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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation August 10, 2018


Dear all,

Once again I am racing out the door - this time to a Rank Your Favorite Beer event nearby which should be fun! Ranked choice voting advocates have been introducing voters to ranked ballots with events like this across the country! Pie tastings work nicely too! The Boston Globe wrote a terrific editorial in favor of ranked choice voting this week - fueling even greater momentum for this reform that elects more women to office and is far more democratic than limiting all races to two candidates - which seems to be the other option if we care about majority rule, and I believe we are a group who cares about majority rule in all senses of the phrase!

Courage to Run 5k: September 16, 2018

We are excited to be partnering with a number of our allies for the Courage to Run 5K on September 16!  If you'd like to join the super fun RepresentWomen team please register by August 20th - you can use promo code 'CTRCHAMP' - type in RepresentWomen from the Select Team page. Or, plan a virtual run in your city. While this is just a 5K, democracy is a marathon. Now, more than ever, women are lacing up and getting in the race. Join the movement of political players and civic leaders with the Courage to Run!

Read this great piece by Karen Beckwith and Susan Franceschet:

Flora Stone Mather Professor and Chair, Department of Political Science, Case Western Reserve University
Professor of Political Science, University of Calgary

In 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau filled Canada’s first cabinet with appointments equally distributed between women and men. “It’s 2015” was Trudeau’s explanation for such gender parity – not surprisingly, as Canada joined Chile, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and several other countries that had already constructed such governing cabinets, in some cases more than once. Less common are cabinets with a majority of women, although Finland, Costa Rica, and Sweden have all had at least one. In June 2018, Spain got its second female-majority cabinet, and the world reached a historic milestone given that its cabinet had a super-majority of women, 11 of 17, including those in the powerful posts of Finance, Justice, and Defense. Spain’s example offers important insights about the gendered process of cabinet appointments. Our research reported in Cabinets, Ministers, and Gender explains how gains occur and how progress for women is sustained over time.

Gains are Cumulative and Rarely Reversed

We analyze women’s cabinet appointments in seven presidential and parliamentary democracies – Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and arrive at some arresting findings:

  • Increases in the numbers of women in cabinets are often large and cumulative, while decreases in such appointments are relatively minimal and rare. In 1984, for example, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney quadrupled the previous record number of women in the Canadian cabinet, appointing four female ministers. Prior to Prime Minister Tony Blair’s election in 1997, no British cabinet had ever had more than two female ministers, but his initial cabinet included five women. In 2000, the number of women in the Chilean cabinet nearly doubled, from three in 1994 to five, and by 2006, Chile had its first gender parity cabinet.
  • Because leaders who take bold steps in increasing women’s representation are praised and not punished for doing so, subsequent leaders have incentives to follow suit. In at least three cases, gender parity cabinets appear to be the new normal. France, Spain, and Sweden have all had successive gender-parity cabinets, across different presidents and prime ministers. And in France and Sweden, parity persisted across different political parties. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy, of the center-right Union for a Popular Movement, appointed seven women to his 15-member cabinet in 2007. His successor, Socialist François Hollande, appointed 17 women to his 34-member cabinet; and current President Emmanuel Macron, having promised to do the same, appointed 11 women and 11 men. The three presidents come from different political parties, suggesting that gender equality in cabinet formation has become an established norm in France.
  • Gender parity cabinets raise the bar for the next government. For example, Chile’s first female president, Michelle Bachelet, appointed an equal number of male and female ministers in 2006 and, in 2011, her successor, Sebastián Piñera, appointed a cabinet with almost one-third female ministers (six of 22). Short of parity, a cabinet in which women constitute 30 percent of all ministers is nonetheless impressive, far higher than the global average of 18 percent of government ministers. Although we do find some cases where leaders appoint fewer women than their predecessors, the declines are modest. We find no evidence that leaders are sanctioned or punished electorally for increasing women’s cabinet representation. On the contrary, leaders who fail to meet their country’s standard for women’s cabinet inclusion face substantial negative press.

The Concrete Floor for Cabinets – and Its Broader Implications

We coin the term “concrete floor” to capture the phenomenon whereby gains in women’s cabinet appointments are locked in, increase over time, and are not significantly reversed. The concrete floor identifies the minimal threshold of women’s inclusion for a cabinet to be perceived as politically legitimate. For each country we studied, such legitimacy is satisfied when the president or prime minister takes into account criteria ranging from gender, to region, to race and ethnicity – criteria that all leaders, regardless of party, must include in their ministerial teams.

Representational criteria vary. In Canada, Germany, and Spain, prime ministers must ensure regional representation when selecting ministers, but this is not the case in Chile or the United States. In Canada and the United States, an all-white cabinet is virtually unthinkable, but in Germany and Spain, cabinets lacking in racial diversity appear to be entirely acceptable. Only one criterion appears across all cases: women must be included. Among our cases, all-male cabinets have been extinct for a quarter-century, with Australia in 1993 the last country to have one. Cabinets now must include women as ministers, and one is not enough.

When the appointment of many women becomes the expected cabinet standard, controversies about women’s “insufficient qualifications” cease. The practice of challenging female appointments by declaring that “merit” should prevail over sex becomes no longer viable. In countries where multiple gender parity cabinets have been formed, the media now routinely report on the policy expertise and political experience of all cabinet appointees and rarely question women’s qualifications. Given the relatively small size of cabinets, any advanced democracy should be able to find highly qualified women – and increasing numbers of countries are doing so. As our research shows, advances in women’s cabinet appointments accumulate, locking in progress and making it harder for leaders to return to exclusionary practices. Gender parity cabinets normalize women’s presence at the highest levels of democratic governance.

