Skip navigation

Weekend Reading on Women's Representation December 1, 2017


Dear friends,

As is often true, the most inspiring news I found this week on advancing gender parity comes from outside our borders. I hope that as we formulate and refine our work together to win parity in the United States we will stay curious about what's working in other countries and open to how we can incorporate best practices into our own work.

There was a very interesting story about faculty hiring processes in Ireland, for example, that offers a glimpse of how institutions can adopt rules about appointments and recruitment that accelerate progress toward parity by using money as a carrot - and a stick - and introducing the idea of 'gender equality accreditation' that I can imagine could be used in a number of private and public institutions in the US:

Universities in Ireland will now risk losing funding if they fail to promote a sufficient number of women into higher roles, Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor has announced.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Minister Mitchell O’Connor stated that “the first Irish university was set up 424 years ago and since then, no university [in Ireland] has had a female president.”

“That was excusable 400, perhaps even 300, 200 or 100 years ago, but in the 21st century, it’s not only not excusable, it’s not acceptable in institutions which should be providing a beacon of equality to the rest of society.”

Minister Mitchell O’Connor also stated that a Gender-Equality Task Force, which will investigate the gender inequality in senior university roles, will be established and will receive €500,000 in funding. The force will monitor a national systems review of recruitment and promotion policies in higher education institutions. A system ensuring that regular feedback is received will also be established. The work of the taskforce will be based on a report by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), which analysed the state of gender equality in Irish universities and made recommendations on what improvements can be made.

The HEA agreed that state funding of higher institutions should now depend on universities’ performance in tackling gender inequality. The institutions’ eligibility for research funding will be limited to those colleges that have a history of tackling the issue of gender inequality in the past. In addition to that, colleges will be required to have gender equality accreditation by the end of 2019 by three of Ireland’s research finding agencies; Science Foundation Ireland, the Irish Research Council, and the Health Research Board.

There was a fascinating opinion piece in Devex about the importance of cross-sector collaboration in accelerating progress toward gender parity - another model that is moving along faster in other nations than in the US:

It is increasingly acknowledged that the global gender gap is severe, with major negative economic and social consequences, and that accelerating progress toward gender parity has enormous benefits. Yet progress has been slow. One answer is collaborations — partnerships for parity — but they have to be put together carefully if they are to be effective.

Research by the McKinsey Global Institute found that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP growth each year to 2025 if all countries were to match the progress toward gender parity of the country in their region with the most rapid improvement. This is equivalent to the current GDPs of Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom combined.

Making progress in bridging pervasive gender gaps and achieving this potential for inclusive growth will require changing our current approach. Take progress toward equality for women in the workplace: on the current trajectory, the World Economic Forum reckons it will take 81 years to close the gap completely. Similarly, MGI notes that the average maternal mortality rate fell from 276 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1995 to 135 in 2013; at this rate of decline, the rate will still be as high as 84 deaths in 2025.

An article from the South China Morning Post entitled "Three Steps to Gender Equality in Hong King Offices" argues that men have to step up as allies in the struggle for parity - a claim that is true the world over:
Hong Kong, a beacon of progressive business practices, could lead the way for Asia on gender equality. But women make up just 12.4 per cent of its boardrooms. The World Economic Forum says we are 170 years away from closing the gender gap globally. Why are we so slow?
First, change perspective. Gender equality is still seen as a box to tick for moral or reporting reasons, but it’s also a huge talent management opportunity. More diverse workforces are more effective. So we should put this at the core of how we attract, hire, retain and grow people.
Second, change behaviour. Training and introspection help us to start to recognise our own unconscious biases. Having the courage to call out colleagues and friends on theirs is harder. But we have to. The 1970s sitcoms made jokes about race and disability that make us squirm now. It’s time to consign gender jokes to the same embarrassing box.

Third, change culture. With 87.6 of board positions, we men define corporate culture. Four factors need addressing: organisational design, human resources policies, employee engagement and leadership communications.

The moral and business cases for change are obvious, as are the benefits for our loved ones, our businesses and our city.

We just need to decide to take action. We can do it.

The New York Times reported that Iceland has selected Katrin Jakobsdottir as prime minister - the second woman to serve in that position in the nation's history:

A pacifist environmentalist and expert on Icelandic crime thrillers emerged on Thursday as Iceland’s new prime minister, its fourth in two years, after three parties signed a coalition agreement.

Katrin Jakobsdottir, 41, chairwoman of the Left-Green Movement, will lead the government of the North Atlantic island of 340,000 residents after elections in October that were blighted by scandal and voter mistrust. (The job of president, held by the historian Gudni Johannesson, is considered a largely ceremonial role.)

Ms. Jakobsdottir will govern in coalition with parties of very different creeds: the conservative Independence Party and the center-right Progressive Party.

“It is important that we try to change the way we work together,” she said on Thursday at a news conference in Reykjavik, the capital, to announce the coalition. “This agreement strikes a new chord.”

The lack of electoral progress for women at high levels of government in NJ was featured in this piece from NJ Spotlight that looks at women's representation in a number of different legislative bodies:

Despite national and state efforts to get more women elected to public office, New Jersey remains underrepresented at the high levels of government, with a net loss of one Senate seat in the state Legislature this past election. Women gained one seat in the state Assembly, although that could be temporary. They fared better in the ranks of freeholders, although female representation in these county boards is far lower than the female population at large.

Still, that could change next year, with women becoming a force in congressional elections. Six female challengers — some of them well-funded — so far have declared for three New Jersey seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“This year has seen a gigantic wave of women getting involved in politics: marching, organizing on social media, and running for office,” said Barbara Lee, president and founder of the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, which is working for women’s equality in American politics. “Now is an excellent time to be a woman running for office. Voters are hungering for change from the status quo, and women represent that change, in a sea of male — mostly white — elected officials.”

