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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation February 14, 2020


Dorothy Height, Ruby Bridges, Ida B Wells, Condi Rice, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Michelle Obama, Shirley Chisholm, Toni Morrison and Ruth Bader Ginsburg 

Dear friends.
There was an interesting piece in Gulf Today about the use of gender quotas as a tool to advance women's representation in countries around the world:
In recent years we have seen a rise of female representation in governments throughout the world owing in part to certain measures that have been taken allowing for more women in politics. One such measure, albeit a controversial one which to this day stirs quite a debate ranging from it defying the principle of equal opportunity to being outright undemocratic, is the gender-based quota imposed by governments to ensure a substantial female legislative representation. Governments in the MENA region have also taken this issue in stride, a great example of this is seen in the UAE’s Federal National Council (FNC), where the female participation quota has been increased to fifty per cent in an attempt by the government to cement the legislative and parliamentary role of women in the nation's development. Topping this growing list of governments with the greatest gender parity is Rwanda where women make up 61.3% of the lower house

The gender-based quota argument lies in viewing such a mandate as a somewhat blunt instrument and that a more nuanced approach would be to focus on the deeper layers impeding women from getting nominated for elected offices. Nevertheless this idea seems to have taken traction with over a hundred countries enforcing this directive. Statistics show that women who run for governmental positions are less likely to win votes even if their campaigns were stronger than their male opponents. According to a recent poll by Pew Research conducted on American voters, the most common reason cited for why there are fewer women in high political positions is that “women who run for office have to do more to prove themselves than men”. We witnessed this in the UAE’s 2019 FNC elections where a minute number of women were elected by voters spanning the seven Emirates despite most women running being more experienced and leading more active campaigns than their male counterparts who still managed to win seats with a record number of votes. It is evident that there is a societal mistrust in women filling political positions and at this point in time, if not for gender-based quotas women would be few and far between in the governance of nations and that would be a grave disadvantage for countries worldwide.  


Neasa Hourigan of the Green Party, centre, celebrates with friends and family as she is elected in Dublin Central. More than 40% of Green Party candidates in this election were women. Picture: Niall Carson/P
Continuing on the topic of gender quotas there was a very good piece by Ciairín de Buis - the CEO of Women for Election - in the Irish Examiner on last week's elections in Ireland entitled "Gender quotas should be an absolute minimum, not a target"

We want to see more women elected, we want a balanced political system. All the research shows that more diversity leads to better decisions, and better decisions lead to better politics.

Women, in all our diversity, need to be part of our political system. With a political system where more than three-quarters of those representing us are men, we have one of the least balanced political systems in Europe.

As part of our training sessions in Women for Election, we often have contributions from elected representatives tell us about their experience — how they came to be a candidate, what they found the campaign like, and life since being elected.

These are well able, confident women — women who have served in council chambers, worn mayoral chains, sat in the Dáil chamber, and been around the Cabinet table.

Almost to a woman, they tell us they were asked to run. And usually they were asked more than once.

While this election saw, for the first time, at least one woman running in every constituency, it didn’t see a huge increase in the number of women running.

Less than a third of those who came looking for our votes were women. It may be stating the obvious, but if women weren’t on the ticket, women weren’t going to get elected.

While some of the smaller parties ran balanced tickets, the larger parties didn’t.

So while the Social Democrats saw women making up more than half of their candidates, and more than 40% of the Green Party ticket were women, the larger parties seemed to regard the gender quota requirement as a target rather than the absolute minimum required.

Gender quotas were introduced in Ireland because there were so few women in Irish political life.

It’s important to remember that gender quotas only get women onto the ballot paper — it’s then up to the electorate to elect our representatives. Political parties are now required to run at least a 30/70 balanced ticket, or they will lose half of their State funding.

The 2011 election was the last election before the quotas came into place, when only 15% of the candidates were women, and only 25 women were elected to Dáil Éireann.

