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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation December 15, 2017


from Leda Black - find out more about her work here
Dear all,

There will be 22 women in the US Senate once Tina Smith, the Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota since 2015, is sworn in to replace retiring Senator Al Franken. While this is the highest number of women to ever have served in the US Senate, Smith's appointment continues the partisan & racial imbalance in the Senate and doesn't have a significant impact on our standing among the world's nations for women's representation.

Thanks to the Center for American Women in Politics for this list of potential 2018 candidates for federal and state offices which reflects a higher level of interest in women running for office but also indicates a far greater number of declared democratic candidates than republican candidates. This disparity is one of the many challenges that must be addressed to reach partisan parity in candidates and elected positions. This chart is a sobering reminder that far fewer republican women are being recruited to run than democratic women:
Listen in to Will 2018 Really Be a Big Year for Women in Politics? An Expert Weighs In - an interview with CAWP's Debbie Walsh with Governing Magazine:

"[In 2018,] 36 governorships are up, we have 73 women right now [who] are saying they want to run for governor -- 49 of them are running for open seats. I think we could see a significant uptick in women serving as governor as a result of the 2018 elections," she says.

The most women the country has ever had serving as governor at any one time? Nine.

Listen to the latest episode of "The 23%: Conversations With Women in Government" below.
Congratulations to Gwen Young on the Washington, DC launch of their ambitious Global Women's Leadership Initiative Index held this week at the Wilson Center:

WASHINGTON, October 17, 2017 – The Wilson Center is releasing its new Global Women’s Leadership Initiative Index – a first-of-its-kind comparison and examination of women’s leadership by country.

Women’s leadership in government is known to drive economic growth and development. Yet, this has not been widely understood because of the lack of evidence-based data and analysis required to track where women are in decision-making around the world, and why. Using nearly 100 indicators, the Leadership Index is unique in going beyond where women are in leadership positions to also explore how they got there and measure the power they hold in these positions.

The Leadership Index is an initiative of the Wilson Center’s Women in Public Service Project, which has set the goal of “50x50”: 50 percent of public leadership positions worldwide held by women by 2050. An interactive web platform, the Leadership Index allows users to explore the numbers by country, compare data across countries, review findings, and download datasets.

“Evidence-based data like the Leadership Index is critical to driving the policy and systemic change necessary to achieving women’s equal participation in policy and political leadership,” said Gwen K. Young, Director of the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative and Women in Public Service Project. “In order to get where we need to go, we must understand where we are today.”

Rather than moving towards gender parity, last year’s Global Gender Gap Report published by the World Economic Forum suggests that progress is unraveling worldwide. In the four dimensions measured by this seminal report, women’s political empowerment remains the biggest challenge and will take an estimated 82 years given the current trajectory.

The Leadership Index, which was developed in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme’s Gender Equality in Public Administration, offers new opportunities to analyze barriers and opportunities for leadership, identify critical gaps in the data, and empower policymakers and leaders to better understand what policy changes could increase parity in their countries. It is the only tool to date that measures power and leadership in a multidimensional way, tracking the pathways for women to pursue leadership, the positions they currently hold, and the power they are able to exercise within those positions.

Today’s initial launch of the Leadership Index includes data for 50 countries, and focuses on positions across five sectors of national and local government: executive, legislative, judiciary, civil service and security. An expanded Leadership Index and full report is scheduled for release in spring 2018.

Key findings to date include that civil service is leading the public sector in gender parity; and more women lead at the sub-national level, such as municipal councils or regional assemblies.

For more key findings – including a list of countries leading the world in gender parity – and information about the Leadership Index, please contact Ellysse Dick ([email protected]) or visit

And congratulations to Higher Heights co-founder Kimberly Peeler Allen who has been selected to join the 2018 Roddenberry Fellowship! 
There was a lot of coverage of the election for US Senator in Alabama this week - here is one article about Black women's turnout and support for Sen-elect Doug Jones that caught my eye.

Listen in to Will 2018 Really Be a Big Year for Women in Politics? An Expert Weighs In - an interview with CAWP's Debbie Walsh with Governing Magazine:

"[In 2018,] 36 governorships are up, we have 73 women right now [who] are saying they want to run for governor -- 49 of them are running for open seats. I think we could see a significant uptick in women serving as governor as a result of the 2018 elections," she says.

The most women the country has ever had serving as governor at any one time? Nine.

