Pages tagged "Representation20/20 In the News"
Vermont ranks 39th in the nation for gender equality in local, state and national elected office, according to a report published this week by Representation 2020, a national group that promotes women in politics.
The state is second highest in the nation for women in the lower house of the Legislature, but scores poorly in other areas. Sixty-three of Vermont’s 149 state representatives are women, or better than 40 percent. That percentage has increased from 34 percent in 1993, the report found.
Representation 2020’s report also found that although nationwide gender parity rose from 9 percent 10 years ago to 16 percent last year, gender parity in Vermont declined from 20 percent 10 years ago to 12 percent in 2013.
Vermont is one of four states that has never elected a woman to Congress. Only a few women have been nominated on a major party ticket for the U.S. House or Senate. Vermont has had one female governor, Madeleine Kunin, from 1985 to 1991.
One of six statewide executive officeholders is female: Treasurer Beth Pearce. Only one of the state’s eight elected mayors is female, Liz Gamache in St. Albans.
Representation 2020’s report assigned a gender parity score to each of the 50 states. The score measures women’s electoral success at the local, state and national level on a scale of zero to 100. A score of 50 would indicate that women and men are equally represented.
No state has ever received a score of 50, while 22 states have scores of 15 or less, the study found. Vermont’s score was 11. New Hampshire was first in the nation, with a score of 47.45.
The report found that women are still a long way from parity nationwide. At the current rate, it said, women will achieve parity with men in the U.S. Senate 71 years from now and in the U.S. House in 89 years. Women will reach parity in state legislatures in 139 years and parity in statewide executive offices in 900 years, it found.
Vermont’s Legislature will reach gender parity in 28 years, compared to the national average of 139 years, the study found.
The large number of women in Vermont’s Legislature, and in other state legislatures, is in part due to the use of legislative districts served by more than one legislator, Representation 2020 said.
In 2013, state legislatures that used multi-member districts were 31 percent female while those that did not were 22.8 percent female, the report found.
Representation 2020’s director said if women want to achieve parity with men in elected office they are going to have to change the way the political system works.
“We must embrace voting systems that elect more women, party rules to recruit more women candidates and legislative practices that make it more feasible for women to serve and lead if we are to fix the under-representation of women,” Cynthia Terrell said in a statement.
The Vermont Political Observer
The Vermont Political Observer
A survey of women’s representation in elective office came out a few days ago, and it found good old progressive liberal hotbed Vermont way down in 39th place among the 50 states.
And who was number one? That neighboring hotbed of retrograde conservatism, New Hampshire. Best in the nation. 38 places ahead of us.
The survey comes from a group called Representation 2020, which is working toward gender parity in public office. It measured each state by proportion of women in Congressional delegations, statewide elective offices, state legislatures, mayoralties, and county executive positions. (Oops, Vermont doesn’t have any of those.) And it assigned a score to each state, on a scale of 1 to 100. A score of 50 would indicate gender parity.
No state got there, naturally. The top six states managed to get into the 30s.
Vermont? To paraphrase Nigel Tufnel, we go all the way to eleven.
We get top marks in one category — women in the lower house of the legislature. 42% of our state representatives are women; we earned ten points for that. Which means, of course, that we really suck at everything else. The only other point we got was for State Treasurer Beth Pearce. To tick off some of our dismal statistics:
— We’ve never elected a woman to Congress.
— We’ve only had one female governor, Madeleine Kunin.
— Although we do very well in the state House, we don’t do so well in the Senate: only eight women out of 30, roughly 26%.
— None of our five largest cities has ever had a female mayor. EVER.
— Currently, only one of our eight cities has a female mayor.
So, House of Representatives aside, why is Vermont politics such a pickle party? I spoke with Sarah McCall, executive director of Emerge Vermont, a nonprofit whose goal is “identifying, training and encouraging women to run for office, get elected, and to seek higher office.” The most notable graduate of EV’s first training round is Windham County Democrat Becca Balint, who’s virtually assured of a seat in the state Senate after finishing second in the party primary. (Two seats up for grabs; no Republicans running.) She will replace the departing Peter Galbraith, which I mention only because I never get tired of saying “the departing Peter Galbraith.” Tee hee!