And we can see that gender quotas work — the 2016 general election saw women making up around 30% of candidates, and 22% (or 35 TDs) of those elected.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen celebrates her victory with supporters in Taipei. (Chiang Ying-Ying/AP)  

Voters in Taiwan have re-elected president Tsai Ing-wen making her one of the first to win election in her own right among Asian nations according to this story in the Washington Post:
Taiwan’s first female president, Tsai Ing-wen, won a second presidential term last month with a 57 percent vote share and a record 8.2 million votes. During her campaign, Tsai and her ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) advocated for the need to protect Taiwan’s democracy and freedom from China’s threats — with reminders that Taiwan’s fate could one day be like Hong Kong’s.

Tsai’s landslide victory sent a signal to China and the world that the Taiwanese were determined to protect their democracy when it was threatened, especially after seeing Hong Kong’s year of unrest. But this commanding victory also has important implications for gender equality in Taiwan. Here are the three things you need to consider:

Sexism and misogyny marked this campaign.

Tsai has participated in three presidential elections since 2012. Her opponents and the media have scrutinized Tsai for being a woman — an unmarried and childless woman. Her major opponent, Han Kuo-yu of the Kuomintang (KMT), said during his campaign that women belonged in the home. The KMT vice-presidential candidate also questioned Tsai’s understanding of women’s hearts and experiences because she has never had children.

The chairman of the KMT also called Tsai an “unlucky woman,” blaming her for any misfortune that had happened to Taiwan. And during her first term, a person within Tsai’s party challenged her leadership because “the one wearing a skirt is never suitable to be a commander in chief.”

These sexist comments were directed at Tsai — but other female legislative candidates see similar attacks. Women constitute 38 percent of Taiwan’s national legislature, a higher percentage than in South Korea (17 percent) and Japan (10 percent),

Stereotyping of female candidates is common in campaigns throughout the world. Because of the prevalence of sexism and misogyny, the reelection of Tsai is particularly meaningful to female voters. Tsai is one of the few female leaders in Asia that has been democratically elected in her own right and not because of her relationship with a man.
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty ImagesJamie McCarthy/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Geena Davis was honored by the Academy of Motion Pictures for her work to increase the representation of women and girls in television programming and in Hollywood according to this piece by Casey Suglia in Romper:

It is incredible to see the Oscars honor Geena Davis with a humanitarian award for fighting so hard to promote gender equity on screen. The actress was awarded with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her long-term work " fighting for gender-parity" in Hollywood during a ceremony in October and it's sure something that earned celebration during the Academy Awards. One major result of Davis' work? "We've reached gender parity in family films!" shared the Geena Davis Institute on Gender In Media in a Facebook post that quickly went viral on Sunday night.

The Washington Post reported that Davis expected to spend the Oscars "savoring the fact that she’s receiving a humanitarian award for advancing the radical notion that women are fully human."

“What I always say is, this is not controversial,” Davis told the outlet. “We’re asking that the on-screen population reflect real life. That’s all you’ve got to do. Reflect real life. Don’t make it worse.”

During her acceptance speech at the Academy's Governors Awards ceremony in October, Davis urged the famous and hardworking people in the audience to be the change, encouraging them to "cross out a bunch of first names, of ensemble characters and supporting characters, and make them female."

"With one stroke, you have created some non-stereotyped characters that might turn out even more interesting now that they have a gender swap," she said. "Let's make this change happen."
There was also an interesting story on WBUR on women's representation in the corporate sector in Massachusetts:
Only one of the state's largest companies has reached gender parity in its leadership positions — and only one has a female CEO — according to a new study by the Eos Foundation.

The report, released Thursday, examined leadership across the 25 largest public companies based in Massachusetts and ranked them based on the representation of women. It finds that while women make up more than half of the state's population and people of color make up 30%, they are hardly represented at the executive level of the state's biggest companies.

