Weekend Reading on Women's Representation January 26, 2018

By Cynthia Terrell on January 26, 2018
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Awards season is upon us and though aspects of the ceremonies seem a tad superficial I have been struck by the power of celebrities to advance the conversation about gender equality - quickly.

While the universe of Oscar voters is still not completely reflective of the American public they used Ranked Choice Voting to select the nominees which feature women in some categories for the very first time. We developed this Ranked Voting App to demonstrate the ease of ranked choice voting - hope you will give it a try!

There was a fascinating story in the Washington Post this week about new polling data on women's attitudes about the 2018 midterm elections:

By 51 percent to 39 percent, more registered voters say they would support the Democratic candidate in their congressional district over the Republican. Democrats’ 12 percentage-point advantage on this ‘‘generic ballot’’ question is the largest in Post-ABC polling since 2006, although it is slightly larger than other polls this month.

 Judging from past elections, Democrats are expected to need a six- to eight-point advantage in national support this fall to gain the 24 seats needed win control of the House. Election handicappers say a Democratic takeover is possible, but not yet likely. Democrats would fall five seats short even if they won all contests the Cook Political Report classifies as solidly Democratic, leaning Democratic or toss-ups.

 The Post-ABC poll finds Democrats holding a 57 percent to 31 percent advantage among female voters, double the size of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s margin in the 2016 election. Nonwhite women favor Democrats by a 53-point margin, somewhat smaller than Clinton’s 63-point advantage over Trump in 2016. But white women have moved sharply in Democrats’ direction, favoring them over Republicans by 12 points after supporting Trump by nine points in 2016 and Republican candidates by 14 points in the 2014 midterm election, according to network exit polls.

This weekend’s women’s marches - one year after larger demonstrations following Trump’s inauguration - showcased the sustained enthusiasm Democrats will depend on in midterm elections where fewer than half of citizens vote.

Republicans had a clear turnout advantage in midterm elections when Obama was president, but the Post-ABC poll suggests that dynamics have shifted with Trump in office.

Democrats hold a 15-point advantage over Republicans on the generic ballot among voters who say they are ‘‘absolutely certain’’ that they will vote, slightly larger than their 12-point edge among registered voters. And although a November poll showed a much tighter race among voters who reported turning out in the 2014 midterm election, Democrats now hold a nine-point edge with this group, suggesting that they may have less of a handicap with voters in low-turnout contests. 

The Center for American Women and Politics issued a very helpful summary of the number of women who have filed to run in 2018 compared to 1992 - here are some toplines from the CAWP Twitter feed:

  • Incumbents make up 19% of potential women House candidates in 2018, compared to about 13% among women who ran for House seats in the 1992 primary elections.

  • At this point in 2018, about 23% of potential women candidates for the House are running for open seats. In 1992, 36% of women primary candidates for the House ran in open seat districts. A larger proportion of women candidates are challengers in 2018 (59%) than in 1992 (51%).

  • In 1992, there were 8 open Senate seats & 65 open House seats, unusually large numbers signifying a rare opportunity for gains by newcomers. In 2018, there are 3 open Senate seats & 45 open House seats. Women are running in 43 of those open seats (3 Senate, 40 House).

  • In 1992, 29 women filed for Senate seats & 11 won; 222 filed for House seats & 106 won their primaries. In 2018, there are 3 filed candidates & 47 likely candidates for the Senate; 67 women are filed candidates & 329 are likely candidates for the House this year.

Fortune Magazine ran this story on the news that the US now ranks 99th in women's representation worldwide:

When Democrat Tina Smith took the Senate seat vacated by embattled Senator Al Franken, her swearing in was a watershed moment, bringing the number of women in the Senate to a record 22. But don’t pop the champagne just yet. Despite recent years’ progress, women still represent far fewer than half of U.S. legislators. Just 19.4% of members of the House of Representatives are female (it’s only slightly higher in the Senate), and the executive branch is still without its first women leader. Accounting for the totals on the Hill, the U.S. places 99th globally in terms of percentage of female legislators or parliamentarians—not a great showing, but particularly weak compared to other Western countries. While the U.S. narrowly beat out Kyrgyzstan, it still wound up two spots below Saudi Arabia.

