Skip navigation

Weekend Reading on Women's Representation October 20th 2023

Dear Readers,

Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep's words remind us about the structural barriers women face in politics and society: 

 “Women have lived in the house of men all their lives. We can speak the language of men. You know how when you learn French, you learn Spanish; it isn’t your language until you dream in it. And the only way to dream in it is to speak it. And women speak Men. But men don’t speak women. They don't dream in it.”

This quote is a reminder that societal and political systems were built by and for men, and women are forced to adapt to them. Instead of focusing only on training women to adapt to the structures meant to exclude them, we should change these structures to be more inclusive.

RepresentWomen dreams of a healthy and inclusive democracy achieved through systemic reform. 

Louisiana’s Statewide Executive Will See More Women in 2024

Last Saturday’s nonpartisan primary elections resulted in several wins for women. The Center for America Women in Politics (CAWP) reported that Louisiana will see its first woman attorney general – who plays a significant role in proposing legislation, representing state agencies, and representing the public in court – and Louisana has a woman candidate for Secretary of State.

Depending on election results within the state legislature and at the local level, Louisiana may move from an “F” grade to a “D” grade in the 2024 Gender Parity Index. In previous indices, Louisiana has earned 0 of 15 points at the state executive level. Assuming women’s representation remains the same at all other levels of government, Louisiana’s score could move from 9.2/100 in 2023 to 12.9/100 points.

In addition to attorney general, other notable wins include: 

  • Women are poised to win two of Louisiana’s seven statewide elective executive offices this year. Currently, no women hold these offices in the state.
  • Based on the nonpartisan primary election results, women are 5 of 40 (12.5%) candidates who have won their election outright or advanced to the November 18th general election for state Senate.
  • Based on the nonpartisan primary election results, women are 31 of 111 (27.9%) candidates who have won their election outright or advanced to the November 18th general election for state House in Louisiana. 

Will Fort Wayne, Indiana, See a Woman-Majority City Council in 2024?

Early voting has officially begun in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and will continue until November 6. As community activists Monica Wehrle and Harriet Miller write in the Journal Gazette, for the first time, a woman-majority is possible. RepresentWomen’s research shows that having a woman-majority city council can lead to a shift in legislative priorities, benefiting not just women but all constituents.

Since 1920, the City of Fort Wayne has had only 10 women ever elected to City Council. Only two ever served at the same time. Seven women are candidates on the ballot this year for City Council, an unprecedented opportunity in our city’s political history…

Women’s perspectives on our City Council will make a difference in how our money is spent. Women’s voices, expertise, and life experiences are truly needed at the table to debate, examine, and decide on the critical issues facing our city…

Imagine all the possibilities: more funding for better transportation services, affordable housing, improved and more accessible child care, sexual assault survivors support, addiction rehabilitation, gender-sensitive criminal justice planning, reduction of hunger and homelessness, improved and expanded sidewalks and curbs throughout all neighborhoods. The list goes on.

It is a tall order, of course. But so was the concept of representative government – democracy! In Fort Wayne, seven women had the vision and the courage to run for a seat on our City Council. Collectively, they bring the perspective of businesswomen, entrepreneurs, educators, social workers, lawyers, community activists, healthcare givers, parents, and much more.

It’s Time to Close the Donor Gap

Another great resource from our allies over at the Center for American Women in Politics was released this week. The Donor Gap: Raising Women’s Political Voices is an excellent interactive data visualization on how campaign finance and gender intersect in politics. Many of the findings reinforce the need for gender-balanced funding for candidates and for intentional action to be taken by PACs and donors to level the electoral playing field. CAWP found that:

  • Women’s voices are underrepresented in American politics because they are underrepresented as donors.
  • Men give a disproportionate amount of all money contributed, with women giving one-third or less of all money contributed to gubernatorial, statewide executive, and state legislative races from 2019 to 2022.
  • “Increasing women’s giving can expand resources for women candidates,” said report author and CAWP Senior Scholar Kira Sanbonmatsu. “While women have outvoted men for decades, voters can’t cast ballots for candidates who lack the resources to run. Enhancing women’s impact as donors can help create a more representative democracy.”
  • This is a matter of urgent potential. Women candidates are formidable fundraisers. But, as women donors are more likely to support women candidates, a key donor block for women in politics is underdeveloped.

Challenges and Milestones: The Complex Journey of Women's Political Representation in the Pacific Region

An analysis from the Australian Institute of International Affairs by Dr. Kerryn Baker and Dr. Theresa Meki finds that progress in women's political representation in the Pacific requires sustained efforts and pressure on male-dominated governments.

November 2022 saw some progress, with at least one woman in every Pacific parliament. However, recent elections in Papua New Guinea and Fiji showed challenges. In Papua New Guinea, only 4% of candidates were women in 2022, and just two women were elected. In Fiji, the 2022 election saw a drop in women members of parliament despite previous high representation. Gender quotas are a potential solution, but face resistance.

RepresentWomen’s research shows that many countries that experienced record-breaking numbers of women elected used gender quotas. If gender parity is to be achieved in our lifetimes, systemic reforms, such as gender quotas, must be implemented.

