Pages tagged "Representation20/20 In the News"
By Julia Hall
Amidst the national debates
amongst the presidential candi
dates, a question outside of pol
icy and quibbling has appeared:
Are women being represented
sufficiently in elected offices?
With two prominent female
presidential candidates, Carly
Fiorina and Hillary Clinton, our
nation cannot ignore the issues
revolving around this question.
Even though women’s pres
ence in elected office remains
miniscule, there has been slow
but definite progress. Over the
last thirty years, the number of
women in elected office in Ohio
In that time period, the num
ber of women elected to the
Ohio House of Representatives
changed from 20 to 84, resulting
in a 19 percent increase, and the
women elected to the Ohio Sen
ate has increased from one to 20,
a 20 percent increase, according
to former Ohio Gov. and current
UD professor Bob Taft.
“The majority of the seven
members on the Ohio Supreme
Court are women,” said Taft.
“I think we are seeing a lot of
movement on the courts.”
“Maureen O’Connor, who ran
with me for lieutenant governor
when I was elected governor back
in 1998, had established herself
in her career,” Taft said of the
current chief justice of the Ohio
Supreme Court. “[She] obviously
ent to law school, worked in the
county prosecutor’s office, ran
and was elected for county pros
In addition to his praise of
O’Connor, Taft commented
more generally on women’s elect
ed positions: “I was a member
of the Ohio House of Represen
tatives back in 1977, and there
were only a handful of wom
en in the House or Senate then.
There may have been one woman
in the Ohio Senate when I was
there, and, now, there are seven
women in the Ohio Senate. I still
think there is a gender disparity
btween elected positions, but I
really believe that in the last 30
years, women have been on the
Haley Roach, a double major
in political science and psychol
ogy, is the president of Phi Al
pha Delta, the law fraternity on
campus. In her elected leadership
position, she has confronted the
challenges of the role for two se
“I don’t think it’s ‘can a woman
run?’” Roach said. “No, I think
we are way past that. I think that
it is once you get in office that
you run into the glass ceiling,
which makes it harder for women
Taft agreed with Roach on the
point that women do not neces
sarily have a disadvantage in run
ning for office.
“The political analysts, experts,
really believe that [when] run
ning for an office like the Ohio
Supreme Court, there is an ad
vatage to be a woman in terms
of poll totals. It could be worth
as much as 2 or 3 percent advan
Even though women seem to
be on the rise in elected posi
tions, a call for a greater equality
in numbers persists.
Representation 2020, named
such because 2020 is the 100th
anniversary of women gaining
the right to vote, is an organiza
tion dedicated to raising aware
ness of under-representation of
women in elected office.
The organization seeks to
achieve gender parity, which
means that it is just as likely for
a woman as a man to run and be
elected into office.
“I think we get caught up in
measuring progress in women’s
politics and the activation of the
women’s voting base by counting
women in office,” Roach said,
“and I think that is a mistake.”
“There is a lot of pushback
from people who say, ‘Oh, you
just want a quota. We just need
the best and the brightest,’” said
Cynthia Terrell, a founder of
Representation 2020, in an in
terview with Flyer News. “And,
that is true. We do need the best
and the brightest, and, currently,
there are structural obstacles to
having the best and the brightest
having a seat at the table.”
Representation 2020 mem-
bers conduct in-depth research
regarding the gender disparity in
elected officials nationwide.
They have developed a scoring
system that assigns each state on
a scale of zero, or no women in
major elected office, to 100, or all
women in such office. Ohio’s cur
rent parity record, or measure of
equality, is 14.6. In 1993, Ohio’s
parity record was 14.7.
With similar statistics across
the nation, Terrell and Repre
sentation 2020 are dedicated to
removing structural obstacles in-
stead of adjusting the ways of the
“The three main structures that
Representation 2020 focuses on
are recruitment targets for politi
cal parties and for PACs to set for
the number of women candidates
they support because there are
just not enough women actually
running,” Terrell stated.
Such programs, dedicated to
recruiting women to run for of
fice, have begun to spring up, in-
cluding in Ohio.