"The companies that we surveyed employ a million people and are worth $900 billion. So, if we start with those 25 that goes a long way to making this state hopefully one of the first to lead on diversity and inclusion," Eos Foundation president Andrea Silbert said.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., talks with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., right, during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 30, 2018.  
Voice of America ran a piece by Dora Mekouar on the impact of women's leadership entitled "Here's how women leaders govern differently" with quotes from Amanda Hunter from the BLFF and Ariel Hill-Davis of Republican Women for Progress:
A record number of women currently serve in the U.S. Congress.

They hold 23.5% of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives in the aftermath of the 2018 midterm elections. About a quarter of the Senate — 26 out of 100 senators — are female.  

However, the United States lags far behind dozens of other countries, including Mexico, Tunisia, Vietnam and Zimbabwe, when it comes to female representation in government. Recent findings from the Inter-Parliamentary Union rank the U.S. 76th out of 193 countries when it comes to women serving on the national level.  

The numbers are slightly better on the state level. In 2019, 28.7% of the 7,383 state legislators in the United States were women.

Two women, senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, remain in the race for president of the United States. Klobuchar placed third in the Feb. 11 New Hampshire primary after a strong debate showing. Both women are likely to be held to different standards than their male counterparts in their quest to become commander in chief.
Women are expected to be twice as good,” says Amanda Hunter, director of research and communications for the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, which works to ensure that women are equally represented in American politics. “They have to walk the likability tightrope, and they have to prove that they're qualified.”

The women who do manage to get into office tend to change the nature of the discussion.

"Women are natural collaborators. They're solutions-oriented,” says Ariel Hill-Davis, founder and policy director for Republican Women for Progress, a group that supports GOP women who want to run for office. “I think if you look at, specifically, the women that are in the Senate right now, they work really closely together. They obviously do not believe in the exact same things, but they support each other where they can. They actually have a lot of legislation.”  
Thanks to RepresentWomen board member Mehrnaz Teymourian for sharing a link to the relatively-new Matriarch Pac that is raising money to support women candidates who are running for office who may not meet the criteria of mainstream establishment PACs:
Now more than ever, we need strong, progressive working women at the helm of government. Over half of Congress members are millionaires, and just 23.7 percent are women, only 22 percent are people of color, and a mere 8.7 percent are women of color. It’s no surprise the policies coming out of Washington benefit wealthy men most.

Domestic workers. Teachers. Home health aides. Food-service workers. No one knows better what it feels like to work for less than $15 an hour. What it means to have no healthcare. What it tastes like when your tap water runs brown. No one knows better the human cost of gun violence, police brutality, and family separation.

For too long, establishment-aligned organizations have decided whether to support a candidate based on the candidates’ early fundraising numbers. By using bank accounts to measure viability, these organizations often provide critical early funding to independently wealthy candidates and candidates who have access to financial resources. These organizations have trapped themselves in a cycle where wealth determines viability, and viability leads to more funding.

Many institutions that support candidates set early and unreasonable fundraising markers to determine a candidate's viability — not whether the candidate is connected to their community, has ideas that will empower everyday people, or has grassroots support.

For working-class candidates, raising huge sums of money in a short amount of time — while also working one or more jobs — is often unthinkable. And for working women who often bear the brunt of household duties and childcare as well, finding the time to campaign is nearly impossible. These are the candidates who need and deserve early assistance and infrastructure support, because they are personally connected to the issues they are fighting for.

That’s where Matriarch comes in.
Special birthday love to suffragist Anna Howard Shaw, whom some of you will remember from Tina Fey's character Liz Lemon on 30 Rock - Shaw lived from February 14, 1847 – July 2, 1919 and was a leader of the women's suffrage movement in the US. She was also a physician and one of the first ordained female Methodist ministers in the United States.
And Susan B Anthony, a Quaker abolitionist and tireless advocate for women's equality, who lived from February 15, 1820 to March 13, 1906. 
Happy Valentine's Day from my kitchen to yours,

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