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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation April 19th, 2024

Dear Readers,

Earth Day is just around the corner! It's a time to celebrate our planet, reflect on how we can be better stewards, and build a future for our children and their children. While I fight for systemic change, my garden serves as a refuge. Here, I find solace in the beauty of nature and recharge from my work.

This week, our sister organization, All In Together, celebrated a remarkable decade of service in the movement for change. I'm so inspired by their work! They also hosted their 5th annual Black Women Lead event, which powerfully highlighted and celebrated the achievements of phenomenal Black women leaders. Powerhouses like Stacey Abrams, Joy Reid, Symone Sanders-Townsend, Maya Wiley, Glynda Carr, Angela Alsobrooks, and many more shared their experiences and expertise on the panels.

Pictured with former member of Congress Barbara Comstock, AIT’s Development Director Nicole Bailey, and RepresentWomen’s Communications Director Ashley Thurston

This week, delve into FairVote Washington’s efforts to champion voter access, discover a new documentary highlighting young women empowered within our political system, celebrate the historic viewership of the women’s NCAA championship game, and explore initiatives taken by some states to address disparities in maternal health for Black women.

FairVote Washington Advocates for Voter Access Amidst Secretary of State's Controversial Remarks, Undermining Democracy

Credit: Ellie M. Banner

Our ally at FairVote Washington, Lisa Ayrault, wrote an article for the Seattle Times expressing dismay at Secretary of State Steve Hobbs' comments regarding voter turnout in Washington State and advocated for increasing voter access and participation. Hobbs' disposition undermines efforts to enhance democracy. Learn more ways to improve our democracy on our website.

As democracy advocates who work to increase voter access and participation throughout Washington, we are dismayed by comments put forward by Secretary of State Steve Hobbs. In 2023, just 36% of those registered voted in the general election. Local jurisdictions must have more options to increase voter turnout.

It is maddening that the state’s top election official ignores research supporting the efficacy of RCV and even-year voting. The secretary is entitled to his opinion, but it is not based on facts.

We believe that democracy works best when every possible eligible voter votes and when as many communities as possible are represented in public office. Two things have been shown to help reach those goals: 1) even-year voting and 2) ranked-choice voting.

Documentary 'Girls State' Sparks Conversation on Teenage Girls' Role in Politics and Systemic Disparities

Credit: Apple

A new documentary illustrates the influence of  young women in building political power. Girls State explores the impact of teenage girls running a government, offering insight into bridging polarized US politics. It follows 500 girls navigating political positions, grappling with power dynamics and societal norms. Addressing issues like abortion and representation, the documentary illuminates systemic disparities and the girls' determination for change.

The documentary's findings resonate with our  research, affirming that women's issues receive greater attention when women hold positions of power.

Anthony Frajmam for the BBC reports:

In Girls State, 500 teenage girls vie for positions including Governor and seats on the Supreme Court. As they begin to set out their political beliefs and ambitions, the participants grapple with the responsibilities and moral questions that come with wielding political power – as well as coming face-to-face with the limits of political power and the ingrained social structures that dictate those powers.

Another major issue Girls State tackles is the lack of female representation in the US government, a problem several participants criticised, and which is illustrated at the start of the film. Photos of the US Congress from 100 years ago, with a single woman surrounded by males, are juxtaposed with eerily similar pictures from subsequent decades, through to 2020, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump are seen in the Cabinet Room, amidst a sea of men.

According to the Pew Research Centre, in 2023, women made up 29.9% of US state Senate seats and 33.7% of state House or Assembly seats, placing the US 71st in the world for female representation in national parliaments for February 2024. It's a problem not lost on Girls State participants. Though topics like abortion, gun violence, and climate change are discussed, the documentary includes complaints from the girls that in the early parts of the programme, there is more emphasis on the girls supporting each other rather than discussing issues and allowing serious and substantive political debates – which is not the case for the boys. The girls "want to have their voices heard," says McBaine.

Record-breaking Women's NCAA Championship Viewership Signals Cultural Shift in Sports and Society

 Basketball Player Caitlin Clark. Credit: Cliff Jette

This past Monday,  the WNBA draft, and women’s basketball finally received the appreciation it deserves. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) witnessed unprecedented viewership and attendance for women's basketball, surpassing men's ratings for the first time in history. An article by Errin Haines for the 19th draws parallels between the rise of women in sports and in politics. Despite progress (in both fields), challenges remain, with criticisms often riddled with racism and misogyny. The article calls for increased investment and support for women’s participation in democracy, recognizing its potential to impact society as a whole.

In her Saturday Night Live appearance, Caitlin Clark addressed Michael Che’s misogynistic jokes and acknowledged the trailblazing women who preceded her success.

