(Linnea Allison - head of programs at IREX, Deidre Combs - a consultant to a number of exchange programs, Courtney Lamendola - RepresentWomen's Research Director, and Maura Reilly - RepresentWomen fall intern)
...women’s political representation must be increased in Asia and the Pacific. Our region’s representation rates are behind the global average. Only one in five parliamentarians in Asia-Pacific are women. Despite governments committing to gender parity in decision making 25 years ago in Beijing, the region has seen the share of women in parliament grow at just 2.2 percentage points annually over the past two decades. We must therefore look to where faster progress has been made. In several countries, quotas have helped increase the number of women in parliament. These need to be further expanded and complemented with targeted, quality training and mentoring for women leaders and removing the barriers of negative norms, stigma and stereotypes of women in politics and as leaders.
Third, economic empowerment remains key. Only half the women in our region are in paid work, compared with 80%of men. Ours is the only region in the world where women’s labor-force participation has decreased over the past 10 years. Two out of three working women are in the informal sector, often with no social protection and in hazardous conditions. Legislative measures to deliver equal pay and policies to ensure the recruitment, retention and promotion of women must be part of the solution, as must supporting the transition of women from informal to formal work sectors. Digital and financial inclusion measures can empower women to unleash their entrepreneurial potential and support economic growth, jobs and poverty reduction. Action has been taken in all these areas by individual countries. They can be given scale by countries working at the regional level.
There was an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review by Sarah O'Brien about strategies to get more women into the C-suite - while I think this list is a great start the data tells us that bolder tactics that offer monetary rewards and penalties help to normalize women's power faster:
The latest Women in the Workplace report by McKinsey & Company shows some progress in this area, but there’s still work to be done. While female representation in the C-suite is on the rise, only one in five executives in the C-suite is a woman today, and women remain underrepresented at all levels.
To explore this disconnect between the good intentions of leaders and true progress on closing the gender gap, LinkedIn undertook several studies around gender and work over the past year. The data has given us insights into recruiting strategies that can help leaders bring in more women today and set their companies up for success in attracting female candidates in the future.
I’ll be writing about the ways that data about men and women can help improve the impact and efficiency of programs. Or places where smart policy decisions didn’t include women, like in Wyoming’s Bootcamp Program in the criminal justice system. I’ll explore the barriers that women face accessing services (in contexts that often aren’t built for them) and the benefits accrued to all Wyoming residents when we change this.
And, because this is about making things better for everyone, I’ll offer suggestions for possible improvements.
I want to start with the new RepresentWomen’s 2019 Gender Parity Index. That nonpartisan national review of all 50 states gives Wyoming a grade of D for women’s representation in elected office.
But there are some bright spots. For example, Wyoming’s lone congressional district has been represented by a woman since 1995.
The three women we’ve sent recently mark a new epoch in Wyoming’s history of representation. Congresswoman Barbara Cubin’s election was the exception; collectively, Congresswomen Cubin, Cynthia Lummis and Liz Cheney have turned it into the rule.
A total of 72 MPs have stepped down in this cycle, 20 of whom are women. Although the number of men stepping down outnumber the women, the women standing down tend to be younger than their male counterparts, many of whom are retiring. Many of the women who are leaving Westminster cited an overwhelming uptick in abuse both online and in person, a lack of formal maternity leave policies, and a general work schedule difficult for parents and mothers in particular. Sam Smethers, the CEO of the Fawcett Society an organization campaigning for gender equality in the UK, commented on the number of women stepping down: “We have to confront the fact that our toxic politics is driving good women MPs away. In 2019, it [Parliament] is still a hostile environment.”
The levels of abuse toward MPs has increased with the heightened tensions of the Brexit debate and has resulted in Constable Garry Cannon, from the National Police Chiefs’ Council, issuing a warning to women candidates during this current campaign period. The warning suggested women candidates never campaign alone, inform someone where they will be at all times, bring a fully-charged phone and not canvas after dark, which happens around 4:30pm in the UK at this time of year. The suggestions put the onus on the individual candidates to change their campaigning habit rather than addressing the deeper issue of abuse.
The influence of Brexit on the abuse and threats women candidates face is impossible to ignore. Beginning in 2016 with the murder of former MP Jo Cox, a Conservative Party member who campaigned against Brexit in the run-up to the June 2016 Referendum, Cox faced several online threats and was eventually shot and stabbed by a man shouting “Britain first” who had links to neo-nazism. Since the murder of Jo Cox and the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, abuse and threats cuts across ideological positions and parties, with women in all parties and with both pro and anti-Brexit positions being targeted. MP Rachel Reeves, running for re-election with the Labour Party in Leeds, has along with other women MPs taken additional precautions in the election including not publicizing campaign visits or sharing pictures until after events, has said the atmosphere has drastically changed since she first began in politics in 2010, stating “people are a lot angier and there’s a lot more polarization, particularly around the Brexit issue.”
Kelly Loeffler is currently a financial executive of Bakkt bitcoin, co-owns Atlanta’s WNBA team and a large political donor for both the Republican Party and individual candidates. Since the announcement Loeffler faces backlash from Trump and loyalists and anti-abortion groups, including Susan B. Anthony List and the March for Life Action for not being a seasoned and explicitly pro-life candidate. Anti-choice groups questionLoeffler’s pro-life stance due to her position on the Grady Memorial Hospital board, the largest abortion provider in the state, and her connection to the WNBA which has partnered with Planned Parenthood. However, upon Kemp’s announcement, Loeffler spoke to the press stating: “I’m a life-long conservative. Pro-Second Amendment. Pro-military. Pro-wall. And Pro-Trump.” Loeffler has also come out against the impeachment probe into President Trump and for a 20 week ban on abortions.
Despite the criticisms lobbied against Loeffler, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) came out in support of her appointment to the Senate and backed her bid in the November 2020 special election for the seat. Loeffler will also have the support of the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the special election, and has committed $20 million of her own money. This structural and financial support benefits Loeffler should President Trump’s pick for the seat Rep. Doug Collins follow through on his mention of running against Loeffler in the special election next year.
Loeffler will be sworn-in to the Senate on January 1, 2020; she will be only the second woman to represent Georgia in the Senate. In September 1922, former Senator Rebecca Latimer Felton (D), suffragist, newspaper columnist, was appointed at the age of 87 to a Senate seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Tom Watson, until the special election held in November of that year. Felton’s appointment was largely ceremonial on the part of former Gov. Thomas Hardwick, who hoped to secure the support of women following his opposition to the 19th Amendment. Felton was never supposed to be officially sworn-into the Senate, because she held the seat while the Senate was out of session; but, following a movement launched by women voters in Georgia, Felton was sworn-in for one day until the winner of the special election, former Sen. Walter F. George took office on Nov. 22, 1922.Soon-to-be Senator Loeffler will join 25 other women in the U.S. Senate, and expand the ranks of Republican woman in the 116th Congress, which decreased in spite of a record-breaking election year for women overall. In 2019, the number of Republican women hit a 25 year low for the Party, with only 13 women across both houses, and eight in the Senate; this compares to the total 105 Democratic women in the 116th class, with 17 in the Senate.
In her only speech on the Senate floor, Rebecca Felton said “when the women of the country come in and sit with you … I pledge you that you will get ability, you will get integrity of purpose, you will get exalted patriotism, and you will get unstinted usefulness.” RepresentWomen wholly agrees with former Senator Felton, including women at the top levels of government is always a good thing; we commend Governor Kemp for promoting a woman to the position and normalizing women in power. Regardless of political leanings we should support the growing number of women in office and continue to work tirelessly until women are equally represented at all levels of government.