Posted on Blog on July 21, 2017
Over the past year we’ve been looking at powerful women, and the lack thereof, in executive, legislative, judicial, civil service, and security positions. We want to provide data to help contextualize questions of barriers preventing women from climbing up the public service ladder, and eventually provide a tool for overcoming these barriers - from legislation to grassroots organizing. But these questions got me thinking, not necessarily about the pathways and obstacles that individual women face in their journeys to public leadership, but about the pathway that our society is currently on, and how unchanged that pathway has remained since Athens in the fifth century B.C. It is called “the canon” – specifically, the political theory canon. This canon, and the men that have created it, defined not only western political thinking, but western political structures. These works are considered timeless– which means that not only are their grandiose ideas of liberty and democracy carried into the 21st century, but their bigotry and biases come along too.
Posted on Blog on July 20, 2017
This week marks the 169th anniversary of a revolutionary event in the women's rights movement: the Seneca Falls Convention and the signing of the Declaration of Sentiments. It is an opportunity to reflect on how far our nation has come - or rather, how far we haven't.
Posted on Blog on July 14, 2017
Happy Bastille Day! Next week is the 169th anniversary of the gathering at Seneca Falls, NY of abolitionists and suffragists to talk about achieving women's equality. I find the story of that meeting, the issues that were addressed, and the unity they found, incredibly powerful. Here is the text from the Declaration of Sentiments which ends with this clarion call: In entering upon the great work before us, we anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, and ridicule; but we shall use every instrumentality within our power to effect our object. We shall employ agents, circulate tracts, petition the State and national Legislatures, and endeavor to enlist the pulpit and the press in our behalf. We hope this Convention will be followed by a series of Conventions, embracing every part of the country.
Posted on Blog on July 07, 2017
I used to encourage my daughters when they were small by telling them that on the whole girls were smarter and lived longer than boys – both true. When their mother died and I had a stint as a lone parent I began to realise that being carer of last resort was different to sharing the job, and that for a lot of women they were expected to be the family safety net, with their careers seen as secondary. Then when I became gender diversity champion in the FCO I saw the effects of a traditional culture which – nearly 15 years ago now – often expected women to behave like men, and single men at that. I heard a lot of anger and frustration expressed behind closed doors about sexist attitudes and realised that change had to start with specific improvements, like guaranteed flexible working after maternity leave, improved mentoring and keeping in effective touch during career breaks. Over time, I saw men become less embarrassed at leaving an early evening meeting in order to pick up children before the nursery closed; and we changed our ways of working to be more family-friendly. Morale and efficiency both improved. In BIS, our leadership team committed to going further, and we did – again by changing the culture to build trust and openness around people’s personal circumstances and then by doing things that helped them feel a valued part of our organisation, whatever their working patterns. I have seen firsthand that real gender equality delivers high performing organisations where people want to work. And, more importantly, it is the way to treat everyone fairly and with respect. I don’t know if that makes me a feminist, but I don’t object to the term!
Posted on Blog on July 07, 2017
Taken the morning of July 7, this photo captures a pivotal gathering of the G20 leaders, the key drivers of the international economy. This is, of course, a noteworthy image, but not just because of the striking concentration of global power and authority in a single frame. There is something amiss in this group - and it is revealed in the sea of suits, ties, and balding heads that compose this photograph. This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel (in red) hosts the members of the G20 summit in Hamburg to discuss international trade, market regulation, and the gravest of global conflicts. Since its crucial role in restoring stability after the 2008 financial crisis, the G20 has served as the linchpin of global economic cooperation. The decisions made during this summit affect nearly every person in the world - yet, only four women are privy to the discussion. Chancellor Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May are the only two official participants, while Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde attend as invited guests. None of these women are of color.
Posted on Blog on June 30, 2017
I am thrilled to report that the Fair Representation Act (H.R. #3057) was introduced by Rep Don Beyer (D VA) on Monday. When passed (!), THe FairRepAct will eliminate gerrymandering, reduce polarization, elect more women & partisans everywhere, and encourage civility by establishing ranked choice voting in multi-winner districts. In the shorter term we hope its introduction will spur a deeper conversation about the root causes of our electoral crisis and the innovative reforms necessary for a voter-driven democracy. Here are some of the press hits from this week's launch:
Posted on Blog on June 23, 2017
This past weekend marked significant progress toward gender parity in France. The final round of the French parliamentary elections was held on Sunday, June 18, when voters elected a record number of women to parliamentary seats. Out of the 577 seats, women now fill 223, beating the last election’s record of 115. This is a huge stride toward gender parity, as the French parliament is now 38.7 percent women. According to data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the French parliament now ranks 17th in the world for women’s representation in parliaments, an impressive improvement from its previous 64th place finish.
Posted on Blog on June 23, 2017
This Friday, June 23, marks the 45th anniversary of Title IX. This landmark legislation, part of the United States Education Amendments of 1972, set out to ensure equal educational opportunities regardless of gender. This allowed for more women to attend college, earn scholarships, study STEM fields, and pursue advanced degrees. Title IX also became the basis for equality in athletics, which has helped increase the number of women who participate in high school sports by 900 percent. Today, Title IX provides protections against campus sexual harassment and assault – another example of its expansive reach. The passage of Title IX meant young women in school could finally participate in sports at the same rate as their male counterparts. Without structural intervention, it could have taken decades or longer for women to reach equal participation organically. Today, the underrepresentation of women in elected office requires the same type of structural reform. Telling women to run for office is not enough alone – just as telling women to play more sports was not enough before 1972. The only way to catalyze progress toward gender parity is through innovative rules changes.
Posted on Blog on June 09, 2017
Women made gains in the parliamentary elections this week in the UK winning 32% of the seats - an increase of 16 seats since 2015 - according to this story from the BBC. Intentional recruitment efforts by the parties are credited with this impressive seat gain. Sam Smethers, whom Susannah Wellford and I met in November in London, was quoted as saying: The outcome of this election was a surprise to many pollsters, but it has seen more Labour women MPs elected. The Conservative Party has not seen a significant reduction in women MPs despite losing seats. "But the real story is that progress has stalled. Getting more women in cannot be subject to party political fortunes. As we approach the centenary of women first getting to vote in general elections, we cannot wait for another nine elections to achieve equality. "We agree with the recommendation of the cross-party Women and Equalities Select Committee that 45% of each party's candidates must be women. The time has come for a legally enforceable target to achieve the radical and sustainable change we need.
Posted on Blog on June 02, 2017
Susannah Wellford and Laura Cox Kaplan joined Mika Brzezinski at an event at the Embassy of Germany that was focused on the "importance of authenticity, knowing and owning your value, and tackling self doubt" according to Laura Cox Kaplan - looks like a fabulous event! There was an interesting story on CBCNews reporting that the Liberals in Canada have appointed women to judicial positions and as candidates in key districts in order to achieve gender parity. Intentional actions like these are gaining momentum in the UK and Canada which is significant not only because they are major allies of the US but also because they share our single winner district/ winner takes all voting system. Building relationships with gender parity advocates in Canada is essential so that we can learn from their successes.