“I think for a lot of people, it’s uncomfortable to see women in these positions. … They’re not doing anything that we don’t celebrate men for,” Hill told me for the latest episode of the Amendment podcast. When men talk trash and are demonstrative, she said, they get celebrated. “It’s funny. It becomes a meme.”

After losing in the Final Four, Reese talked about her experience in an emotional press conference and days later announced in a Vogue photo shoot that she would enter the 2024 WNBA draft. Reese is a sign of the sport’s growing popularity, with NIL deals that put her in the top 10 earners of all college athletes.

It’s a moment made possible because of years of struggle and sacrifice that happened far from the spotlight by women and other supporters of the game, both on and off the court. 

Imagine the same investment for women’s participation in our democracy, from donors, political parties and voters. Where would our politics be at the end of an election season? Championing women in a way that allows them to compete fairly is a win for society.

States are Addressing Implicit Bias to Combat the Racial Maternity Health Gap

Credit: Courtesy of Kenda Sutton-El/Birth in Color.

This past week, April 11th through 17th, was Black Maternal Health Week, a time to raise awareness about the disproportionate impact of pregnancy-related deaths on Black women in the United States. Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. There has been increased attention on this issue and the need to address the systemic racial bias and inequities in the healthcare system that contribute to these disparities.

California, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, and New Jersey have passed laws mandating implicit bias training for maternal health care providers. This is a step in the right direction. However, some individuals question its effectiveness since it is believed that implicit bias is rooted in a more significant problem: structural racism. Nonetheless, getting states to mandate training that sheds light on implicit bias that affects women of color requires leadership that cares to highlight this issue. Having women, especially women of color, who know too well how this problem affects them is essential in leadership. 

RepresentWomen’s brief, Breaking Barriers for Black Women Candidates, addresses the issues and provides potential solutions to get black women represented so issues like implicit bias in maternal healthcare can be addressed nationwide. 

Nada Hassanein from the Minnesota Reformer reports:

“The biggest thing is that they’re not being listened to,” said Sutton-El, founder of Birth in Color, a nonprofit that offers doula services to expecting Virginians. Doulas support and advocate for pregnant patients. “They’re being dismissed or [clinicians] act as if the pain isn’t there, or act as if the issue is normal when it’s not.”

Since 2019, at least five states (California, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, and New Jersey) have enacted laws mandating implicit bias training for maternal health care providers, according to Stateline research and an analysis by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. Lawmakers in at least 20 other states have introduced legislation related to implicit bias training for general healthcare professionals.

Sutton-El argues that the training can make a huge difference. She said that one white doctor who completed the training recently told her how it had influenced his treatment of a Black patient. She recalled him telling her: “I had your voice in my head that said, ‘Follow the patient down the rabbit hole because you’ll find out what’s the real issue.’”

“The ultimate problem with that is that it is barely the surface,” Amadou said. “If they’re not working with [Black maternal health] pioneers who are rooted in this work to help them restructure, then the ‘click-and-go’ implicit bias training will not hold any weight at all.”

Because racism isn’t just an individual problem but a systemic one, Green said, institutions must combat bias at the organizational level. If done incorrectly, it can induce anger in white employees and exacerbate inequities, she said.

Hardeman’s courses include patient anecdotes that illustrate bias and strategies for curbing assumptions and practicing more empathy. The courses also include a history of racism in medicine, such as the gynecological experiments by J. Marion Sims, often called the father of modern gynecology, on Black enslaved people.

Save the Date! Breaking Barriers for Black Women Candidates: A Virtual Roundtable

RepresentWomen recently released our comprehensive brief,  "Breaking Barriers for Black Women Candidates," which explores the challenges Black women face in running for office and proposes solutions for a more equitable playing field.

As we approach the general election, it’s critical we have a candid conversation about the changes necessary to achieve gender balance and fair racial representation..

To celebrate the release and elevate this crucial topic, we're hosting a virtual roundtable discussion featuring Black women elected officials, advocates, and thought leaders as they share the often-overlooked barriers Black women encounter when pursuing political careers.

Mark your calendars for this event and stay tuned for details.

Who’s Your Favorite Women Artist?

This Sunday, the National Museum for Women in the Arts introduced a new exhibition titled “New Worlds: Women to Watch 2024.” This exhibition will display the works of new visionary artists. For this week’s poll, let us know your favorite women artist in history through this ranked choice voting poll!

That's all for this week. Have a terrific weekend!

-Cynthia Richie Terrell


Latinas Represent is a non-partisan national organization working to get more Latina women from all walks of life into public office by transforming our democracy. As a powerhouse organization and a beloved partner of RepresentWomen, we would like to share a meaningful event they will host on Wednesday, April 24th, at 8 PM EST. 

They have partnered with World Channel to bring you a Screening Conversation: Running with My Girls. Join the webinar to listen to the conversation between the film director, Rebekah Henderson, and the women featured, Candi CdeBaca, Veronica Barela, and Lisa Calderón!


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