Thanks to board member Brittany Stalsburg, Represent Women has partnered with Posh My Peace (a woman-owned small business) to promote self-care products and information. In honor of Women's Equality Day, 25% of products sales will be donated to Represent  Women for all of the month of August! Check out the product page and posh yourself for a cause! We also have a Facebook event page where you can request free samples and learn more about self-care. Thanks for your support!
There was a fabulous Twitter chat this week - check out the #90toMT hashtag if you missed it and need to catch up! Thanks Gender Watch!
And it was a big week for primaries and milestones reached for women which I will skimp on here because I am out of time and I assume you have all seen the great coverage but here is one piece about the results in Michigan which is emblematic:

It’s been 100 years since women got the right to vote in Michigan. If Tuesday’s primary is any indication, it may be a centennial to remember.

2018 has been a record-breaking year for the number of women running for office across the country, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. In Michigan, more women ran for U.S. Congressional and state legislative seats than in recent elections.

Many cleared the first big hurdle on Tuesday, when women won several primary battles up and down the ballot and on both sides of the political aisle. The victories of female candidates is in part them reaping the rewards of a women’s activist movement started in the wake of the 2016 presidential election with actions like the Women’s March, experts say.  

“Women grabbed the mantle of activism right after (President Donald) Trump won and went with it with this big, dynamic movement,” said Janine Lanza, director of the Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies Program at Wayne State University.

“The greater number of female candidates is the practical fruit of that movement; the realization that marching in the streets is great, but the way to make that into reality is to have women at the table in the legislature.”

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Gretchen Whitmer triumphed over opponents Shri Thanedar and Abdul El-Sayed, which helped set a nationwide record of female nominees for governor.

In U.S. House District 11, which represents several suburbs of Detroit, two women making their first bids for office — Democrat Haley Stevens and Republican Lena Epstein — won competitive primaries against several men, including men who had served or are currently serving in the state legislature. Democrat Rashida Tlaib beat three men and two other women for the U.S. House District 13 seat to replace former Rep. John Conyers, who resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment. Now, Tlaib is poised to become the first female Muslim member of Congress.

In Grand Rapids, Lynn Afendoulis trounced three men to be the Republican nominee for the 73rd House district. A Democratic dark-horse candidate who spent no money, Betty Jean Alexander, stunned Michigan politics by unseating state Sen. David Knezek in the 5th Senate district near Detroit.

The list goes on.

Overall, there were 77 contested Democratic primaries in Michigan including races for the state legislature, U.S. Congress and governorship. Women won 43 of them. The Republican showing was more modest but still significant: of 63 contested primaries, women won 15.

There has been cultural pushback among women to the Trump presidency (only 30 percent of women nationwide approve of the president), which provides a natural explanation for the uptick in Democratic women’s involvement in particular. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Public policy affecting women has been more central to the national conversation than in the past, so it’s no surprise that women from across the political spectrum are adding their voices, said Arnold Weinfeld, interim director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University.

Both Weinfeld and Lanza said those issues vary from sexual harassment and assault exposed with the “Me Too” movement to public policy on healthcare, childcare and paid family leave. (A cause taken up by the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, in Washington.)

Linda Lee Tarver, president of the Republican Women's Federation of Michigan and a longtime Republican activist, said the 2016 election was a big kickstarter for conservative women interested in running for office as well.

“It was a highly toxic election,” Tarver said, citing the split between Sen. Bernie Sanders supporters and Hillary Clinton supporters and distaste among many voters for Trump’s brash demeanor. “That was a complete turnoff for folks to run, and especially for women. But shortly after that you had women saying, ‘If we don’t like the selection, we need to step up for ourselves.’”

Tarver and Weinfeld said both Republicans and Democrats in Michigan have invested in recruiting and preparing female candidates to run for office.

“They became empowered and decided this is something I can do,” Tarver said. “And they have just soared.”

Whitmer’s Tuesday victory leaves Democrats with an all-female top-of-ticket, as attorney general nominee Dana Nessel and Secretary of State nominee Jocelyn Benson will run alongside her in the fall.

State politicos have been wondering how Democrats will fare with such a woman-heavy ticket. Sarah Hubbard, principal of Lansing-based lobbying firm Acuitas, said Tuesday’s results are an indicator that “maybe they’ve stumbled into something that’s going be the strongest hand.”

“Women certainly can bring a different perspective to the table, they can be seen as more collaborative,” Hubbard said. “Maybe people are looking for that right now.”

Republicans will be faced with the choice of whether they would like to follow suit later this month, when their state convention selects candidates for Secretary of State and Attorney General — which have female and male candidates to choose from to run alongside the male governor nominee, Attorney General Bill Schuette. Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents Vice Chair Mary Treder Lang is running against Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot and Michigan State University professor Joseph Guzman for Secretary of State. And state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker is up against Speaker of the House Tom Leonard for Attorney General.

Republicans may want to consider choosing some women for top races after Tuesday’s results, Hubbard said. However, Tarver warned against choosing candidates based solely on a gender-oriented strategy.

“No one wants to be selected based on their gender,” Tarver said. “The women running at the Republican convention will have to earn it.”

For the women who have already secured a spot on the November ticket, the next three months may be challenging. Despite the advantages for women in this cultural moment, Lanza says female candidates are still subjected to scrutiny male candidates easily avoid.

“Voters are more caught up in perceived weakness of female candidates than perceived weaknesses of male candidates,” Lanza said. “Women really have to prove their abilities and suitability in a way that men are just assumed to be competent and able to take up the job.”

But should they prevail, Lanza said, the army of downticket women running in 2018 would likely change the conversation in coming elections, slowly wearing away at the walls built before them.

Bridge Magazine data reporter Mike Wilkinson contributed to this report.

Don't forget to save October 11th to come and celebrate with us in Washington, DC!
And I am escaping from Washington, DC next week with family to look for whale sharks - hope you have a great week!

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