“[Former Speaker of the Ohio
House] Jo Ann Davidson was
very interested in recruiting fe-
male candidates where there were
qualified female candidates ready
to run,” Taft said. “She created,
back in 2001, the Jo Ann David-
son Ohio Leadership Institute for
the purpose of preparing women
to succeed in elected office.”
In addition to recruitment,
members of Representation 2020
call for improved voting process
“The voting systems enable
more women to actually win,”
Terrell said. “Women do better in
the 10 states that have multi-win-
ner districts. There is also a sys-
tem called “ranked choice voting
system,” where voters can rank
candidates in order of prefer
“There is a set of internal leg
islative measures many countries
have used that looked at rules
how legislatives operate to make
sure they are gender neutral or
gender conscious,” Terrell said.
“So, things like child care or tele
communicating if they have fam
On a similar note, Taft re
-marked, “It’s a challenge because
the state legislature is meeting
almost year-round. If they have
to leave home to do that, then it
is more of a challenge since we
are still in situations, for better or
for worse, [where] women seem
to spend more time in terms of
their family role.”
By Aleanna Siacon
Following the 2015 political elections, Michigan’s gender parity score dropped from 27.4 and a national rank of 8th to 25.8 at 11th place. 18 out of 50 states have gender parity scores at 15 or below, and only one state has achieved gender parity: New Hampshire with a score of 57.1.
Representation 2020, an organization that works to increase public awareness of women’s underrepresentation in politics, calculates gender parity scores for every state annually.
A gender parity score measures women’s electoral success on a scale from zero to 100, zero meaning no women in political offices, and 100 meaning all political offices are occupied by women.
As stated by the Representation 2020 website, the hope is that all states will eventually reach a score of 50, meaning both women and men are equally as likely to be elected in any state.
“Women make up 51 percent of the population and are underrepresented at every level of the government,” said Cynthia Terrell, director and founder of Representation 2020.
Terrell said women face structural barriers to getting elected and this uneven playing field is bad for women, families and the country as a whole.
“Short of a few structural solutions. We are, sadly, not on the path to gender parity,” said Terrell.
According to Terrell, New Hampshire was able to obtain gender parity because they allow multi-winner districts. She said research confirms that this makes women more likely to run and win.
New Hampshire’s large part-time state legislature and relatively low pay also make political offices more appealing to female candidates than males. Michigan adheres to a single-winner district system.
Kathleen Russo, a freshman majoring in pre-occupational therapy, co-led a group called Women in Leadership Leading our World while she was in high school. She believes that social stigmas and stereotypes continue to inhibit gender equality.
“It’s hard to be a woman trying to be accomplished in politics. People will spend more time asking women about their appearance, their children and their homes than their ideas. I think it’s more frustrating for women to run for office, especially if they’re sick of the nonsense questions,” said Russo.
Russo said that despite big social movements in terms of representation and the rise of feminism in popular culture, Michigan’s losses in gender parity proves that there is still progress to be made.
Elizabeth Orozco, a junior majoring in nursing, said that decisions made by a government in which women are underrepresented would not be made in the best interest of women.
“As a voter, I’m not just going to vote for a woman because I’m a woman,” said Orozco. “It depends on what they have to offer, but I’d definitely like to see more women running for these offices. If more men are running for office than women, I don’t think we can produce a government that is completely fair.”
Sishir Buddharaju, a sophomore majoring in economics and electrical engineering, said he was very proud to call himself a man who is a feminist.
“To the men that don’t take a stance on this: as long as there is inequality, you shouldn’t be tired of hearing about it. The issues haven’t been solved. If you want to stop hearing about it, do something about it,” said Buddharaju.
Buddharaju said he was bothered by the fact that in a state with a population as diverse as Michigan’s, people are not equally represented.
“The amount of women represented in our government should be proportionate to the amount of men. 50/50, that’s our population. How can there be a room full of 12 men and 2 women representing us? It doesn’t really make sense to me,” said Buddharaju.
Representation 2020 is currently working on the following projects: publicizing the low funding women receive from PACs across the political spectrum, encouraging political parties to set voluntary targets for the number of women candidates, college campus and community outreach to increase further engagement, building collaboration amongst pro-women’s representation groups and examining county level data to investigate a possible correlation between representation outcomes and voting rules.