McCall says Vermont has a “great track record” in the House, but there seems to be a glass ceiling above that. She identifies a number of factors limiting women’s upward mobility:
— Small state, small number of high-level seats.
— “No term limits,” and “incumbency is very strong in Vermont.”
— A lack of women in the positions that usually feed into high office: mayoralties, and the State Senate.
McCall describes the next few years as a critical time, because the members of our Congressional delegation will retire sooner or later, and Governor Shumlin will likely move on after another term or two. “Madeleine Kunin thought there’d be women following in her footsteps,” she says, but there were none. We lost a whole generation. Now, “we’re building the pipeline, making sure we have women in position, ready to go, when opportunities open up.”
Of course, they’ll face a challenge from the men of the next generation, who’ve been biding their time waiting for our gray-haired solons to retire. I suppose it’d be too much to ask those men to set aside their own political aspirations for the sake of some equity.
And before anyone starts yammering about “affirmative action” and “choosing the most qualified,” here are a few words on that subject from Ms. McCall.
She says there’s a “misconception” that women need to beef up their resumes to be competitive. It’s the other way around, in fact: “Women are usually more qualified, because they believe that they need to be overprepared before running for office.”
I’ve seen the same phenomenon in the ranks of the clergy: just about every female minister/pastor/priest/rabbi/etc. I’ve ever met has struck me as extremely qualified: learned, intelligent, and empathetic. It’s because a woman still has to jump through a lot of hoops to get into the clergy, so only the best and most determined get in.
Emerge Vermont, by the way, is currently seeking applicants for its second round of training. The application deadline is November 10, and the training starts in January. Prepare now, to run in 2016!
Also, EV is having its big annual celebration on Wednesday, October 15 at the Shelburne Museum. They’ll be honoring Madeleine Kunin on the 30th anniversary of her election as Governor. Information on all this good stuff at EV’s website.
I wish them well. We could certainly use a lot more gender equity in Vermont. In this category at least, New Hampshire puts us to shame. How ’bout we start closing the gap?
Reid Wilson is the author of Read In, The Post’s morning tipsheet on politics. If you have a candidate for best state, e-mail him at [email protected].
The pay gap between men and women remains wide. Elected officials are still overwhelmingly male. Progress in reversing those deficits has been slow, but one state — Hawaii — stands out.
Several studies of political and economic power show that women are nearer to parity with their male counterparts in Hawaii than they are in other states.
Women make 83 percent of what men earn in Hawaii, just two percentage points below Maryland, the state with the smallest gender pay gap. Women in Nevada, Vermont, New York, California, Florida and Maine also make at least 83 percent of what men do, according to a study published this year by the American Association of University Women. At the top of the list is the District, where women’s median earnings are 90 percent of men’s.
Hawaii is also one of 14 states where women are more likely to have completed a bachelor’s degree than men; 29.7 percent of women in the Aloha State graduated from college, compared with 28.9 percent of men, according to the National Center for Education Statistics .
Women make up a substantial portion of Hawaii’s elected officials, too. The state ranks third for gender parity in statewide political officeholders, according to Representation 2020 , a group that works to raise awareness about the underrepresentation of women in government. Only New Hampshire and Washington rank higher.
Hawaii has a long history of electing women to high office. Linda Lingle (R) served two terms as governor, from 2002 to 2010, and Mazie Hirono (D) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012. Of the 13 people who have represented Hawaii in the House of Representatives since it became a state in 1959, five — including both current incumbents — have been women.
The presence of so many women in office and in party leadership positions can lead more women to seek election, said Cynthia Terrell, who runs Representation 2020. “We’re looking to find more ‘queenmakers’ to join the kingmakers,” she said.
Southern states are far less likely to be governed by women, according to Representation 2020’s count. Virginia, which ranks last on the group’s list, has an astonishingly bad record: Just one woman has been elected to a statewide executive office — Mary Sue Terry, who served as attorney general from 1986 to 1993 — and only three have represented the commonwealth in Congress.
The 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, was ratified in 1920. Ninety-four years later, the last state to join the union is doing better than any other to ensure that women have an equal seat at the table.
By Lydia O'Connor Huffington Post
California women are outnumbered by men three to one in city, county and state government positions — a figure made all the more troubling by the likelihood that the breakdown is among the most balanced in the U.S., according to a study released this week.
