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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation June 2th, 2023

Dear Readers,

Happy Pride Month! This week's Weekend Reading covers the good news and bad news surrounding women and underrepresented communities.

Two Women Vie to be Alberta's Next Premier

Danielle Smith and Rachel Notley may both be women, but they have different ideas of what being Alberta's next premier means. Smith is a libertarian and sees the job as "protecting a woman's right to make her own health choices and then getting the heck out of the way." Notley, previously a premier and a progressive, would have the state actively promote gender equality. 

While applauding women in leadership in 2023 carries a whiff of retrograde politics, the reality is that female leaders, to say nothing of female leaders of colour, remain a rarity in this country. Canada has seen just one female prime minister. Even then, Kim Campbell got the job 30 years ago when her predecessor retired and governed for just five months before losing a general election and her own Vancouver seat, to boot.

When it comes to gender equity in Canada, the provincial record is slightly better than the federal — 14 women have served as premier of a province or a territory. Nowhere has a woman been more likely to get the top office than in Alberta. Three of this province’s past six premiers have been women, with Smith and Notley already on that list.

The Importance of Local Politics

This week, the New York Times Magazine article "Can the 'California Effect' Survive in a Hyperpartisan America?" caught our eye, as it reinforces the importance of local politics. With Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-12) having declared she will run for Sen. Dianne Feinstein's seat next cycle, many have suggested that Buffy Wicks, a 45-year-old State Assembly member who resides in the 12th district, run for her seat. Assemblywoman Wicks won her last election with over 85% of the vote. But Wicks doesn't want a higher-level office. 

Soon enough, however, Wicks put out a statement that, humbled as she was by the suggestion, she wouldn’t be seeking the seat. In March, I met Wicks at her office in Sacramento, where she was seated between a window overlooking the city and pictures from her years in the Obama administration. She told me that aside from the ego boost of having “House of Representatives” in her obituary, there was little for Congress to offer her. Her current job is bigger and more important, she argued, than much of what happens in Washington. “I pass big bills here,” Wicks told me. “Why would I walk away from my ability to do that and go be one of 435 people in a very divided House that does not have a great track record of actually accomplishing anything?”

Consider, she said, an internet-privacy bill she drafted last year, called the Age-Appropriate Design Code. It requires websites to ratchet up their default privacy settings to protect children from online tracking and data collection. The bill was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom over the opposition of the tech industry, which argued that it was too complicated to implement and tantamount to a state law setting national policy. That, in fact, was the point: Wicks passed the law with help from a member of Britain’s House of Lords, who had created similar regulations in her country, in the hope that if Britain and California passed the same rules, a global standard was likely to follow.

Stereotypes and Preconceptions Can Be Fatal, Especially for Black Women

The Associated Press launched a new series this month that examines health disparities experienced by Black Americans across a lifetime. The first chapter is entitled: "Why do so many Black women die in pregnancy? One reason: Doctors don't take them seriously"

What should have been a joyous first pregnancy [for public heath instructor Angelica Lyons] quickly turned into a nightmare when she began to suffer debilitating stomach pain.

Her pleas for help were shrugged off, she said, and she was repeatedly sent home from the hospital. Doctors and nurses told her she was suffering from normal contractions, she said, even as her abdominal pain worsened and she began to vomit bile. Angelica said she wasn’t taken seriously until a searing pain rocketed throughout her body and her baby’s heart rate plummeted.

Rushed into the operating room for an emergency cesarean section, months before her due date, she nearly died of an undiagnosed case of sepsis.

Her experience is a reflection of the medical racism, bias and inattentive care that Black Americans endure. Black women have the highest maternal mortality rate in the United States — 69.9 per 100,000 live births for 2021, almost three times the rate for white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Israel Ranked Lowest of all OECD Countries In Gender Equality Index

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on February 19, 2023. Source: Times of Israel

RepresentWomen knows how important it is to look abroad to understand better what works and what doesn't regarding systems strategies that remove barriers to women's political power. (If you want to learn more, check out our latest research memo, Voting Systems and Women's Representation: Lessons from Around the World and the Case for Proportional Ranked Choice Voting in the United States!) 

This week, the Times of Israel reported that Israel is ranked the lowest for gender equality of all Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. The OECD uses a powerful tool called the Social Institutions & Gender Index that deploys the following methodology:

Social Institutions and Gender Index Methodology; Source: OECD Library

Toi Staff of The Times of Israel reports:

Israel scored lowest among the 38 OECD countries in a recent gender equality index, scoring less than half the average for many Western nations.

The OECD Social Institutions & Gender Index is marked from 0 to 100, with zero indicating no gender discrimination. Israel scored 33.4, compared to 20.1 for the US, 12.1, for the UK, 10.2 in France, 15.9 in Romania, and 24.7 in Turkey.

The ranking places Israel and Japan (33.3) as the OECD countries with the widest gender equality gaps...

Ben Gvir heads Otzma Yehudit (Jewish power), the most extremist faction in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition with far-right and ultra-Orthodox parties...

In March, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation decided to reject a bill initiated by the previous coalition to introduce electronic tracking of domestic violence offenders, with Ben Gvir promising to bring a more “balanced” version that also tackles false accusations against men.

A Word of Caution: "Rainbow Capitalism

In response to an advertisement centered around trans women by Starbucks India, a new opinion piece by Outlook India discusses the nuances of “rainbow capitalism“ during Pride Month. While companies have the platform to raise awareness about LGBTQ+ issues, rainbow capitalism risks reducing queer identities to a passing trend or slogan. A more genuine way to celebrate pride month is by including LGBTQ+ individuals on all seniority levels in workplaces. 

"Many companies prefer to bring out ads online during the pride month for promotional purposes, but if we may ask them- how many of them hire queer individuals? How many are not doing labor rights violations? Starbucks has been known for underpaying the employees and union busting, how can a company like that claim to be inclusive by mere ads ?" says Meghna Mehra, a member of the All India Queer Association (AIQA). 

Major corporate houses in India have been at the forefront of campaigns fostering LGBTQ+ inclusion. According to the first ever global analysis done by the Boston Consulting Group on how companies are treating members of the community, more and more Indian companies are adopting a no-discriminative inclusion policy. This includes some of the marquee names of India Inc like Reliance Industries, Mahindra and Mahindra, Godrej and Tata Steel.

But ironically, the same corporations are reportedly simultaneously functioning as a major source for donations and electoral bonds to a political party which has often been under the scanner due to its policies and bills against the LGBTQ+ community, according to reports.

The hypocrisy is not limited to India. Corporates across the world that are eager to wave their flags during June, support anti-gay and homophobic politicians via donations. According to a report by Forbes, nine of the biggest, most LGBTQ-supportive corporations in America gave about $1 million or more each to anti-gay politicians in the last election cycle.

It's been a great year for strawberries in my garden 🍓.

And the Mountain Laurel is lovely!

That's all for this week! Have a great weekend and happy almost summer!

Cynthia Richie Terrell

P.S. Our Women Experts in Democracy Directory is finally out! 

This is a great resource for finding qualified and knowledgeable women experts in the democracy reform space for events, conferences, boards, and more. The directory includes experts from a wide range of fields and backgrounds, and it's a great way to ensure that women are represented in conversations about democracy. Click here if you would like to join the directory.

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