Follow Representation 2020 and keep track of the work they do via their Facebook and Twitter:
By Sophia Gaines
Female students of University of Cincinnati were encouraged to run for political office and student government and given the tools to do so at an Elect Her workshop Saturday.
The workshop, held in the African American Cultural Resource Center (AACRC), focused on topics such as the importance of leadership and different positions in student government.
Multiple activities highlighted how to take a stance on an issue, networking, campaign strategy, creating an “elevator speech” and campaign simulation.
Many female leaders spoke at the workshop, including those at the university and throughout Ohio, including Danielle Hagen, a UC graduate and Elect Her facilitator.
Hagen has served as a deputy communication director for Congresswoman Michelle Bachman and a media relations and communication strategist in Washington D.C for elected officials and agencies.
She previously taught public relations and public speaking at UC.
Hagen discussed the low percentage of women in government positions. For instance, 24 percent of state legislators in the U.S. are women and women of color account for 5 percent of state legislators.
Representation 2020, an organization that works to raise awareness of the underrepresentation of women in elected office, recently assigned each state a Gender Parity Score measuring women’s electoral success at local, state and national levels.
The median Gender Parity Score is 18.1 as of the beginning of 2015. This year is the first time any state has achieved gender parity, with New Hampshire scoring a 57.1.
Ohio ranks 35th in the U.S. with a Gender Parity Score of 14.6.
Hagen talked about her past experiences as being one of few women in university programs and in her career.
More progress, fiscal benefits and less corruption, Hagen explained, were a few of the benefits women receive for holding leadership positions.
In reference to the U.S. government shutdown in recent years, Hagen said, “It was the women in leadership who said, ‘That’s enough. We need to get the government running again.’”
Women’s issues are not limited to only reproductive rights and education, Hagen said. Taxes, gas prices, jobs and more are women’s issues as well.
As part of the “What’s Your Issue?” activity, students discussed issues important to them, such as campus safety, diversity, inclusion and not having feminine sanitation dispensers in some bathrooms.
Tamaya Dennard, a UC graduate and political director of the P.G Sittenfeld U.S. Senate Campaign, discussed her passion for politics.
Dennard’s TED Talk, “I Run Like a Girl,” was also shown.
“It was politics that chose me,” Dennard said.
She told stories about helping a homeless veteran receive benefits, and a bus stop by a grocery store in which was threatened to move because of the “crowd” it was attracting.
These situations made her want to get involved with politics, she said, adding her passion for getting women involved in leadership positions, she said.
“Until we get involved in politics, the pay gap won’t be changed and pregnancy will be seen as a handicap,” Dennard said.
Ashley Nkadi, a fourth-year neuroscience student and president of the United Black Student Association, gave a presentation about campus activism, student leadership, social justice and how to use skills learned at UC after graduation.
“Service also has to be that component of reaching into the community and people of lower socioeconomic status,” Nkadi said.
She also listed where service can be forgotten, such as the greater Cincinnati area, Cincinnati Public Schools, communities and identities that are not one’s own.
Ellie Thiemann, a second-year student and member of SG, discussed student involvement and student government.
“Just by being here today and already speaking up for causes you care about; you’re being a model to other students,” Thiemann said. “Someone is listening to you, I promise.”
Both she and other women at Elect Her stressed the importance of networking and reaching out to those you look up to for advice.
“We have great resources, even the people in this room,” Thiemann said.
A panel of elected officials also answered questions about challenges as women in politics, inspiration, importance of women in office, their past college leadership experiences and gave advice to attendees.
Yvette Simpson, president Pro-Tempore of Cincinnati City Counsel, said a challenge she has noticed for women in politics is finding the balance of being a strong leader.
“The difficult part is making sure that we’re perceived in the right way and that we don’t take other people’s issues on ourselves,” Simpson said.
Judge Beth Myers of Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas said the biggest challenge for judicial candidates and office holders is making sure people know who they are and what they do.
“I will put in a plug to any of you who ever want to come and watch an active court room,” Myers said. “Our courts are open. I will invite you personally to come to my court any time that you want.”
Myers’s advice to students was to find something they feel strongly about, and do not join groups just to join groups.
“I don’t think you need to follow the path of any one of us. You need to find your own path,” Myers said.
