Weekend Reading on Women's Representation April 2, 2021

By Maura Reilly on April 02, 2021

Dear gender equality fans, 


I’m sure you all saw the amazing headline in the Washington Post about how women’s equality and domination has been achieved.

 No? How about that piece in Mr. Magazine? How odd.

I’m sure you’ve guessed this is just an elaborate ruse thought up by the RepresentWomen team to celebrate April 1st and of course use sarcasm to make a fairly salient point. 

April Fools day provides a great opportunity to lighten the mood on the serious and often daunting obstacles we face in achieving gender balance in U.S. politics and eventually gender equality. And if these fake headlines we’ve created startled you, good. It should be startling to think a single gender or demographic group could take over all levers of power. But, every headline we share in this Weekend Reading should be jarring, as every headline we highlight points to the continued underrepresentation and disenfranchisement of women and the overrepresentation of white men.

 

On that happy note, let’s get down to the real headlines that caught my attention this week. 

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The World Economic Forum released its annual Global Gender Gap Report. The report takes into account the recent setbacks women have faced globally with the onset of the pandemic and has found the time it will take for the world to close the global gender gap has risen from the 99.5 years, calculated in 2020, to 135.6 years. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the many obstacles women face in politics, the Political Empowerment gap remains the largest of the four gaps tracked: 

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised new barriers to building inclusive and prosperous economies and societies. Pre-existing gender gaps have amplified the crisis asymmetrically between men and women, even as women have been at the frontlines of managing the crisis as essential workers. The hardest hit sectors by lockdowns and rapid digitalization are those where women are more frequently employed. Combined with the additional pressures of providing care in the home, the crisis has halted progress toward gender parity in several economies and industries.

Gender-sensitive recovery strategies will be critical in making up ground lost during 2020 to prevent long-term scarring in the labour market. Leaders have an unprecedented opportunity to build more resilient and gender-equal economies by investing in inclusive workplaces, creating more equitable care systems, advancing women’s rise to leadership positions, applying a gender lens to reskilling and redeployment and embedding gender parity into the future of work.


Rep. Katie Porter and Rep. Rashida Tlaib confer, image from CNBC

This week President Biden rolled out a two trillion dollar infrastructure plan designed to rebuild the economy following the year-long downturn which accompanied the pandemic. The plan includes money for clean energy, research and jobs to mitigate climate change, and updating the electric grid. Although expansive, the proposed legislation includes little money for the care economy largely held up by women. In response, many women lawmakers and activists  are advocating for the inclusion of permanent federal legislation on child care, parental leave and child tax credits: 

The White House economic team is still working on the second infrastructure plan, focused on investments in health care and child care and plans to roll out that proposal sometime in April. The plan focused on infrastructure and manufacturing will be unveiled Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

The Covid bill did make progress on some caregiving policy goals, but the measures were not designed to last beyond the crisis period.

“There were clear provisions speaking to the longstanding inequities in the system,” said Nicole Bateman senior research analyst at the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, specifically, she added, for women and people of color. “That is a major win, but temporary.” 

The $40 billion in additional funding for child care was a key part of Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid plan as policymakers look to keep the momentum going. Lack of access to affordable child care is a major barrier for women, and it reduces participation by women in the labor force.

Rep. Porter has been vocal on the issue of making childcare more affordable, recently reintroducing the Family Savings for Kids and Seniors Act, which would more than double the amount that families can set aside pre-tax for dependent care. The amount has not been changed since Ronald Reagan enacted the law in 1986, even as the cost of child care has gone up by several hundred percent.


Source: GLAAD

 

This week, Women’s History Month was concluded with Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31st. Raquel Willis, a trans rights activist, and GLAAD invited feminist leaders to sign an open letter committing their support to intersectional feminism and declaring solidarity with trans women and girls. With the recent uptick in discriminatory laws across the country, it is especially important to highlight and remember that as always diversity of the feminist movement is our strength:

We acknowledge with clarity and strength that transgender women are women and that transgender girls are girls. And we believe that honoring the diversity of women’s experiences is a strength, not a detriment to the feminist cause. All of us deserve the same access, freedoms, and opportunities. We deserve equal access to education, employment, healthcare, housing, recreation, and public accommodations. And we must respect each person’s right to bodily autonomy and self-determination.

