By Cynthia Richie Terrell on December 23, 2016
Dear gender parity listserv members,
It's been a year of contrasts. While women of color and republican women won seats at the state and federal level they are still less represented than white democratic women - who of course are also under-represented overall. More women were candidates for president - in the primaries and general of three political parties - but we know the results. And finally, while inequalities persist between men and women, the topic of 'gender' in all its manifestations is getting considerable attention - the National Geographic cover story for January 2017 is just one example.
As I have suggested before, Representation2020 finds that changes to electoral rules can make a difference for women. We recently released a summary of comprehensive research we've undertaken on the impact of a broad range of rules and structures that affect descriptive representation in county elections. We recommend a package of changes that, together, seem to have the most promising impact for both election of women and people of color. Many thanks to the Women Donors Network's Reflective Democracy Campaign for funding this research.
This year, four Bay Area cities - San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, and San Leandro - held elections with ranked choice voting (RCV). They elect their mayors and a total of 53 offices with RCV. With two vacancies 61% of those 51 elected officials are people of color -- with the highest percentage among those first elected with RCV. Women hold fully 59% of seats, with the highest percentage among those first elected since 2014. In one notable comparison, 12% of the RCV seats are held by white men, as compared to 31% held by women of color. The cities' four mayors include two white women (both first elected with RCV to city council) and two men of color. An extensive 2014 study found that most Bay Area voters support RCV, understand it, and are experiencing campaigns where candidates are more likely to engage with a larger base of voters and avoid negative campaigning.
In November 2017, RCV will be used to elect 22 offices in Minneapolis (MN), with Mayor Betsy Hodges seeking re-election. Neighboring St. Paul will also use RCV in an open seat race for mayor and several city council races. The Minneapolis Star Tribune today runs a strong commentary on RCV and impact on diversity by several people of color, including two state senators. Maine is gearing up for using RCV in 2018 for an open seat election for governor and elections for U.S. Senate, U.S. House and state legislature.
I found this article on women's representation on the American Politics and Policy blog - haven't studied the data but it looks interesting! And another interesting read on equity issues from the Australian perspective! Iowa Public Radio ran a segment on the lack of progress toward parity in Iowa.
For those of you who are ardent fans of Saturday Night Live you will want to read MaryKate Jasper's short piece on how many women - and women of color - were hosts in 2016.
There was a CBS news story on president-elect Trump's inquiry into Gender Programs at the Department of State and other federal agencies which is one of a number of ways in which the new administration may undermine progress toward gender equality and parity. My sleeves are rolled up as I write - I suspect yours are too?
I'll end here as it's a busy weekend for many of us. My daughter made this greeting a few years ago - I have it posted in my front hall as a reminder of the many languages and traditions that have taken root on this planet.