House Representative Denise Driehaus talked about her inspiration to get into political office after having a political family, being president of the Parent Teacher Association and on community council.
“You do all this stuff in leadership roles and then you say to yourself, ‘Wow, I’d really like to take this to the next level and…spend real time working on these issues and get paid for it,” Driehaus said.
She added she has thoroughly enjoyed her time as a state representative.
Brigid Kelley, representative of the local 75 chapters of the United Food and Commercial Workers, referred to her leadership positions during her time as Xavier University undergraduate trying to restart the College Democrats.
Kelley said she and other students had to make the rest of campus care about what they were doing.
“It was hard, and it was tough but it was really worth while because eventually we got it off the ground,” Kelley said. “If we didn’t take the initiative and we didn’t work hard to make it happen, then it never would have.”
Her advice to students was to always be honest about what they believe in.
“Know what you stand for and tell people,” she said. “You’re not going to find people who agree with you on every single thing.”
The remainder of the event included advice from Hannah Kenney, a fifth-year biomedical engineering student and Rachel Motley, a third-year political science, international affairs and history student.
Motley said having women in politics is extremely important.
“I actually went to Elect Her last year and I saw how amazing of an event it was, and I really wanted to put it on again this year and open up to as many women as possible,” Motley said.
Also included was a portion called “The Nuts and Bolts of Running for Student Government” with current UC Student Government senators Meghan Cappel, Brooke Duncan, Jackie Mulay, Veronica Nunez and Satra Taylor.
Emma Fox, a third-year neurobiology student said, “I think we need to be a little more cognizant of…uplifting people who have different barriers than us of getting into leadership.”
By Lisa Olberding
Kansas led the nation in the overall number of women elected to government offices in 1993, according a report by Representation 2020. Since then, the state’s rank has fallen to 24th in the nation.
Kansas received a gender parity score of 18.6 out of 100 in the report. A score of 50 would indicate gender parity, which is “the point at which women and men are equally likely to hold elected office in the state.”
Representation 2020, a program of FairVote, is a “nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, focused on structural changes to make elections more participatory and representative at every level of government.”
The report stated that the number of legislative seats held by women in Kansas currently sits at 25 percent, compared to the 29 percent in 1993.
At the federal level, Kansas has no women in the Senate and only one woman – Rep. Lynn Jenkins – in the House of Representatives.
“It’s disappointing that the government is not as equal for women,” Abigail Bartel, senior in agronomy, said. “I definitely would like to see those numbers go up.”
The cause for this drop in the number of women in elected Kansas offices is unknown. There are some factors that overall discourage women from running for office, however, according to Brianne Heidbreder, associate professor of political science.
“Studies have shown that the presence of children at home reduces women’s likelihood of running and has no significant impact on men’s ambition to run,” Heidbreder said. “In order to encourage women to run for office and serve in positions of power, we need to create an environment that is more conducive to a healthy work-life balance for all.”
Heidbreder said that there are ways to reverse this trend of gender inequality in public office.
“In order to increase women’s representation in government, women need to run for office,” Heidbreder said. “Research suggests that women are less likely than men to consider running for office in the first place. Political parties can try to close this gap by actively recruiting and supporting female candidates.”
There are some important reasons for trying to achieve gender parity in government, according to Heidbreder.
“Studies have shown that female and male politicians and government officials differ in their policy agendas and leadership styles,” Heidbreder said. “Therefore, having women in government has an important impact in terms of representative democracy.”
Locally, Manhattan Mayor Karen McCulloh is one of five female mayors in Kansas cities with populations over 30,000.
McCulloh was also a city commissioner from 1997–2001 and a county commissioner for 10 years, from 1993-97 and 2007-13.
“During both of my terms (on the county commission), women accounted for only 10 percent of Kansas county commissioners,” McCulloh said. “I never served with another woman on the county commission.”
McCulloh said there is a group working to help women across the state known as “Women for Kansas.” It is a nonpartisan organization that meets monthly and works to unite women across Kansas to talk about issues affecting them.
“Generally during my 14 years of commissioning, I have usually been the only woman on boards and committees,” McCulloh said. “Kansas needs to do a much, much better job of including women in government.”
By Sebastian Laguna
According to national rankings, Arizona places fifth in the country for gender parity.
