Happy Election Week! This past Tuesday, Americans voted in the general election to make their voices heard. RepresentWomen has been monitoring key elections, particularly those that utilize ranked choice voting, all around the country. Although some races have not been called yet, this week has been full of stories of wins and setbacks for women leaders. From political authorities, actors, analysts, and advocates, these stories reflect a week of transformative moments.
St. Paul, Minnesota, Elects Its First Woman-Majority City Council with Ranked Choice Voting
St. Paul, MN, which uses ranked choice voting for local elections, is projected to elect its first woman-majority city council. As of Wednesday, four women won over 50% of votes, already securing a majority given there are seven council seats. Women are in the lead for the remaining three seats; results will be announced Friday. Depending on the results, St. Paul could not only have a majority woman council, but also a majority woman of color council. If you’ve been following RepresentWomen’s work for awhile, this historic victory should come as no surprise as we know ranked choice voting means more women win.
“I’m always in the business of making history,” Anika Bowie, who led in the crowded Ward 1 race, told MinnPost as election results continued to trickle in Tuesday night. “It’ll be amazing to have this slate of women to work alongside.”
Incumbents Rebecca Noecker in Ward 2, Mitra Jilali in Ward 4, and Nelsie Yang in Ward 6 all easily surpassed the 50% threshold of first-choice votes needed to retain their seats, each of them beating their challengers by at least two dozen percentage points.
Hwa Jeong Kim in Ward 5 garnered just under 52% of the ward’s first-choice votes, securing her the victory.
In Ward 3, Saura Jost received 49% of the first-choice votes and released a statement declaring victory early Wednesday.
“I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and work with everyone in the ward to build that future,” Jost said.
Resolving Conflicts Like Shirley Chisholm: Lessons from Brain Science
This week, NPR published a fantastic article by Yuki Noguchi about how understanding brain science can help us to diffuse overheated social discourse stemming from the many conflicts that are currently dividing the world. According to scientists and neurology researcher Olga Klimecki, who studies the intersection of conflict and human behavior, people’s biological capacity for empathy is linked to their social affiliations.
Tim Phillips, a veteran conflict-resolution expert… says when we feel it threatening things we hold dearest — our sacred values — our social identity, or our people. We dig in deeper and become less rational. When fanned or exploited, such sentiments can override our sense of morality and morph into hate and dehumanization, which make atrocities possible.
Defusing an escalating situation…means reflecting your opponent's humanity back to them. A similar approach, he says, can help reduce toxic polarization. It's effective because in the heat of argument, people tend to demonize one another; counteracting that can neutralize assumptions of negative intent.
He cites a lesser-known example from 1972: Shirley Chisholm, the first Black congresswoman in the U.S., was battling for the Democratic presidential nomination with political rival Alabama Governor George Wallace, a fierce segregationist. After he was shot in an attempted assassination, Chisholm visited him in the hospital and prayed at his bedside for his recovery.
"Wallace's daughter later said that that gesture of compassion completely changed her father," Phillips says. Wallace reportedly wept openly and shifted his stance on racial segregation.
Scotland’s Political Parties Fail to Advance Women’s Representation
This past Sunday, The Herald published an article by Andrew Learmonth about Scotland’s persistent failure to tackle gender bias within their political system. Although Scotland’s political parties have promised to advance gender parity in parliament, women’s representation remains staggeringly low. Of all the candidates that have been selected to run in the next general election, only about one-third are women.
As revealed in our Golden Year Analysis, there are several systems-level reforms that have proven to accelerate progress toward gender-balanced governance around the world, including gender quotas and proportional representation systems. Although Scotland has already established a proportional representation (PR) system, PR alone does not guarantee gender balance in office. Scotland must also establish rules around gender-balanced recruitment and candidate funding, or pair its PR system with gender quotas.
Talat Yaqoob, from Women 50:50, said: “It is not enough for any party to simply sign up to support women’s equal representation, they must commit to taking action and delivering it.
