Skip navigation

Pages tagged "Resource:Brief"

Brief: Breaking Barriers for Black Women Candidates

RepresentWomen is committed to researching, understanding, and championing evidence-based solutions that support a healthy democracy with gender-balanced representation in elected and appointed positions at every level of government. This brief is the first installment in a new series that outlines the systems-level and candidate-level factors impacting Black women's political participation and representation in U.S. politics. 

This brief does not aim to be comprehensive; future research will further address the barriers Black women face when running for office and the hurdles Black women face when in elected office. This research will also uplift what needs to be done to level the playing field and allow Black women to run, win, serve, and lead equitably. 


Black women have historically been, and continue to be, underrepresented at every level of government in the United States for cultural and structural reasons. Among these are biases, misogynoir, and flawed political practices. Increasing Black women’s political power and representation must enable equitable access to political and financial resources and reform our antiquated voting system. 

This brief surveys three key barriers Black women face when running for office: the current criterion of political party recruitment, traditional funding practices, and plurality voting. We then propose actionable avenues for change, which would not just expand opportunities for Black women in politics but ameliorate our democracy.

Our key takeaways are as follows: 

  • Early investment by political parties advances Black women in politics. This involves setting candidate recruitment targets and quotas and implementing networking and mentorship initiatives in partnership with candidate organizations. 
  • Donors should adopt gender and race-balanced funding measures to fund Black women’s campaigns. PACs and donors can model these initiatives after those already existing in other industries. 
  • Public financing programs (PFPs) empower Black women candidates to run competitive campaigns by amplifying small-dollar donations and limiting the impact of big money.
  • RCV creates opportunities for Black women candidates by eliminating split votes and enabling non-status quo candidates to lead viable campaigns. 
  • PRCV enhances these opportunities by allowing communities to elect candidates in proportion to their percentage of the population.

Download the Brief 

Country Brief: Oceania

RepresentWomen is committed to researching and identifying the best practices for increasing women’s representation in politics, drawing from evidence around the world. Part of this work leads us to track parliamentary elections and compare regional outcomes closely. We then identify the common trends impacting women’s representation, informing our U.S.-based work. This particular brief brings attention to how election rules and voting systems shape opportunities for women to enter politics within the Oceania region.

Executive Summary:

The Oceania region has some of the lowest numbers regarding women's political representation, demonstrating a need for the region’s countries to adopt systems strategies as a means to achieve gender-balanced governance. On average, women's representation in the Oceania region in lower houses of parliament is 20%, lower than the global average of 27%

The majority of countries in Oceania fare poorly in terms of women’s representation – Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea have under two percent women in their government – but the region also contains New Zealand, one of the strongest countries regarding women's representation globally. New Zealand is the only country in the region with both proportional representation (PR) and gender quotas.  

Across Oceania’s 14 countries – Australia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu – women’s representation varies immensely. These differences show that systems strategies such as proportional representation and gender quotas are not just vital to ensuring women’s equal political representation but are most influential when implemented simultaneously. 

 In short, we find that: 

  1. Countries with proportional voting systems (PR) have the highest levels of women’s representation; PR creates opportunities, removes barriers for women to enter politics, and ensures representation for multiple minority constituencies in the same election. 
  2. Gender quotas are most effective when combined with PR voting systems. Countries that have quotas but use winner-take-all systems have significantly lower levels of women’s representation. New Zealand, which has reached political parity across all levels of government, shows this. 
  3. Strategies that advance women’s representation in the legislature have a ripple effect on other branches of government. Countries that use proportional voting systems, have gender quotas, or combine the two see the highest levels of women’s cabinet representation. This is shown in Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, and Samoa.

Download the Brief 

Brief: Proportional Ranked Choice Voting

RepresentWomen researches and advances the best practices for reaching gender-balanced governance in the U.S. Our research shows that voting systems shape the opportunities women have to run for office and get elected. This brief is part of an ongoing series updating our research on voting systems in the U.S. and the impact different systems have on women’s political representation. Previous installments in this series covered voting systems around the world and the impact of ranked choice voting (RCV) on women’s representation. The following brief covers how proportional ranked choice voting (PRCV) works, the history of PRCV in the United States, the issues with our current plurality/winner-take-all (WTA) system, and why PRCV is the best system to advance women’s political representation in the U.S.


RepresentWomen’s research shows that progress toward political parity is slow and uneven in the United States. Our research also shows that our current WTA voting system is partially to blame for the underrepresentation of women in politics because it rewards gatekeeping behaviors that prevent women from running for office. By removing the barriers women face, system strategies such as PRCV facilitate candidate entry, increase competition, drive deeper candidate-constituent relationships, decrease polarization, and yield more representative outcomes.