Last Monday, Representation 2020 assigned all 50 U.S. states a Gender Parity Score, which was evaluated on the balance of male and female elected officials.
The score intends to measure the electoral success of female candidates running for positions in all levels of government on a scale of zero to 100. A score of 50 would indicate that both men and women are represented equally in government positions.
Arizona was given a gender parity score of 30.8 for 2015. In comparison, the national average is 18.1, which is a 2.3-point increase from the previous average calculated in 2013. New Hampshire is first in the nation with a score of 57, while Mississippi scored a 7 on the gender parity scale, ranking No. 50 on the list. Mississippi remains the only state in the country never to have elected a female governor or to have sent a woman to the U.S. Congress.
“In contrast to some of the other rankings, we tried to provide a snapshot that took into account all of the possible offices,” said Cynthia Terrell, founder and chair for Representation 2020. “We looked at statewide elected offices, Congressional offices, in addition to offices in the state legislature and local legislatures.”
Excluding current Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, the state previously held three consecutive female governors in office: Jan Brewer, Janet Napolitano and Jane Dee Hull.
Now, the Arizona Congressional delegation is comprised of 11 total members, three of which are women: Martha McSally, Ann Kirkpatrick and Kyrsten Sinema.
In addition to having significant gender parity within most elected positions in the state of Arizona, there has also been a strong pattern of gender parity within the employees working at the UA.
According to numbers gathered from fall 2014, the UA had approximately 5,200 full-time female employees, compared to approximately 4,900 full-time male employees. In total, the UA had approximately 8,100 female employees and 7,500 male employees, comprising a workforce of approximately 15,615 employees in 2014.
“[We lead efforts to] foster equity and opportunity, strengthen relationships across diverse groups and support a campus culture of equality for all members of the university community, including through specific policy enforcement and training processes,” said Adele Jenkins, the administrative contact for the UA Office of Institutional Equity.
In the fall of 2014, the UA had more female than male employees working as clinical faculty staff, academic service professionals and classified staff members.
During the years of 2009 and 2013, employment numbers show that females consistently comprised a majority of the UA workforce, outnumbering males by roughly 500.
Arizona is doing well in terms of raising its gender parity score through its elections and focus on equality, according to Terrell.
“In terms of Arizona, they have elected three female governors, which has helped raise its score since 1993,” Terrell said. “In fact, four of Arizona’s governors have been women, which is pretty significant because we have only had a handful of women in the country who have become governors.”
By Jeanne Bonner
Two women are vying to hold America’s highest office when President Obama’s term end in 2016 -- Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Carly Fiorina.
But that may mistakenly lead folks to conclude women have made more progress in politics than they actually have.
According to FairVote’s Representation 2020 project, it will take 500 years for women to reach parity with men in elected office in America. Some states have never elected a woman to Congress or the governor’s mansion. And that’s the tip of the iceberg. Women in many states are still trying to get elected as mayors, and not a single statehouse is majority women, according to statistics compiled by the nonprofit group, which is aimed at raising awareness of the underrepresentation of women in elected office.
“There is a naïve sense that if we keep doing the same things we will achieve gender parity,” Cynthia Terrell, who directs Representation 2020, told HLN. “State legislatures are going backwards in terms of the representation of women. And women are poorly represented in statewide offices. We have only six women governors.”
FairVote ranks states on a scale of 1 to 100, according to whether women are as likely as men to get elected. In states with a score of 50 or above, women have an equal chance of getting elected.
States like Georgia and Mississippi, which often lag other states on voting issues, rank at the bottom. On a scale of 1 to 100, Representation 2020 gives Mississippi (which comes in last) a score of 7.
But only one state has earned 50 or above, and that’s New Hampshire (It has a score of 57. That actually means men are underrepresented).
How about states that are generally thought of as progressive, like New York and New Jersey?
Eh. Of the two, New Jersey has the poorer showing, ranking 32nd out of 50 states, with a score of 16.3. New York, meanwhile, ranks 14th, with a score of 23.8.
“A lot of people don’t connect the stats to a real deficiency in our Democratic process,” Terrell said. “They don‘t see the implications in terms of effects on public policy.”
