Weekend Reading on Women's Representation October 16, 2020

By Cynthia Richie Terrell on October 16, 2020


Dear fans of women's representation,
This week RepresentWomen released its Achieving Gender Parity: Systems Strategies Around the World report that offers a deep dive into the electoral systems, recruitment practices, and representation outcomes for women in nearly every country. Twenty years ago the United States ranked 48th globally for women's representation. Today the United States ranks 87th among nations for the number of women elected to the House of Representatives. Most of the countries in the top 50 for women's representation use a proportional or semi-proportional voting system to ensure more women win & some type of quota or temporary special measure to ensure more women run. 
We study what's electing more women to office faster in higher ranked countries to ground our work for data-driven systemic reforms to advance women's representation and leadership in the United States in order to achieve parity in our lifetimes:

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Togo Makes History in West Africa: Victoire Dogbé Named First Woman Prime Minister in the Region

By on October 09, 2020

By Fatma Tawfik

“OECD Arrivals: Victoire Tomegah-Dogbe, Directrice de Cabinet Togo” by OECD / Victor Tonelli is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0


This past month,Victoire Tomegah Dogbé made history becoming the first woman Prime Minister of Togo. President Faure Gnassingbe appointed Victoire Tomegah Dogbé to the position following the resignation of the previous Prime Minister Komi Selom Klassou, who served in this position since 2015; Dogbé is also the first woman to serve in that office in the history of West Africa.

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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation October 9, 2020

By Cynthia Richie Terrell on October 09, 2020


Emmanuelle Charpentier, left, and Jennifer Doudna may have made the most important biological advance since the discovery of the structure of DNA.Credit...Miguel Riopa/Agence France-Presse

Dear fans of women's representation and equality, 
Two women have jointly won the Nobel prize in chemistry - for the first time in the history of the awards. According to this story in The Washington Post by Ben Guarino, Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna were awarded the prize for their work on a gene-editing tool called CRISPR while poet Louise Gluck won the prize for literature:
A pair of scientists — Jennifer A. Doudna, a biochemist at the University of California at Berkeley, and Emmanuelle Charpentier, a French microbiologist — won the 2020 Nobel Prize in chemistry Wednesday for their work developing a revolutionary gene-editing tool that can change the DNA of plants and animals with extraordinary precision. The technique, called CRISPR -Cas9, is already being used as a cancer therapy and to cure inherited diseases.

“This year’s prize is about rewriting the code of life,” said Goran K. Hansson, secretary general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

This was the first time two women jointly won a Nobel in chemistry. “I wish that this will provide a positive message, specifically, to young girls who would like to follow the path of science,” Charpentier told reporters Wednesday morning.

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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation October 2, 2020

By Cynthia Richie Terrell on October 02, 2020


First televised presidential debate held on November 4, 1956 between Eleanor Roosevelt and Margaret Chase Smith
Dear all,
The very first televised presidential debate was held on November 4, 1956 between former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt (representing the Democratic Party) and Margaret Chase Smith (representing the GOP) according to the U.S. Senate Archives. This is one of my favorites nuggets from history so forgive me if you have read about it before in this column but I feel it is worth re-sharing this week to remind us of a time when debates were dignified and policy-focused:

Which presidential campaign produced the first nationally televised debate? The typical answer to that question is 1960, Kennedy v. Nixon. In fact, the first televised debate occurred four years earlier, when Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson challenged incumbent Republican president Dwight Eisenhower—but those two men did not appear in the debate. Instead, on November 4, 1956, two surrogates debated the issues on network television: for the Democrats, former First Lady and party icon Eleanor Roosevelt; for the Republicans, the senior senator from Maine, Margaret Chase Smith. That’s right—the first televised presidential debate featured two women.

By 1956 Margaret Chase Smith was in her second term in the Senate and had known Eleanor Roosevelt for two decades. “I respected and admired Mrs. Roosevelt for her intelligence and active leadership,” wrote Smith in her autobiography. Smith had been a frequent visitor to the Roosevelt White House and had appeared on the First Lady’s radio program. They both published a daily newspaper column. By 1956 both women routinely appeared on lists of America’s most admired women.

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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation September 25, 2020

By Cynthia Richie Terrell on September 25, 2020


Photo credit: Rob Richie
Dear women's representation advocates,
As I wrote this missive last week I was feeling anxious about the 2020 election and what the results might mean for Americans and for all those around the globe who are impacted by policies enacted by the executive and legislative branches of the United States government. The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg last Friday, and the ever-present reminders of racial and economic injustice, have turned an already-polarized election into a referendum on the rule of law and protections of our most basic rights. 
Photo credit: Katie Sebastian

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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation September 18, 2020

By Cynthia Richie Terrell on September 18, 2020


Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester won her primary on September 15th
Dear friends,
This week marks a significant milestone for women in politics in the United States: more women have filed to run for office than ever before. According to this story on The 19th* by Amanda Becker, Lisa Blunt Rochester's win in Delaware this week - the last primary of the election season - brings the tally of women candidates for the House of Representatives to 298:

Delaware was the last state to hold its regular congressional primary elections on Tuesday and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, the first and only woman to represent the state in the U.S. Congress, is expected to hold on to her House seat in November.