Independent states in the Pacific region have the lowest levels of women’s political representation in the world. Fewer than seven percent of Pacific politicians are women, compared to 27 percent globally. The absence of women’s voices in political decision-making has been an issue consistently raised in regional forums, although progress has been slow. Yet in November 2022, a milestone was reached: for the first time, there was at least one elected woman in every Pacific parliament...

The wins of Peter and Sawang were impressive personal achievements and testaments to their individual leadership, credibility, and their strategic approach to political campaigning. Yet the fact remains that Papua New Guinea’s electoral space is hostile towards women. The number of women in parliament today is lower than it was 45 years ago, after Papua New Guinea’s first post-independence elections...

In both the Papua New Guinea and Fiji general elections, the proportion of women candidates contesting declined. This is perhaps unsurprising as candidates in successive elections have expressed frustration with the process. In Papua New Guinea, women candidates in both 2017 and 2022 alleged that fraud and manipulation, along with problems with electoral administration, hurt their electoral chances. In Fiji, women candidates across multiple elections have reported vicious online harassment... 

Quotas are just one option in the political toolkit to increase women’s representation, and throughout the region, coalitions like the Fiji Women’s Forum and Papua New Guinea’s “Vote Women for Change” movement are developing innovative and locally-led approaches to tackling the issue.

The End of Jim Crow Era Voting Restrictions May Help Black Voters Elect Mississippi  Democrats

This week, national politics domestic correspondent Nick Corasaniti published a fantastic article for The New York Times about how ending a Jim Crow-era law that stripped convicted felons of voting rights has given Black voters in Mississippi new leverage in the state’s elections. Now, Black Mississippians are throwing their support behind the Democratic candidate in the gubernatorial race, Brandon Presley.

In addition to access to elected and appointed positions, we know that access to the ballot box is a key pillar of a representative government. Check out RepresentWomen’s 2023 Gender Parity Index to see where Mississippi ranks among the 50 American states.

Black leaders and civil rights groups in Mississippi see the Nov. 7 election as a chance for a more level playing field and an opportunity for Black voters to exercise their sway: Roughly 40 percent of voters are Black, a greater share than in any other state.

“This election is going to be one that is historical,” said Charles V. Taylor Jr., the executive director of the Mississippi State Conference of the N.A.A.C.P. “It’d be the first time we don’t have to deal with this Jim Crow-era Electoral College when it comes to the gubernatorial race. And also, we’re at a point in our state where people are fed up and frustrated with what’s currently happening...”

Under the old election law, candidates for statewide office had to win both the popular vote and a majority of State House districts, with maps that were often drawn to pack Black voters together and limit their voting power. The state’s law barring those convicted of certain felonies from voting also disproportionately affected Black voters, disenfranchising one in every six Black adults, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. (The case is currently tied up on appeal, with no future date set by a federal court…)

Mr. Presley’s viability, as well as recent victories in Georgia Senate races and friendly rulings by the Supreme Court, could be paving a path for Black voters to build a stronger voice in the South.

Emerge Releases the Election Video “Women Have the Power”

To highlight the many qualified women running for office this coming election season, our allies at Emerge recently released the video “Women Have The Power.” Emerge is combatting the patriarchy and old boy’s networks that control our politics by recruiting, training, and providing the necessary resources for more Democratic women to successfully run for office and get elected. We are proud to work alongside allies like Emerge to advance a twin-track approach to building women’s political power.

Emerge, the nation’s premier organization that recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office, has over 200 powerhouse women running this fall who are poised to win critical seats. To showcase the many women running, Emerge released the election video “Women Have The Power”.

“With what we have witnessed in the past week, in Congress and abroad, never before has the need for having more women leaders in office been so apparent. Americans understand the need for serious leaders who deliver on the needs of their communities in governing bodies across the country. That’s why our country needs more Democratic women in power – because from school board to Congress, from speakerships to governorships, Democratic women deliver results,” said Emerge President A’shanti F. Gholar. “Emerge is working to recruit and train women to run for office and win at every level of government. We look forward to seeing what these Emerge alums accomplish in office, where they will represent their communities and drive solutions.” 

Stay Tuned for our Women’s Power Collaborative!

Our Women’s Power Collaborative (WPC) is the only national-level body dedicated to achieving a gender-balanced democracy. The WPC will act as a networking, strategizing, and resource-sharing hub that builds women’s political power with our “twin-track” approach, which pairs preparing individual candidates to run for office with systems strategies that remove barriers and create the ecosystem necessary for their success. As the only national-level coordinating body, the Women’s Power Collaborative fills a major gap in the women’s representation space and will facilitate a more transformative and sustainable impact to build women’s political power. We are so excited to announce the launch of our WPC member platform on Thursday, November 16th, from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM EST. Please register here!

The weather in D.C. is finally starting to feel like fall, with temperatures hovering between the 50s and 60s. It’s the perfect time to indulge in seasonal snacks! Rank your favorite fall flavors here.

That’s all for this week, enjoy your weekend!

-The RepresentWomen Team


Exciting news for art enthusiasts in the nation's capital as the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) is set to make a grand return on October 21st, 2023. After an extensive period of renovation, NMWA is gearing up for a spectacular reopening, reaffirming its commitment to showcasing the remarkable achievements of female artists throughout history.

Continue Reading

Read More