Nonetheless, some people are paying attention. And across the social media landscape, more women are beginning to notice the disparity and are rallying around female candidates while also calling out sexism.
But while on the national political scene, the two female presidential candidates are very visible, officials on the state level say there’s not enough of a pipeline of qualified women running for rank-and-file elected offices.
In Georgia, for example, one political PAC in fact is aimed solely at electing more women to county councils, school boards and sheriffs’ offices all across Georgia. The founders of NewPower PAC, Jan Selman and Heather Fenton of Atlanta, say the dearth of women in these lower offices explains in part why not a single woman holds a constitutional office or represents Georgia in Congress. In fact, as NewPower is eager to tell folks, Georgia has only elected five women to statewide office and five women to Congress -- in two hundred years’ worth of elections.
Selman says there’s an enormous cultural bias that continues to be an obstacle in the U.S. The scholars behind the Gender Watch project at Rutgers University, for example, say female candidates’ likability is tied to perceptions of their qualifications in a way that it’s not for male candidates.
And women see the attacks female candidates face, and they stay away.
But Selman says women also play a role.
“Women don’t step up and run,” she said. “You can’t elect them if you don’t run. So a big part of what we’ve been doing is recruitment.”
Many foreign countries are doing a better job of electing women. In fact, America now ranks 95th in the world -- behind Kenya and Indonesia -- for number of women in Congress. What’s worse, in 1998, it ranked 59th. That’s according to Representation 2020.
It may be because America still has a lot of hang-ups about women pols.
However, experts say there’s reason for some optimism. Selman of NewPower PAC in Georgia said talking about the lack of women in elected office used to be a dead issue.
“Way back when, you could say it and no one knew what you were talking about,” she told HLN. “Now it’s kind of reached a critical mass.”
And that’s thanks in part to Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina.
“It goes back to the old saying, 'you can’t be what you can’t see,'” Selman said.
She said women are taking notice of Clinton and Fiorina -- and taking action themselves.
But according to Terrell of Representation 2020, change will be slow without structural changes like instituting proportional representation rules and boosting recruitment of women candidates by all political parties.
Cynthia Terrell interviewed by Eleanor LeCainRead more
By Alexa Zogopoulos & Mallory McPherson-Wehan
Women make up 50.8% of the population in the United States, but only 19% of Congress. Do we still live in a representative democracy if women are not being equally represented? It is easy to advertise these statistics and demand change, but if you have no actual plan to achieve gender parity, then your quest may be in vain. Representation 2020 seeks to present a plan with reasonable goals in order to “raise awareness of the underrepresentation of women in elected office, to strengthen coalitions that are supportive of measures to increase women's representation, and to highlight the often overlooked structural barriers to achieving gender parity in American elections.” Before we explain how exactly Representation 2020 seeks to raise awareness and make these landmark changes, let’s first explain why we need groups like this.
Why should we elect more women to office? Women represent over half of the country’s skills, knowledge, and talents. Women have a different perspective on needs in policy areas such as healthcare, transportation, education and jobs. Women in elected office increase the likelihood of conceiving and implementing effective legislation and just solutions to social, economic, and environmental problems. With more women in office, there will be a greater desire among politicians to reach out to their female voters and represent their concerns.
How do we get more women elected to political office? Well, first we need women to run. Representation 2020’s first goal is to recruit more women through intentional action. Whether it be targeting college-age students to get more involved in politics or recruit women from the local level to run, we need to identify women who want to run in this age of “political apathy.” While grassroots organizing will greatly assist in getting women’s names on the ballot, we must also hold political parties accountable for encouraging women to run for all offices. It is the duty of the parties to support their candidates, but it is important that they pay close attention to which members of their party are actually represented by the candidates. State Democratic and Republican parties must establish gender parity committees to acknowledge the level of gender parity among their candidates, while also supporting more women within their party to run for office. Political parties must make female representation a priority.
So now that we have women who want to run, how do we get them to win? Voting systems have a huge impact on gender representation. America is very unique with our “winner take all” system. This system does not reflect diversity or minorities. Representation 2020 claims that the best way to deal with our voting system is to implement ranked choice voting. Ranked choice voting allows voters to rank their desired candidates in order of preference, as opposed to just choosing one. These rankings then allow for second and third choice candidates to still gain “seats” in multi-winner elections while also allowing higher chances of winning for second and third-choice candidates in single-winner elections. This system rewards candidates who reach out to the most voters and helps lesser known candidates become recognized. Ranked choice voting also revolutionizes campaigns by forcing candidates to rely on more than just one group of supporters to get elected.