The study by GrassrootsLab and the Leadership California Institute, or LCI, reported that California women held 28 percent of state legislature and county government positions, and just 25 percent of city government positions. Women only near parity in school board positions, of which they comprise 47 percent.
Another study conducted by Representation 2020 in November found California had the fourth-best gender parity among U.S. states. The study’s findings also included women representing the state at in national offices and assigned more weight to their positions.
“This ranking, which is calculated based on a gender parity index, is positive news and can largely be attributed to the number of women representing California at the national and state level,” the LCI wrote in its report this week. “Although California currently ranks 4th on its gender parity index, just 10 years ago, California led the rest of the nation holding rank at 1st.”
The shortage of women in city and county positions does not bode well for the state’s gender parity in the future, given the study’s findings that those positions are where 75 percent of the women currently holding office in the California State Legislature first started. The number of women holding statewide office has already plateaued, with their representation largely unchanged in the last 10 years.
“This plateau effect, coupled with an overall imbalance in the ratio of women to men serving within our political institutions, is indicative of a political reality that continues to prove tenuous for women,” the LCI wrote.
By Nora Hertal
About 23 percent of South Dakota’s 105 legislative seats are currently occupied by women — 1 percent below the national average cited by the National Conference of State Legislatures — and about 26 percent of the candidates that made it through the June primary are women.
But politically active women in South Dakota — and beyond — are taking steps to expand their representation. It’s important to elect women, because governments that reflect their constituencies are stronger and draw voter participation, said Cynthia Terrell, chair of the project Representation 2020, a national group that promotes gender balance in governments.
And Gail Brock, president of the South Dakota Federation of Republican Women, said the state is already electing a fair number of women and many serve in politics behind the scenes.
“There is a lot of potential out there,” said Brock, whose group works to encourage women to participate in government and run for office.
Women face unique challenges when running for office, because many start political careers later in life than men and have smaller networks to draw on, Terrell said. She also said women usually need more encouragement to run then men do.
“Women don’t have a hard time winning,” according to Barb Everist, the first woman to serve as majority leader in the South Dakota Senate. “We just don’t compete in the same numbers as men.”
Education is Vastly Important for Women Worldwide
Getting a solid education is important for everyone because it leads to better jobs and a more secure future. However, earning a high income isn't the only motivator when it comes to educating women. According to a report compiled by the World Bank, women who are educated are more likely to protect their own agency (or freedom manage their own lives) and the agency of other women than those who do not have a good education. This information throws into sharp relief the significance of ensuring students, and females especially, are college and career ready by the time they graduate high school.
High stakes for women's rights
Unfortunately, women worldwide don't always receive the same freedoms as men, and that discrepancy is manifested in numerous ways. Some women suffer abusive relationships, don't own property or marry very young. In the U.S. alone, 21 percent of women have experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner. Globally, about 142 million women will marry before the age of 18 in the next decade. Women are also grossly underrepresented in positions of power.
Despite all these statistics, women do have a way out: education. Ninety percent of women who do not earn more than a primary education will suffer either child marriage, violence in a relationship or a lack of control over their resources, according to the World Bank report. Only 18 percent of women with secondary and higher education will endure the same conditions.
"The persistent constraints and deprivations that prevent many of the world's women from achieving their potential have huge consequences for individuals, families, communities, and nations," Jim Yong Kim, World Bank Group president, said in a statement. "Expanding women's ability to make decisions and take advantage of opportunities is critical to improving their lives as well as the world we all share."
Changing the world
The report also noted that when women are in positions of power, they influence their society to empower other women. Women in political office, for example, will place a high priority on women's rights, such as the ability to make reproductive decisions, own property or marry later in life. Such a reality should influence more women to seek higher education and work toward important offices. However, according to the nonprofit group Representation 2020, only about 20 percent of political offices in the U.S. are occupied by women. The U.S. ranks 95th worldwide in the percentage of women who hold high political offices in that country.
When women are educated, they protect themselves and others, which is why it's so vital that girls get the support they need in school. The Common Core State Standards emphasize college and career readiness for both girls and boys. Ideally, if girls are ready for college, they'll get their degree and change the world for the better.