It is time for the long history of assaults (legislative, physical, social, and verbal) against trans women and girls to end. For far too long, lawmakers have worked to strip trans women of their civil liberties—in 2021, once again, we’ve seen a wave of bigoted governmental policies and legislation. Many of these laws target the rights of girls to play school sports or criminalize doctors for treating trans youth and their families. The women's movement has seen doctors targeted before for providing us with necessary medical care and services, and we refuse to let youth endure that now. Plus, we know that anti-trans sports bans are as unnecessary as they are harmful—and that women athletes at both the professional and college levels support inclusion.

These bigoted efforts are also aided by a contingent of self-identified feminists, who have been promoting damaging and violent ideas about trans people for years in the United States and internationally. Their vitriol is, in fact, not feminist at all. True feminists do not wish to limit any woman’s identity or freedom to fully be herself. Allowing transphobic rhetoric to go unchecked also strengthens the legislative efforts of anti-trans politicians—who now cloak their bigotry in language about protecting or supporting women.


Representative Sharice Davids released news about an upcoming autobiographical children’s book this week, entitled “Sharice’s Big Voice: A Native Kid Becomes a Congresswoman.” With less than one percent of children’s books featuring Native American or indigenous characters, Rep. Davids is helping to correct this dearth of diversity and give Native children a role model that looks like them. Davids said of the book:

“I think that for any Native or indigenous children or First Nations children who read the book, I just hope that they in some ways see themselves,” Davids said. 

“I hope any kid who gets a chance to read the book will see that all of our paths are different.” 

Davids said she prioritized finding an indigenous artist for the book. Illustrator Joshua Mangeshig Pawis-Steckley is an Ojibwe Woodlands artist and member of Wasauksing First Nation in Canada.


Our very own communications intern, Angie Gomez wrote a wonderful blog on the transformative power ranked choice voting could have on the two-party loop in Puerto Rican politics: 

Since the first local elections in 1948, politics in Puerto Rico have long been defined by two political parties, the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) and the New Progressive Party (PNP), with smaller, third parties being largely locked out of leadership positions. In total, 13 governors have led the island, and all have come from either the PPD or PNP. Six governors have been elected from the PPD, including the first woman to hold the position, Sila María Calderón. From the PNP, six have also been elected but after former governor Ricardo Rosselló resigned in 2019, Wanda Vázquez assumed the office and became the first woman governor from the PNP. 

In recent years, the growing partisan tensions between the PPD and PNP have become impossible to ignore. Despite the current economic crisis, which governance from both parties have contributed to, when it comes to election season red is red and blue is blue. Implementing ranked choice voting (RCV) as the electoral system would not only encourage healthy competition between all parties, but it could also help ease tension among supporters as candidates look for common ground rather than focus on divisive appeals. 

 Along with more positive and issue-focused campaigns, implementing RCV in Puerto Rico would give third party and independent candidates a better chance at being elected. Popular support for third party candidates has grown in recent election cycles and can be built upon with RCV. Despite constant scrutiny and blatant misogyny, independent candidate for governor Alexandra Lúgaro made history by obtaining 11.12% of the votes in 2016 and once again in 2020 as the Citizens’ Victory Movement (MVC) candidate with 14.21%.  Juan Dalmau from the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) brought in historic numbers for the party as he came in 4th with 13.72% of the votes in 2020 and passed the 100,000 mark. This increase in vote share is made even more stark when compared to Dalmau’s run in 2012, in which he won only 2.52% of the votes. 


Our friends at FairVote Minnesota are hosting a wonderful event on April 6th focusing on the role women are playing in strengthening our democratic institutions. The panel will feature Professor Danielle Allen, State Senator Melissa Franzen, and State Representative Kelly Morrison. You can register for the event here

As usual, the whole RepresentWomen team has been hard at work conducting informative research and creating great content to highlight what we learn. This week, Kaycie and her multi-media interns finalized the Women SERVE video, which is a must-see (especially if you have a WandaVision shaped hole in your heart). 

This is typically where Cynthia shares some beautiful photos of what she has been growing in her garden, but I seem to have whatever the opposite of a green thumb is, so I have included some pictures of my cat, “Brother” instead: 


Brother loves belly rubs, sitting at the table like a human, and hates when we pay attention to puzzles rather than him. But most of all he is a great feminist ally and is happy to help the cause so long as there are plenty of treats in compensation for his support. 


Best, 

Maura