How do we know that this system actually works? Ranked choice voting has been implemented in the cities of Minneapolis, Oakland, San Francisco, Cambridge, and San Leandro. In all of these cases, there was a dramatic increase in women and minorities being elected. Even many universities including Ivy Leagues use ranked choice voting to elect their student representatives. In every case, from local to college-level, the implementation of ranked choice voting has been nothing but successful in increasing fair representation.
And how is it that something as seemingly simple as changing the way we vote leads to more minorities and women in office? The answer is simple: there is a change in the dynamic of competition in elections. Rather than elections being between one wealthy party leader and another wealthy party leader, ranked-choice voting opens up the pool to candidates of all different backgrounds and political statuses. With more than one “winner,” ranked choice voting allows more voters to feel as though their vote counts while also encouraging politicians to focus more on their own policies than attempting to crush their competitor with the monetary strength of their party.
The problem with enacting ranked choice voting is that no incumbent will want to implement a new voting system that would hurt his/her chances of being reelected. To start implementing this system, we would have to start by targeting communities that need the most revolutionary change in their representation. Representation 2020 seeks to start at the local level. As Americans, we tend to think that federal office is where representation matters the most-and it is very true we need representation there, but in order to get more women to run for office, we must start at the local and state level.
Electoral success for female politicians in the state of Georgia is rare, a recent study found.
Georgia received the second lowest score out of 50 states for its lack of female success in local, state and national elections, according to a study conducted by Representation2020 on the ratio of men to women in elected positions.
“Often you don’t aspire to something unless you see people like you in those positions,” said Audrey Haynes, professor of political science at the University of Georgia. “The women who do run are true pathbreakers.”
Georgia scored a 7.8, on a scale from zero to 100. That is down from 2014’s score, when the state ranked 44th out of 50 states, with a score of 9.6.
A score of zero means no women held a major elected office, and 100 means all offices were occupied by women. A score in the 50s meantsmen and women equally hold positions in the government.
The median nationwide gender parity score for the beginning of 2015 is 18.1.
“I believe there are plenty of women who would run and are qualified, but have trouble finding support, due primarily to stereotypes and the lack of support among men and other women,” Haynes said.
Martha Zoller, a former Georgia House of Representatives candidate, said qualified women do not win elections because of a general lack of financial backing for female candidates.
She said the biggest challenge during her candidacy was raising money.
Financial backing can really be a factor in a candidate’s success on the ballot, she said. And on many occasions, while women are taking time off to start families, they sometimes can suffer setbacks in their careers, resulting in a disadvantage against men.
“Women make up more than 50 percent of the electorate, and you want to see them involved in the decisions,” Zoller said.
Georgia uses a single-member district system, meaning that only one person per district can be elected. More women tend to be elected in states that elect more than one person to the state legislature.
There has never been a female governor of Georgia, and none of the 13 elected statewide executive offices are held by women.
Six of Georgia’s 30 cities with 30,000 or more people have female mayors, according to the study.
Cynthia Terrell, project chair for the Representation2020 study team, said citizens need to create a Gender Parity Task Force in order to increase women’s involvement and representation in politics.
“The founders of our country intended democracy to be a portrait of the people in miniature,” Terrell said. “Women bring extraordinary talent and perspective to the table of democracy. And new studies confirm that women legislators are more successful at working across the aisle.”
This Gender Parity Task Force could promote a multi-winner district approach to overtake the single winner districts.
Then, cities should employ ranked-choice voting, meaning that voters can rank candidates in order of their preference to encourage a more positive campaigning experience.
The task force could also arrange to meet with political parties to discuss target ranges of numbers of women to recruit.
“One-hundred nations have increased women’s electoral success by legislating or mandating quotas or targets," Terrell said.
The task force should evaluate the internal factors of various cities and states that affect a woman’s leadership capabilities, such as on-site childcare, telecommunicating, selection of committee chairs and timing of sessions and voting.