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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation April 19, 2019


‘Women, don’t be afraid to participate in politics!’ Activists and politicians mark International Women’s Day in Banda Aceh in March. Photo by Irwansyah Putra for Antara.

Dear friends,
There was a fascinating story on women's representation in Indonesia from the University of Melbourne's Policy in Focus - it's a long piece and very worth reading. Here is an excerpt:

Indonesia first introduced affirmative action for gender justice through Law 31 of 2002 on Political Parties, which required political parties to “consider gender equality and equity” in the recruitment of legislative candidates and in political party structures from the national to the local level. After two rounds of revisions, in 2008 and 2011, the phrase “consider gender equality and equity” was strengthened to “include 30 per cent representation by women”.

While there were no sanctions for parties that ignored the 30 per cent rule, women’s representation in political party structures increased from 2003 to 2014, according to analysis by Cakra Wikara Indonesia (link is external) (CWI). In 2014, two political parties even exceeded the 30 per cent threshold in their organisational structures: the Democratic Party and Hanura.


There was also a very interesting story on the ongoing election process in India from Deutsche Welle - I am looking forward to spending a few weeks in India this summer meeting with women's representation experts:

Around 625 million women make up nearly 50% of India's 1.35 billion population; however, female participation in politics and other aspects of social life remains underwhelming.

Despite women's underrepresentation in politics, some of them have held high positions in government. For instance, former PM Indira Gandhi had two stints in power — from 1966 to 1977 and again from 1980 until her assassination in 1984.

Currently, India's foreign and defense ministers are women. Sonia Gandhi, an opposition politician, is a powerful figure in Indian politics. She was featured in Forbes list of the world's most powerful women.


There was a very interesting story in the Denver Magazine about the impact that women legislators are having on policy outcomes in Colorado:

After winning historic representation in the Colorado legislature in 2018, women legislators brought their lived experiences as workers, business owners, mothers, and caregivers to the state Capitol. Now, these lawmakers are sponsoring a collection of bills that address how gender inequities in the workforce impact women over the course of their careers. “Women being around the table changes the conversation,” says Sen. Kerry Donovan (D-Vail). “If your elected body does not represent the same mix as the state, then you are not exactly hitting the mark of representational government.”

The path to parity is complicated, in part because of how many factors contribute to intersecting gender and race inequities. and because of how those inequities compound over the course of women’s lives. “The way forward is addressing as many of these complex and interconnected issues as possible,” says Louise Myrland, vice president of programs for the Women’s Foundation of Colorado


(Frances Perkins, the first woman Cabinet member stands by as President Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935)

According to this story from Politico there are just three women in the United States Cabinet:

AND THEN THERE WERE THREE. This week, Kirstjen Nielsen stepped down as secretary of homeland security — President Donald Trump reportedly blamed her for the surge in migrants crossing the southern border. This leaves just three women with cabinet level jobs in the Trump administration — Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, Education Secretary Betsy Devos and CIA chief Gina Haspel.

This is the lowest number in decades. The last time only three women served concurrently in cabinet-level positions was under President George H.W. Bush. Bill Clinton holds the record high, with nine women serving concurrently in cabinet-level positions at one point during his second term. (Barack Obama holds the record for total female appointees: 10.) Women have never achieved gender parity at the top level of the executive branch. See the data here

The first woman in any president’s cabinet was Frances Perkins, who was appointed by FDR and became the longest-serving labor secretary in history. Perkins was a key architect of the New Deal, and made the cover of Time in 1933.


There was a terrific piece by Joe Mathews in the San Francisco Chronicle about legal strategies to win gender in California:

While California faces many hard-to-solve challenges, achieving true parity between women and men among our government representatives doesn’t have to be that difficult.

It certainly shouldn’t require a dramatic gesture like the mayor’s appointments. In a state that prides itself on being progressive, such parity can and should be automatic, a legal requirement that is baked into our governing systems. And what better time than now — with the country celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in 2020 — to make it so?

The approach would be simple: a 50-50 mandate for government boards or commissions. And gender parity should also apply to elected bodies. Here’s the good news: The changes necessary to produce a 50-50 male-female split among electeds would make California more democratic in ways that go well beyond gender balance.

In other democracies, equity in elected representation starts with adopting the election system known as proportional representation. That means people vote for party slates of candidates in districts with multiple elected representatives. Parties get a number of representatives based on their percentage of the vote.

Party slates make gender parity straightforward. To achieve equal representation, parties are either legally required or incentivized to offer slates with equal numbers of men and women. Eight European countries, have adopted such requirements. And they work: Parity in candidates creates parity in officeholders...

By this point, readers may be screaming: You’re talking about quotas! Yes, but our existing system keeps producing male-dominated government bodies, including our Legislature (70 percent male) and the Los Angeles City Council (13 of 15 members are men). Second, gender quotas work elsewhere in California. A 2018 state law requires every public company in California to have at least one female board member by the end of this year. In 2021, the requirement rises to three female board members.

Critics of that law, and of proposals like mine, claim that such ideas violate the state Constitution’s prohibitions against discrimination. Fine. Let the critics argue in court that policies of equal representation somehow violate principles of equality. And if they find judges foolish enough to agree, Californians can use the ballot initiative to change the Constitution to mandate gender parity.

Indeed, there would be gender justice in amending our famously dysfunctional Constitution — or even rewriting it. California’s Constitution was framed in an 1879 convention that included 152 delegates, all men.

A modern convention, where half the delegates are women, could surely do better.


The Journal Record had quite an interesting piece by Kendra Norman on gender parity in corporate board rooms:

A 2016 Catalyst report found that in the U.S., women made up only 21.2% of the S&P 500 board seats.

A recent push for diversity on corporate boards of directors may change the gender lines of corporate culture. For example, California is the first state to statutorily require female representation on boards of directors.

In 2018, roughly 25% of California-based companies had no female directors on their board. In October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law requiring all public companies having principal executive offices in the state to have at least one woman on the board by the end of 2019. By the end of 2021, any California public company with five directors must have a minimum of two female directors, and those with six or more directors must include at least three women. The law imposes a $100,000 fine for a first-time violation and a $300,000 fine for subsequent violations.


And finally, exciting news this week from St Louis! According to this story in the St Louis American the city now has gender parity among the Alderman - perhaps the first order of business is renaming the position?!

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen made history on a few fronts this week. And the EYE agrees with Alderwoman Sharon Tyus, D-1st Ward, that the good news should be told first: for the first time, there are 14 alderwomen and 14 aldermen on the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.

“I don’t want to highlight the missteps,” Tyus said. “I want to highlight that as women, we’ve taken our rightful positions of power.”

On Tuesday, April 16, Shameem Clark Hubbard became the 14th woman on the board, when she was sworn in as the new 26th Ward alderwoman. The other newly elected aldermen sworn in on Tuesday were Bret Narayan, who will take Scott Ogilvie’s 24th Ward seat, and Jesse Todd, who will replace longtime alderman Terry Kennedy in the 18th Ward.

Here's to more news like this in the months and years to come!



P.S. If you are a Game of Thrones fan you might like FairVote's poll to choose the winner of the Iron Throne- I am rooting for a woman to win - you can vote here!!



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