With Hillary Clinton the early front-runner in the 2016 Democratic primary, the United States may join the UK, Germany, Brazil and Argentina as democracies that have had a woman as their top leader. Yet the alarming reality is that American women are still vastly underrepresented in elected offices all across the nation. Remember the “Year of the Woman” in 1992? Two decades later women still hold less than 20 percent of congressional seats, despite composing a majority of the US population.
And compared to other nations, the United States is losing ground. America now ranks ninety-eighth in the world for percentage of women in its national legislature, down from 59th in 1998. That’s embarrassing: just behind Kenya and Indonesia, and barely ahead of the United Arab Emirates. Only five governors are women, including just one Democrat, and twenty-four states have never had a female governor. The percentage of women holding statewide and state legislative offices is less than 25 percent, barely higher than in 1993. Locally, only twelve of our 100 largest cities have female mayors.
The reality is that at the current glacial rate of progress, “women won’t achieve fair representation for nearly 500 years,” says Cynthia Terrell, chair of FairVote’s “Representation 2020” project, which has released a new study on women’s representation.
But the US can’t wait that long. Having more women in office not only upholds democratic values of “fairness” and “representative government,” but various studies have also shown that the presence of more women in legislatures makes a significant difference in terms of the policy that gets passed. In Patterns of Democracy, former American Political Science Association president Arend Lijphart found strong correlations between more women legislators and more progressive policy on issues like the environment, macroeconomic management, comprehensive support for families and individuals, violence prevention, and incarceration. Other studies have found that women legislators—both Republican and Democrat—introduce a lot more bills than men in the areas of civil rights and liberties, education, health, labor and more.
Globally, research has shown that ethnically diverse and divided nations that elect women rather than men to key national leadership offices end up with better economic performance. Columbia professor Katherine Phillips and her co-researchers found that for the most ethnically diverse nations, having a woman in the top national leadership position was correlated with a 6.8 percent greater increase in GDP growth in comparison to nations with a male leader. The authors attribute that to women leaders having a more participatory, democratic style than men, and more confidence from voters at managing difficult situations that require more inclusionary or cooperative approaches.
So electing more women is a national as well as a global imperative. But how can this be accomplished? We’ve already seen decades of heroic efforts by organizations like EMILY’s List and Feminist Majority to recruit, train, and fund more women candidates, as well as efforts by the Name It. Change It. campaign to combat gender stereotypes in politics and in the media. The National Organization for Women (NOW) and other women’s political organizations fought in the 1970s and 80s against the Democrats’ old boy network for nomination of more women candidates, as well as equal representation in party committees and structures, eventually succeeding in creating more internal female leadership (which can be a steppingstone to public office). To an extent, these cumulative endeavors have paid off: representation in Congress has increased from thirty-four women (six percent) before the 1992 election to a total of 102 (19 percent) in the House and Senate today (out of 535 seats).
But the continuing, vast representation gap shows that those efforts are not enough. It’s time for a change in tactics.
A look at nations that are more successful at achieving gender parity among elected officials provide some guidance about what would transform the political landscape. Leaders in electing women include Sweden (45 percent female representation at the national level), Finland (42.5 percent), Denmark and the Netherlands (39 percent) and Germany (36.5 percent). Most of their political parties prioritize recruitment of female candidates, some even requiring “positive quotas” where half their candidates are women. And their societies have sensible policies in areas like childcare that make it easier for legislators to balance their service with their families.
But the research of representation experts like the late Professor Wilma Rule has shown that, in addition to these positive quotas, the biggest reason for female candidates’ success in these advanced democracies is the use of “fair representation” electoral systems, also known as proportional representation.
These methods use multi-seat districts, rather than one-seat districts, where political parties (or, in a nonpartisan election, groupings of like-minded voters, i.e. liberals, conservatives, progressives) win seats in proportion to their vote share. If like-minded voters have 20 percent of the vote in a ten-seat district, its candidates win two of ten seats, instead of none; 40 percent wins four seats, and 60 percent wins six seats.
Such rules create multi-party democracy, since a political party can earn a fair share of representation with well under 50 percent of the vote. That in turn fosters greater accountability for major parties, as minor parties offer voters other viable choices. Facing real competition, major parties look to nominate candidates that broaden their appeal, including a lot more women. The German Green Party has never won over 11 percent of the national vote, yet for three decades has consistently won seats and promoted women’s leadership by having a 50-50 rule for female/male candidates, prodding other major parties to nominate more women.