Based on the available evidence, we have found that PRCV mitigates the threat of majority tyranny and places power back in the hands of voters, paving the way toward a gender-balanced and representative democracy. 

  • PRCV creates opportunities for women candidates to enter politics by eliminating fears of vote splitting, decreasing campaign costs, reducing incumbency advantage, and encouraging candidate recruitment. 
  • PRCV enables multiple constituencies to elect candidates of choice. Because PRCV elections are multi-winner, multiple interest groups can be represented within the same district, allowing for diverse governing coalitions in terms of gender, race, and ideology. 
  • Women played a critical role in advancing PRCV within the United States. Not only does PRCV have a deep history of use within the United States, but women have been a part of this movement from the beginning. 
  • PRCV resulted in the election of the first women on several city councils, including in Cleveland, OH; New York, NY; Hamilton, OH; and Cambridge, MA. 
  • PRCV is the only form of PR compatible with all United States elections – both partisan and nonpartisan. The majority of local elections are nonpartisan, and PRCV is the only PR system that has been tried in the U.S. 

View the Brief 

Brief: Golden Year Analysis

RepresentWomen is committed to researching and identifying the best practices for increasing women’s representation in politics, drawing from evidence around the world. Part of this work leads us to closely track parliamentary elections and compare the outcomes from year to year. In 2021 and 2022, we identified 44 elections where women achieved record highs for their representation in parliament. The purpose of this analysis is to bring attention to how election rules and voting systems shape opportunities for women to enter politics. 


Between 2021 and 2022, 85 countries held elections for their lower houses of parliament. In 44 of these countries, a record number of women were elected, constituting a “golden year” for women’s political representation in that country. 

Through the use of case studies, the following analysis hones in on the role that systems-level factors, such as election rules and voting systems, play in creating opportunities for more women to be elected worldwide. We found that:

  1. Countries are breaking records for women’s representation each year. Of 85 countries that held elections in 2021 and 2022, 44 broke records for women’s political representation records and achieved “golden years.” 
  2. Not all “record-breaking” progress is significant. While some countries have made considerable gains in women’s representation in a short period, others, including the United States, are making incremental progress.
  3. The countries that have made the most progress adopted gender quotas. Additionally, 65% of countries that attained a golden year have either proportional (PR) or semi-proportional (semi-PR) voting systems. This finding echoes previous research that has established a positive relationship between gender quotas, proportional representation, and women’s representation.
  4. Repealing quotas negatively impacts women’s representation in politics. While the countries that made the greatest progress toward gender balance adopted gender quotas, those that repealed quotas experienced an immediate decline in women’s representation. In addition to reaffirming the impact that quotas have on women’s representation, this finding suggests that quotas alone don’t resolve all barriers to representation. 

Analyzing women’s representation globally shows that many other countries have progressed toward gender balance in politics; learning from these countries and adopting the election rules and voting systems conducive to gender-balanced governance is critical if we are to have full and fair representation in the United States.

View the Analysis 

Brief: Impact Analysis of NYC's Woman Majority Council

In the 2021 ranked choice voting primary elections, women in New York City made history, securing a majority on the city council. Two years later, RepresentWomen sought to uncover the impact of a woman majority council, as well as which barriers persist despite these women being in office.

The questions we sought to answer include:

  1. What are the primary benefits of having a woman majority council? More specifically, who benefits from a woman majority and why?
  2. What challenges and barriers remain, despite a woman majority, and what needs to be done to sustain a gender-balanced council?
  3. Which legislation passed by women in the past session is most notable and why? Does this notable legislation disproportionately impact women?
  4. Why were women essential in getting these issues to the table? Would these issues have been addressed otherwise?

Our research found that a woman of color majority council had a significant impact on both women’s issues, such as maternal health, menstrual equity, childcare access, and reproductive rights, as well as gender-neutral issues, such as ensuring salary transparency, language access and cost-of-living adjustments for all New Yorkers. Having women in leadership positions as well as a built-in majority on the Women’s Caucus were both instrumental in creating this impact. 