There was a terrific piece in the Washington Post about the newly-elected governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, who named a majority female cabinet - a first in Virginia history or in most states I suspect - this is a great example of an intentional action by a gatekeeper to advance women's leadership:

Virginia Gov.-elect Ralph Northam (D) announced the last of 15 Cabinet picks earlier this week, assembling what his office says would be the first majority-female Cabinet in state history.

On Tuesday, Northam tapped Esther Lee, a Fairfax economic development official and formerly an official in President Barack Obama’s administration, to serve as secretary of commerce.

Pending approval by the legislature, Lee would be the eighth woman to serve in one of 15 Cabinet-level positions.

“Our commonwealth’s diversity is our strength, which is why I made a commitment to building a Cabinet that reflects it,” Northam said in a statement.

“I’m honored to have this formidable group of experienced, accomplished female leaders joining me in working to build a Virginia that works for everyone, no matter who you are, no matter where you live.”

In November, Northam defeated Republican Ed Gillespie, who also vowed that his Cabinet would reflect Virginia’s diversity. The Democrat, who is a pediatric neurologist, carried female voters by 22 points.

Departing Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has six women serving in his Cabinet. In 1986, then Democratic Gov. Gerald Baliles entered office with a cabinet of three men and three women.

Virginia also elected a record number of women to the state legislature in November: Twenty-eight will be seated Wednesday, up from 17 currently serving. Still, only one woman has ever been elected to statewide office in Virginia: former attorney general Mary Sue Terry (D).

Ensuring female representation at high levels of government has long been a goal for advocates.

In a 2008 report, the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society at the University of Albany found that women made up 42 percent of the top advisers in governors’ offices in 2007.

There was a good piece in Quartz by Kim Azzarelli and Deanna Bass entitled "The most common excuses for not having enough women leaders are myths" that will be familiar to many but it's always good to amplify the message:

From the Golden Globes to this week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, the topic on every group of leaders’ agenda is “women.” Thanks to movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp, and given the prospect of a record number of women running for office, women’s voices are being heard like never before. 

But if we want what’s been dubbed “The Year of the Woman” to be more than a slogan, we also need significant numbers of women heading our biggest companies and institutions, the organizations that can drive real change. And that won’t happen unless we recognize that the world still operates under a set of assumptions—we prefer to call them myths—that hold women back from reaching anything near parity in the upper ranks.

These myths go something like this: If only women would be more assertive. If only they would raise their hands and take more risks. If we could just fix the women, then the leadership roles that have so long eluded women would be theirs.

Do more. Be more. Change. While throughout history women were constrained by stereotypes that portrayed them as physically and emotionally frail, today’s women bump up against the assumption that women’s behavior is the reason they’re stuck at about 17% to 20% of leadership positions worldwide.

This “fix-the-women” mentality places the onus for change on women, rather than on the real culprit: systemic flaws inherited from a time when the workplace was designed from a single perspective (male). As the latest sex-harassment scandals remind us, in the past, when women obeyed the norms of this workplace, they got nowhere. If they were “good sports” and brushed off misconduct as “boys will be boys,” they were harassed all the more. And if they spoke up—well, no one listened. Or worse, they were fired. Creating a workplace where women can lead requires that we stop trying to fix women, and debunk all the myths that feed into this mentality.

The UN reports that for the first time in history there is full gender parity in the top leadership:
There are forty-four most senior positions in the United Nations system, excluding the Secretary General himself. As of this week, twenty three are held by women.
On Tuesday, Nahla Valji, the UN senior advisor for gender equality, announced on Twitter that half of the 44 members of     the Secretary General’s Senior Management Group are women. Full gender parity among this group had been achieved.
The Senior Management Group is effectively the “cabinet” of the Secretary General, who serves as its chair. It comprises the executive directors of UN agencies like UNICEF and the World Food Program; the heads of major offices like UN Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Affairs; and the leaders of the UN’s regional offices and other major UN entities. It meets regularly to discuss top-level policy issues across the UN system.
In 2015 the Senior Management Group included 26 men and 16 women.  Now, for the first time in the 77 year history of the UN, it is comprised of an equal number of women and men.
Finally, Trinidad and Tobago will likely have their first female president according to this story - when Justice Paula Mae Weeks assumes the position in March I believe she will be the only female head of state in the Americas - please, please, please correct me if I am wrong.
In the coming weeks Representation2020 will evolve into RepresentWomen - same focus on advancing women's representation & leadership through systems reforms but a name that's more fitting! 
Have a great weekend!
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