How important is the electoral system to women’s success? A real-world test is provided by nations that use both fair representation electoral systems and US-style one-seat districts to elect their national legislatures. We can observe the same voters, the same attitudes, expressing themselves through two different electoral methods. The result? In Germany and New Zealand, women win a lot more seats chosen by the fair representation method than in those chosen in one-seat districts—twice as many seats in Germany.
American women also do better in multi-seat districts, even if proportional representation rules aren’t used. As FairVote’s report shows, women hold an average of 31 percent of state legislative seats elected in multi-seat districts, compared to only 23 percent elected in one-seat districts. Vermont’s state legislature has 41 percent women, elected in districts with anywhere from one to six legislators per district. Even a strongly conservative state like Arizona has 36 percent women in its state house, elected from two-seat districts.
The US Constitution does not require the use of single-seat districts, so switching to these fairer election methods only needs changes in applicable laws. It wasn’t until 1967 that Congress passed a law mandating single-seat districts for House races, but that federal law could be changed again by Congress; state legislatures and local governments could adopt such methods by changing state and local laws. Advocates will find allies among those seeking to enhance minority voting rights (particularly in light of recent horrible Supreme Court rulings) and to correct today’s shocking geographic skew toward Republicans (which allowed Mitt Romney to beat Barack Obama in more House districts (226-209) even though he lost the national popular vote by four percentage points). Public financing of campaigns also would help, since most women don’t have access to the good ol’ boy networks that primarily fund political campaigns.
Given the research and real-world experience on what impacts women’s representation, why don’t organizations like EMILY’s List, NOW and Feminist Majority focus more on enacting fair representation methods and other structural changes? “EMILY’s List was founded to work within the electoral system we have—and we’re proud of our successes in helping to elect a historic number of Democratic women to office,” Jess McIntosh, communications director at EMILY’s List, told me. “Our progress hasn’t been easy, and we’re nowhere near done—but there is clearly a mandate for women’s leadership in this country and we’re going to keep fighting.”
Kathy Spillar, executive vice president of the Feminist Majority and also executive editor for Ms. magazine, acknowledges that these structural issues are of paramount importance. But she says the power of incumbency and the old boys network is strong and very resistant to structural change. “The feminist movement has been fighting this battle for equal representation for over 40 years,” she says. “But you’re talking about changing the very rules that keep incumbents secure in their seats. We need more Democratic and Republican leaders to step up and help solve this problem.”
Spillar thinks voters increasingly see women as effective legislators, taking the lead in forging cross-partisan consensus on issues like the fiscal cliff and debt limit. But the male-dominated networks, even among Democrats, stand in the way of changes like requiring that 50 percent of candidates be female, or using fairer voting methods. “We’re pushing on a lot of fronts, and structural change is one of them. But we need more allies, and it’s a matter of picking your battles and figuring out where you can have an impact.”
McIntosh is enthusiastic about women’s chances of picking up a few more Senate seats in 2014, and cites EMILY’s List’s work training 1,000 female candidates for state legislative races. Training a thousand women candidates is indeed a great accomplishment, but that achievement also reveals the limitations of current approaches. The fact is there are more than 7,300 state legislative races, and over 6,000 will be contested in 2014. So the reach of EMILY’s List’s efforts only impacts 17 percent of state legislative races. Without structural change, the current heroic efforts by women’s groups seem doomed to always fall short.
As Representation 2020 chair Cynthia Terrell argues, “We should ask for nothing less than parity in representation, and push to achieve that goal in one generation, not half a millennium.” It’s time to get serious about addressing why 51 percent of the population has less than a fifth of the representation in Washington, DC. The future of the nation is at stake.
The Virginia Vibe
According to The Washington Post, Virginia has been coined the worst in the nation in electing women to office, which is not an accolade Virginia should be happy about. Virginia has a very successful political background, producing four of the first five presidents, but our country has come a long way and the lack of women in office is sad compared to other states.
Mary Sue Terry was the only woman elected to state office as attorney general in both 1985 and 1989, but there has never been a female governor or even a Senate member. In the House, there have been a total of three women ever to hold seats and right now all eleven seats are filled by men.