Listen to the latest episode of "The 23%: Conversations With Women in Government" below.
FairVote board member Charlotte Hill had a terrific piece in Huffington Post on Three Electoral Reforms America Needs that discusses both ranked choice voting and multi-seat district that have such a positive impact on women's electoral success.
There was a fascinating story on WalesOnline about adding Assembly Members, lowering the voting age, and using quotas for women in the Assembly - a package of very encouraging democracy reforms that work well together and should be considered in the United States:

The number of Assembly Members elected to the Senedd should rise from 60 to 89 or 90, according to an expert panel.

The panel, chaired by Professor Laura McAllister of Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre, accepts that the recommendation will be controversial.

But it argues that a 50% increase in AMs is necessary to deal with the level of scrutiny required by what will soon be renamed the Welsh Parliament.

An extra 30 members would cost an additional £9.6m a year, says the report – equivalent to 0.08% of the Assembly’s block grant from Westminster.

Prof McAllister said that with Brexit on the horizon there was no doubt that the Assembly would face an additional workload, and that 60 AMs were not enough.

The panel also recommends that the method for electing AMs should be changed to the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system of proportional representation, with measures built in aimed at achieving gender equality. Parties would be legally obliged to pick gender-balanced candidate lists.

An alternative voting system called Flexible List could be used if AMs did not back a gender-balanced version of STV.

Finally, there was a terrific article in The Guardian entitled There's proof: electing women radically improves life for mothers and families

Iceland’s lesson for America is clear: when women win elections, everyone wins.

“There is absolutely no doubt that there is an equivalency between more gender-balanced political representation and better policies for women,” says Brynhildur Heiðar, executive manager of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association. “Parental leave, daycare, the gender pay gap – none of these were seen as major issues before women ran for parliament.”

After Finnbogadóttir made history in 1980, female political participation in Iceland soared, leading it to become the most gender-equal parliament in the world among countries without a quota system. Even after a sharp drop following a snap election in October, women still make up 38.6% of the governing body – and this month feminist Katrín Jakobsdóttir emerged as its new prime minister.

It’s no coincidence that last year Iceland was ranked the most gender equal country in the world by the World Economic Forum – for the ninth time – and the Economist recently named it the world’s best place for working women.

By contrast, after the 2016 election, the US dropped from 52nd to a dismal 104th in the world for women’s political representation. Today, women hold just 19.6% of the seats in Congress – 21.0% in the Senate and 19.3% in the House of Representatives.

The US also remains the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee workers paid maternity leave. Full-time childcare costs 85% of the median rent in some regions. And the country has the worst maternal death rate in the developed world.

It’s injustices like these that have stoked growing political activism among liberal American women. Emerge America, which aims to boost the number of Democratic women running for office, has reported an 87% increase in applications to its training programs. Emily’s List, an organization dedicated to helping elect pro-choice Democratic women, said more than 22,000 women have expressed interest in running for office since the election – up from less than 1,000 women in the year before. In Virginia, the 100-member house of delegates will jump from 17 female members to 28 next year, including the first two Latinas to hold seats in the Virginia assembly.

“There is definitely momentum,” says Erin Loos Cutraro, founder of She Should Run. “There’s a sense of urgency among women to both fix what is broken and provide their experience and perspective to create healthier government.”

Research supports this urgency: A paper by Georgetown University political scientist Michele Swers found that liberal female legislators co-sponsored an average of 10.6 bills related to women’s health – an average of 5.3 more than their liberal male colleagues. (Incidentally, a Stanford University study also showed that female Congress members simply get more stuff done – passing, on average, twice as many bills as male legislators in one analyzed session of Congress.)

The link between legislators and female-friendly and family-friendly policies is long accepted in Iceland, says Heiðar. “From our perspective there is no doubt that women in parliament drive policy for women.”
P.S. Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the single-member district mandate for House seats. When adopted in 1967 these districts were thought to be the best tool to ensure some semblance of racial fairness in representation but these same single member districts - saddled with winner take all voting - are now fueling hyper partisanship, lack of competitiveness, intense incumbent protection, and representation of just one party or ethnic group in each district - making geography the most important determinate in our representative democracy. Single seat districts disadvantage female candidates and fortify the glass ceiling that marginalizes women's voices. FairVote staffer Drew Penrose discusses the impact of single seat districts in this timely video. 
The Fair Representation Act addresses the liabilities of single winner districts by combining Ranked Choice Voting with multi-seat districts - here are the projected outcomes:

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