There are now record-breaking 298 women nominees — 204 Democrats and 94 Republicans — who will be competing in House races and 20 women nominees — 12 Democrats and 8 Republicans — who will be competing in Senate races, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

The previous record was set in 2018 when there were 234 women nominees who competed in House races.

FairVote has been tracking the competitiveness of House districts and predicting outcomes based on the partisanship of districts for over 20 years. FairVote's formula, developed by Rob Richie and used by the Cook Political Report, has correctly predicted the winner of House seats in over 99% of the races - read more here about which districts are competitive this year and find the data here.

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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation September 11, 2020

By Cynthia Richie Terrell on September 11, 2020


International Olympic Committee
Dear fans of women's representation,
There was good news from the International Olympic Committee this week which held a series of online gatherings to discuss strategies to increase women's representation in governing bodies and leadership roles. Here is a link to the full report from the Gender Equality Forum and an excerpt from the first session which illustrates the power of setting targets and enforcing them to make sustained progress toward gender balance:

Marisol Casado, IOC Member and Chair of the ASOIF Diversity and Gender Equality Group, opened the webinar by saying: “Today there is a wide-ranging call for greater inclusivity and equality, and we must take the opportunity this current crisis provides to rebuild and innovate our progress towards a more inclusive, gender-equal and sustainable Olympic Movement.”

“Throughout my career and in my various roles, I have seen that the best work can be done when it is done as a team. When we work together, we have access to different ways of thinking, and therefore more ideas.”

Casado pointed out that some fundamental goals have already been reached: “We have achieved gender balance in athlete participation at the Olympic Games, with a competition schedule much more balanced to ensure equal exposure for all athletes. Several sports organisations, including the IOC, have reached the minimum target of 30 per cent female representation in their governing bodies, and the IOC guidelines for gender-balanced portrayal have been widely adopted to ensure equal opportunities.”

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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation September 4, 2020

By Cynthia Richie Terrell on September 04, 2020


Boston Globe
Dear fans of women's representation and equality,
The election season is upon us now in earnest with only a handful of primaries left to determine general election candidates for Congress and other offices. A Massachusetts congressional primary this week offered a particularly compelling example of the pernicious impact of our antiquated winner take all voting system that yields plurality "winners" when more than two candidates run for a seat (ranked choice voting eliminates split votes among candidates.) The 4th Congressional district vote totals shown above illustrate the extent to which women candidates are impacted by split votes: four women candidates finished in the top five but a man "won" with just 22% of the vote though votes are still being tallied and a recount may be in the works according to this story in the Boston Globe:

It’s unclear where their voters would have migrated if given the chance. Cavell, a former Obama speechwriter, was among the field’s more progressive candidates and often aligned with Mermell on issues, while Zannetos was perhaps its most moderate candidate. The tech entrepreneur had even rapped Mermell and other candidates for their support of a single-payer health care system in a television ad, saying they “would eliminate private health insurance.”

Becky Walker Grossman placed third in the unwieldy primary with more than 26,000 votes, and Natalia Linos, a Brookline epidemiologist who entered the race only in May, finished fourth.

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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation August 28, 2020

By Cynthia Richie Terrell on August 28, 2020


Eleanor Smeal and Representative Bella Abzug in 1982
Happy Women's Equality Week!
In 1971, the legendary Bella Abzug, a member of the House delegation from NY state, asked Congress to designate August 26th as Women's Equality Day to commemorate the women's suffrage that was ratified on August 18th, 1920. According to the National Women's History Alliance, Women's Equality Day was established by a Joint Resolution of Congress:

Joint Resolution of Congress, 1971 Designating August 26 of each year as Women’s Equality Day

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have been treated as second-class citizens and have not been entitled the full rights and privileges, public or private, legal or institutional, which are available to male citizens of the United States;

and WHEREAS, the women of the United States have united to assure that these rights and privileges are available to all citizens equally regardless of sex;

and WHEREAS, the women of the United States have designated August 26, the anniversary date of the certification of the Nineteenth Amendment, as symbol of the continued fight for equal rights;

and WHEREAS, the women of United States are to be commended and supported in their organizations and activities,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that August 26th of each year is designated as Women’s Equality Day, and the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America were first given the right to vote, and that day in 1970, on which a nationwide demonstration for women’s rights took place.

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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation August 21, 2020

By Cynthia Richie Terrell on August 21, 2020


Mosaic Theater Company's rendition of 'The Agitators' with Marni Penning as Susan B. Anthony and Ro Boddie as Frederick Douglass - Photo by Stan Barough

Dear fans of women's representation,
On Tuesday, August 18th, we celebrated the centennial of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution that expanded the franchise dramatically and fundamentally altered the practice of democracy in these United States.
To mark this milestone, the president pardoned Susan B Anthony for her 'crime' of voting - there were polite stories on this strange event in The Washington Post and Politico. While most agree that Anthony would have dismissed this 'pardon' as political theater, there is a deeper story about the suffrage movement that requires not a 'pardon' but a grounded discussion of the history and present day movement for women's equality. There were a number of very thoughtful responses to The New York Times editorial last Sunday on the suffrage movement that you can find here. I highly recommend the play The Agitators by Mat Smart for a deep dive into the decades-long debate between Susan B Anthony and Frederick Douglass that brings alive their shared passion for equality and their frustration with one another and the movement/s they led:

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