Representation 2020 created an index that formulates women’s parity and Virginia’s score was 4.5 out of 50. 50 is the score that reflects equality. This is the lowest score of any state in the nation and the people of Virginia should fight for more women in office in order to get on the same level as the rest of the country.
Women have come a long way in the United States and deserve an equal say in the government. It is up to the people of Virginia to encourage powerful women to run for these statewide, congressional and leg
Home to four of our nation’s first five presidents, Virginia was an early leader in American democracy. Today it holds a less noble position: worst in the nation in electing women to office.
This abysmal record starts at the top. Virginia has never elected a woman as governor or U.S. senator, and only one woman — Mary Sue Terry, elected and reelected attorney general in 1985 and 1989, respectively — has ever won statewide office. Men hold all 11 of the state’s congressional seats, and only three women have ever been elected to the U.S. House in the state. Women have never held even a fifth of Virginia’s state legislative seats.
The 2013 elections offered little chance for improvement. All six of the major-party nominees for statewide office were men, and only 31 of the 143 major-party nominees for the House of Delegates were women. This January, just 23 of Virginia’s 140 state legislators will be women, meaning that men will hold 84 percent of the seats. And none of Virginia’s five largest cities has a female mayor.
Clearly, this is not a very good record, but how do we know it’s the worst? To compare the proportion of men and women in elected office in each state, our organization, Representation 2020, which is a project of the election-reform group FairVote, created a “parity index.” The index uses a weighted formula to quantify gender equality in federal, state and local elections, with statewide elected offices counting the most. A score of 50 reflects parity, which we define as state offices being equally likely to be held by men and women. All 50 states lean toward men (the District wasn’t included because of its lack of equivalent elections). The average state has a score of 82 for men and 18 for women.
Virginia’s women have a score of only 4.5. That rating is far below those of neighboring states Maryland (21.2) and North Carolina (29.4). Even West Virginia, where two women will likely face off next year as the major parties’ nominees for the Senate, has a score of 11.
It is time for Virginia to take aggressive steps to elect more women. We recommend greater attention to rules and structures that affect election outcomes.
For example, political parties should aggressively recruit women to run in statewide, congressional and legislative races.
Also, Virginia should change its electoral structure. Over the past two election cycles, more than half of the races for the House of Delegates have been uncontested. Fundamental to this electoral malaise are single-member districts, in which voters from each district elect only one legislator.
Voters would gain far more power if Virginia were to switch to having 20 legislative districts, with each electing five seats, in which case winning a seat would require taking about a fifth of the vote in each district. Such multi-seat district systems open up politics for all voters and candidates, including women. Indeed, a majority of the 10 top states for women’s representation in state legislatures use multi-member districts.
Inaction is simply unacceptable. A century after earning the right to vote, Virginia’s women deserve an equal number of seats at the table of government.
The writers are coordinators of Representation 2020.
According to an outfit called Representation 2020, five out of 50 states currently have women governors. According to the U.S. Census, women make up 51 percent of the population, but 10 percent of the governors.
Of the nation’s 100 largest cities, 12 have a female mayor. Women make up 18 percent of Congress and a quarter of state legislators.
The 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote everywhere in the country (many states had already granted that right), took effect in 1920. Representation 2020 is named for the upcoming centennial and says it is "spreading new and innovative ideas on how to get more women elected to office by the centennial of women’s suffrage in 2020."
Minnesota has never had a woman governor nor a woman nominated for governor by a major party. The current lieutenant governor, Yvonne Prettner Solon, is the sixth consecutive women to hold the office, dating back 30 years. Three of our 10 current members of Congress are women, which is an all-time high.
I'm often surprised that the amazing tale of Jeannette Rankin, the first woman in Congress, isn't more famous.
Rankin, a lifelong pacifist, was elected to the U.S. House from Montana in 1916 at the age of 36. She got to Washington just in time to be one of just 50 members of the House to vote against a resolution favoring U.S. entry into World War I. She was defeated for a second term. Then, amazingly, she won a second term in 1940 and got to Washington in time to cast the only "no" vote on U.S. entry into World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. She was not reelected, went to India and studied the pacifist teaching of Gandhi.
In 1968, she led a march in Washington to protest the Vietnam War and was contemplating another run for Congress as a peace candidate. She died in 1973.
How is Rankin not more famous?