The foundation released a report last month titled “Opportunity Knocks” that was based on survey research and found the current political climate is good for women candidates.

“That doesn’t mean women candidates can expect to cruise into office,” Lee said. “Even in an environment favorable to outsider candidates, women must demonstrate that they are strong leaders who can get things done in office. In order to succeed, women candidates need to showcase a clear record of accomplishments in their communities, pointing to specific results — creating jobs, passing reforms, or balancing a budget — not just points on a resume.”

New Jersey saw more women outsiders run for the state Legislature this year, predominantly Democrats who ran in Republican strongholds. And while most did better than challengers usually do, none was able to pull off an upset and win.

Unofficial election results show women losing a net of one seat in Trenton for the 2017-2018 session, at least for the moment.

A judge in Santa Fe ruled that the city must implement the ranked choice voting system that voters overwhelming supported in 2008 according to this story in the Santa Fe New Mexican which is a terrific victory and spurs the chances for statewide adoption!

A state district judge on Wednesday ordered the city of Santa Fe to use ranked-choice voting in the March election, when voters will choose their first full-time mayor.

Judge David Thomson said the ranked-choice software is “clearly available” and must be used in the election in accordance with the city charter amendment of 2008 that authorized the system.

“To me, in the end, the concerns [about accurately implementing ranked-choice voting] do not meet the law,” Thomson said. “The concerns do not meet the facts.”

What happens next in the five-way competition for mayor and two City Council races with three candidates apiece is not clear.

City attorneys said that whether they decide to pursue an appeal will be up to outgoing Mayor Javier Gonzales and the eight-member council.

For his part, Gonzales wants to implement the new election system. Soon after Thomson announced his decision, the mayor said he would call for a special meeting of the council within 72 hours and introduce an emergency resolution to spend $300,000 for public education and implementation of the new system “to make sure we get this right.”

“Ranked choice voting’s time has come, and I’m pleased Judge Thomson agrees,” Gonzales wrote on Twitter.

And in other ranked choice voting news, former US Senator Dave Durenberger and St Paul City Councilor    wrote a terrific letter in response to an anemic editorial in the Pioneer Press - it's really a great letter:

After reading your perplexing post-election editorial about ranked-choice voting in St. Paul (“Ranked-voting plays a victory march. We worry about ‘Minnesota Shush,’ ” Nov. 16), we have a deeper appreciation for the phrase “wrenching defeat from the jaws of victory.” Your tepid statement that while RCV “influenced the tenor of the campaign, Ranked Choice Voting didn’t ultimately get its first full citywide test in St. Paul” was beyond mind-boggling.

Not only was RCV put to the test, it passed with flying colors.

Since the thrust of your editorial seemed to be the need for more “facts” with which to evaluate RCV in the St. Paul election, let’s use the outcomes-based methodology so popular when evaluating the success of a school district or corporate strategy. In other words, let the results (or lack thereof) speak for themselves. Consider:

Voters came out in stronger-than-expected numbers, with more than three quarters choosing to rank their ballots. Was RCV the determinative cause of higher turnout? We can’t say, but it’s impossible to ignore (as you seem to do in the editorial) that the dynamics of an RCV campaign — more robust and diverse slate of candidates who crossed the demographic and political spectrum, dozens of debates that engaged voters in the important conversation about the future of their city and the lack of spoiler and vote-splitting dynamics — conspired to engage more voters on Election Day.  If we choose to evaluate based on outcomes, the answer is clear.

Voters fiercely rejected old-school attack politics. In a race that was considered too close to call between Melvin Carter and Pat Harris, Carter resoundingly carried the day in the very first round of counting. Did the new civil approach to campaigning required by ranked-choice voting encourage voters to opt for the candidate perceived to be on the higher ground? We’ll never know for sure but, again, the results point in that direction. While Pat Harris emphatically denounced the unwarranted attack, it was too late to reverse the speed with which the attack backfired under RCV. In 2015, we saw a similar tactic fail in St. Paul’s Ward 2 election.

Voters attended more than two dozen mayoral forums, received literature and made ample use of candidates’ websites to compare and contrast their positions. They knew precisely why they made their first choice.

You attributed “the quiet during the many months of the campaign to the risk-averse appeal of the safer path,” and even added a clever slogan “Minnesota Shush” to make your point. Here’s a different slogan for your consideration and this one actually reflects what happened during the campaign and election: “Minnesota Smart.”

That “quiet” that you found so befuddling was the sound of smart voters and candidates talking in civil and respectful voices about real issues and possible solutions to our citywide problems.

It’s time for the Pioneer Press editorial board (and all Minnesota journalists engaged in political coverage and commentary for that matter) to evaluate a stuck-in-the-past mindset that craves sensational headlines and frothy stories of campaign attacks. Campaigns made of fierce competition of ideas and choice fostered by RCV, not two-way races fought in the boxing ring, are what our state — and country —  need more urgently than ever. 

This election has demonstrated the merits of RCV and it’s time for editors and reporters to listen to your readers, who like it and want to keep it. And, it’s time to adapt your news coverage and editorial commentary to reflect this new, more empowering way to campaign, vote and govern. There’s no way voters are going back to the old days of single-digit turnout primaries ruled by special interests.

Don't forget to tune into To The Contrary with Bonnie Erbe to catch up on the week's news - not sure that's really possible to catch up on all the news but it's a great show!
Thanks for all you do!

Continue Reading

Read More