on the proceedings for The New Yorker - you might also be interested in FairVote's brief in the case. The remedies that some organizations are trumpeting will not do anything to elect more women or really 'end gerrymandering' for that matter because they rely on antiquated winner take all voting rules in single seat districts. Models that will elect more women faster elect representatives and legislators in multi-seat districts with ranked choice voting.
The Oberlin Review had a great write up of a visit to campus by Ruth Hardy - an Oberlin alum and director of Emerge Vermont:

Despite the benefits of having more women in office, women can still be less inclined to run for office than men. Hardy outlined several prominent barriers that tend to discourage women from running. Structural barriers such as the winner-take-all electoral system, the gender pay gap, gerrymandering, campaign finance rules, and partisan polarization are all factors that bar women from breaking into politics. These issues create incumbency advantages, which make changing the gender discrepancies in government much more difficult. There are also situational barriers, including lingering social expectations for domestic responsibility, inflexible careers, and a lack of active recruitment of women by party leadership.

Ms Magazine - like many other news outlets - covered the epic Battle of the Sexes this week - here is their blog based on an interview with Billie Jean King.
P.S. Please join us on November 13th for a celebration of FairVote's first 25 years! We will be honoring a number of democracy reform icons - find out more here.
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