In sum, the impact of a woman majority city council includes: 

  1. Women in leadership positions create a ripple effect, enabling women to uplift one another and reducing bias across the council.
  2. Diversity on the council leads to a shift in priorities; Since the majority women of color council better mirrors the demographics of the city, this allows for a wider variety of issues to be brought to the table. 
  3. A larger Women’s Caucus has become more legislatively efficient, particularly regarding reproductive rights and maternal healthcare. With a built-in majority, the women don’t have to fight to explain why these issues are essential. 
  4. Structural barriers persist, impacting the woman council members' day-to-day work. With dated buildings and protocols, women face barriers that are unique and more pervasive than for their men counterparts.

All New Yorkers benefit from a diverse council. The council’s shared lived experiences with their constituents, different legislative perspectives, and representation of their communities make its members prone to collaborate, understand one another, and support each other to serve both their districts and the city as a whole.

Download Analysis

Country Brief: Latin America

Gender quotas have uniquely defined Latin American politics since their conception. In 1991, Argentina became the first country in the world to adopt legislative gender quotas. Soon after, other countries in Latin America and around the world began to do the same. Of the five countries in the world that have achieved gender parity in their legislatures, three are in Latin America. Whether due to the fact that they were among the first to embrace gender quotas or because of other underlying factors, it is clear that the region has many success stories when it comes to women's representation. 

Yet, that is not to say that every country in this region is succeeding at achieving gender-balanced governance. There is great diversity in performance on women's representation in Latin America, which hints that gender quotas, though helpful, may not be the only solution needed to achieve gender parity. 

This brief analyzes trends in Latin America, defined by 19 countries located in Central and South America, to: 

  • Determine what factors support or hinder a country's journey to gender parity.
  • Guide the United States in its own journey to achieve parity. 

Download Country Brief

Country Brief: Arab States

Over half (55%) of Arab states ensure women's representation through gender quotas (mostly reserved seats). Our research indicates that women in countries with gender quotas are better represented by women than they are in countries without quotas. But even in countries that have achieved higher levels of representation, more needs to be done to ensure that women have meaningful opportunities to lead. To learn more about the status of women's representation in Arab states, refer to our full brief. 

Download Country Brief

Country Brief: Post-Soviet States

The Soviet Union, also known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was established in 1922 with 15 republics, making it the largest country in the world- for reference, it was 2.5 times larger than the United States and was one-sixth of Earth’s land surface. On December 26th, 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved, resulting in the creation of 15 new and independent states: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. 

Under the Soviet Union, women’s rights were enshrined by the constitution, which guaranteed equal rights for women in all aspects of life, including the economic, cultural, social, and political spheres. Soviet women were actively involved in the labor force and in domestic affairs- this “double burden” also meant that they experienced time poverty, or a lack of adequate time for leisure and rest. Despite this, Soviet women were still 49% of all local officials and 32% of all federal officials in 1980. However, Soviet women were less likely to be promoted within the government hierarchy, and some women also preferred local politics due to their time poverty, which can explain women’s reduced levels of representation between the local and federal government. Throughout the state’s existence, women’s political representation greatly fluctuated, especially in political party leadership, which is proof of the inadequate implementation of their 30% gender quota.

Why Read This Brief? This brief chooses to analyze these 15 post-Soviet states primarily because their constitutions, political parties, electoral systems, and sociocultural attitudes have all been developed in the last 30 years. Being some of the most newly formed states in the world, these post-Soviet states are still in the process of expanding their legal codes, updating their electoral codes and institutions, and creating mechanisms to monitor the realization of gender equality. Each country in this region has experienced similar and unique barriers in their journey to state development, as well as some resounding successes that other countries should consider implementing within their own governments. Overall, this region is one of the most unique in the world, and there are many successes and challenges which can be identified to enhance our understanding of both the post-Soviet states and governments around the world.

Download Country Brief

Best Practices: For a Gender-Balanced Democracy

RepresentWomen is a nonpartisan, 501c3 non-profit organization committed to strengthening our democracy by advancing reforms that break down barriers to ensure more women can Run, Win, Serve, and Lead. As both candidates and elected officials, women continue to face structural barriers that men simply do not; and these barriers require systemic reforms to level the playing field. "RUN WIN SERVE LEAD: Best Practices for a Gender-Balanced Democracy" highlights the topline findings from our research on the systems-level strategies that accelerate progress toward gender-balanced governance. 

Download Guide

Brief: Seat-by-Seat: Building the Case for a Gender-Balanced Cabinet

A thriving democracy is within our reach, but we must ensure that women across the racial, ideological, and geographic spectrum of the United States have equal opportunities to enter political office so that our nation's rich diversity is reflected in our government. 

This brief will discuss the importance of appointing women to executive cabinets, their historical lack of representation, and the impact these positions have on policymaking. 

Download Brief