Skip navigation

Weekend Reading on Women's Representation April 29, 2016


Dear women's representation enthusiasts,

There were several article on the results of the primaries held this week. One from the Baltimore Sun entitled As Barbara Mikulski makes way, Democratic women suffer election losses - this piece and others are a reminder that if we are to win gender parity in our lifetimes we must pursue strategies that are based on institutional change. These recruitment rules and voting system changes have made the difference for women in the 94 countries that rank above the US in women's representation.

In presidential election news, Ted Cruz picked Carly Fiorina this week as his running mate - it will of course be interesting to see whom the front runner for the republican nomination selects as his running mate.

Hillary Clinton earned coverage this week by pledging to nominate a gender balanced cabinet and suggesting that she might choose a woman as her running mate. While there has been the inevitable push back to an all women ticket there have been some very funny commentaries about the history of men choosing men for much of our nation's history.

There have been many stories about Trump's allegation that Clinton is playing the 'women's card' and numerous renditions of an actual 'women's card' - this segment from CNN is one take on the kerfluffle.

There were some interesting stories on how electing more women is good for democracy - here is one The Seattle PI, on combating sexism in Cosmopolitan, and on how term limits have failed as a strategy to elect more women in Governing.

A new book on gender quotas in Mexico looks like a very good read - check out Cambridge University Press for more details.

Gender quotas in Kenya were debated again this week in the National assembly - the The Star has a very good piece - here is an excerpt that gets to the heart of gender quotas and the obstacle of winner-takes-all which the United States shares with Kenya and other former colonies of Britain.
The gender principle in political representation is meant to ensure equity between the two genders. No gender should be more than two thirds of those in elective and appointive public positions. The world over, there are three types of gender representation that have been tested and tried.

They include descriptive, substantive and symbolic representation.

Descriptive representation is something like what we are trying to achieve – to have as many women as are needed to achieve what Article 81 of the constitution requires. In substantive representation, the quality, performance and effectiveness of representation come into play as opposed to the merely descriptive.

It is also important to note that the entry point to descriptive representation is a third, or what is called the critical mass, or 33.33 per cent. This critical mass helps to build role models that also add a critical voice. Until we transit through descriptive representation, we cannot say we have the quality of women to provide proper representation, oversight, legislation and budget making.
In attaining the gender rule, countries like India, Norway, Sweden, South Africa and neighbouring countries like Uganda and Rwanda, have done better. Rwanda has more than 60 per cent women’s representation and Uganda an equally good number. In Kenya, this has been impacted by a rigid electoral system – the first past the post or the winner-takes-it-all factor. 

Finally, this video from Cokie Roberts on the women-on-currency-conversation is well worth watching. 

And don;t forget to tune into to PBS's To The Contrary for diverse perspectives and commentary on the issues of the week!

Onward toward parity,


P.S. Today marks the last day of classes for my youngest daughter who is graduating from high school this year and my oldest daughter who is graduating from college next week - she posed with her dolls a few years ago during another election season!

Continue Reading

Read More