“That means taking seriously the reality of sexism and inequality within politics and improving candidate recruitment processes.
“We want to see more women in politics, especially those who remain grossly underrepresented: women of colour, disabled women, and working-class women, but that won’t happen until parties transform their cultures and make it a priority…
A recent report by the Fawcett Society warned that without urgent action, the under-representation of women in politics could be exacerbated.
When Women Lead: Fran Drescher’s Strategic Leadership Ends 118-Day SAG-AFTRA Strike with Historic Three-Year Deal
After 118 days on strike, SAG-AFTRA has reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract with studios, signaling the end of the 2023 actors' strike. The deal, valued at over $1 billion, includes pay increases, a "streaming participation bonus," regulations on AI, higher caps on health and pension funds, compensation bumps for background performers, and provisions protecting diverse communities. The union's national board will vote on Friday for final approval.
This victory would not have been possible without the leadership of union president Fran Drescher, whose thoughtful strategy helped bring about historic change. In an article for The Hollywood Reporter, Rebecca Keegan and Katie Kilkenny outline the union president’s unique approach to leadership and advocacy.
Presiding over a sprawling union that has in the past been riven by political division, Drescher has adopted a modus operandi during the 2023 negotiations centered on building consensus. The SAG president refers to patience and listening as her “secret sauce,” an approach that has both helped unify the diverse group and seemingly drawn out its deliberations.
Drescher extended the guild’s “wages and working conditions” plenary committee process, where union leaders meet after gathering input from rank-and-file members (which can take months) before negotiations. This collating of information grew from one and a half or two days to seven days, with each session running eight to 12 hours.
“Fran saw that people were chomping at the bit to make sure their thing was heard, and she just slowed it all down and she kept extending it and extending it,” says negotiating committee member Sean Astin. Adds fellow committee member Shaan Sharma of her leadership in the negotiating committee, “What Fran has had to do is manage personalities. Her leadership style is more about making sure that everybody gets a chance to speak. She’s been incredibly effective in making sure everybody feels like they matter.”
She Should Run’s New Multiplier Report and Roadmap
Organizations like She Should Run are a critical component of RepresentWomen’s twin-track approach, which emphasizes the collaboration between pipeline organizations dedicated to supporting women as they run for office with systems-level reforms and strategies that break down structural barriers to running and winning elections.
This week, She Should Run released their latest report entitled The State of Women: 2023 Multiplier Report and Roadmap. This report highlights some of the key factors needed in order for women to consider running for office:
The State of Women: 2023 Multiplier Report and Roadmap outlines the critical need to meet women where they really are, in communities and workplaces across our nation, and the four steps we must take to see more women running in future elections.
- Make it obvious and commonplace: Persistently deliver our message to women with vast leadership potential who are overlooked in traditional political recruitment.
- Make it easy and approachable: Dismantle perceptions around what it takes to become an elected official by offering honest resources and simple steps that allow a woman to dip her toe in the water.
- Make it relatable and compelling: Provide a wide range of resources that adapt to the interests and needs of women, focusing on their leadership development rather than candidate training.
- Make it inspiring and infectious: Mobilize passionate leaders to multiply the number of women considering elected office through honest, open connections.
Curious how you voted on last week’s ranked poll?
Last week, we asked readers to rank their favorite ways to stay warm during the colder months, and the winner was sitting by the fireplace! Keep voting every week to familiarize yourself with RCV!
That’s all for this week. Have a wonderful weekend!
-The RepresentWomen Team
Next week, RepresentWomen will be launching our Women’s Power Collaborative! The Women's Power Collaborative (WPC) is the only nationwide organization committed to realizing gender equity in the realm of politics. The WPC serves as a central platform for networking, devising strategies, and sharing resources, all designed to enhance women's political power. Be a part of this movement, join us at 4 pm EST on November 16th, 2023. Register here!