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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation February 25, 2022

Current women presidents and prime ministers, who are members of Women Political Leaders
Dear friends,
I was reminded today of Joni Mitchell's opening lyrics to California:

Sitting in a park in Paris, France
Reading the news and it sure looks bad
They won't give peace a chance
That was just a dream some of us had...

The ongoing health crisis, the challenges to democracy, and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine dominated the news cycle this week. Women presidents, prime ministers, cabinet ministers, and members of parliament have signed a letter urging an "immediate ceasefire in Ukraine" and calling on the government of Iceland to host peace dialogue:

Iceland is the country of peace, and Iceland is the world champion of women in leadership.

WPL as the global non-partisan network of women politicians appeals to you as the leaders of Iceland to immediately offer an invitation to the President of Russia and the President of the United States to come to Reykjavík and meet in the emblematic Hofdi House, to stabilize world peace.

WPL believes that Iceland as a country led by women as Prime Minister and as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defense, is the country that can make the difference as it did in Reykjavík in 1986 when the Presidents of the Soviet Union and the US, Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan, met there to end the Cold War.

Such a dialogue is now needed more than ever.

WPL asks you to once again facilitate steps for world peace. It is urgent in this time.

Megan Rapinoe, painted by Melanie Humble
Not all the news was gloomy this week, according to this article in The Washington Post, the members of the United States women's soccer team settled an equal pay lawsuit with the U.S. Soccer Federation:

Members of the U.S. women’s national team reached a settlement with the U.S. Soccer Federation on Tuesday that will guarantee equal pay with the men’s team and offer players millions in back pay, ending a six-year fight in a gender discrimination case that resonated through American sports and beyond.

The $24 million settlement, $22 million of which will go to the players behind the suit, was effectively an admission that U.S. Soccer had not paid its women’s team equally. It won praise from prominent figures — including President Biden, who called the case a “long overdue victory in the fight for equal pay” in a tweet Tuesday.

“This is going to be one of those incredible moments that we look back on and say the game changed forever, U.S. Soccer changed forever, and the landscape of soccer in this country and in the world changed forever because of this,” said Megan Rapinoe, one of the players who led the suit.

POLITICO Illustration / David Badders
There was a very interesting piece in Politico about a new book by Mary Ann Sieghart on the "authority gap" between men and women that has some startling statistics:

Mary Ann Sieghart, a British journalist and author, says she has had the idea for her recently published book,The Authority Gap: Why women are still taken less seriously than men, and what we can do about it, her whole life. The book is about “the extent to which we’re still more reluctant to accord authority to women than to men,” she said, a challenge she encountered as a political and business journalist. Many women will find familiar the symptoms of the authority gap Sieghart describes: being dismissed or talked over in meetings, being assumed to be more junior even as similarly aged male colleagues are seen as more senior, or having to prove competence in roles, whereas men’s competence is already assumed.

When Sieghart won a visiting fellowship at All Souls College at University of Oxford four years ago, the authority gap was a natural topic for her research project. She spent a year studying the existence of the authority gap and interviewing a number of high-powered women in politics, law and business. “My view was that if even former presidents and prime ministers and Supreme Court justices have experienced the authority gap, that's pretty good proof that the rest of womankind has,” she said in an interview. The interviews included those with Hillary Clinton, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Still, Sieghart felt she had to prove herself in the male-dominated worlds of business and political journalism first, before she could write a book like this. Her prior accomplishments “meant that I had earned my authority among men,” she said. “And that meant that when I came to write this sort of book, they would feel obliged at least to take it seriously.”

Kristin Hayden and Jamie Allison co-authored a piece in The Chronicle of Philanthropy that explores the different giving strategies of Melinda Gates and MacKenzie Scott both of whom have the capacity to transform the philanthropic landscape:

During the past few years, the philanthropic world has come to expect headlines about MacKenzie Scott and Melinda French Gates. But the barrage of news about these two women obscures a larger story: how their bold and personal approaches are remaking philanthropy.

While both have publicly committed through the Giving Pledge to donate most of their wealth during their lifetimes, their styles of giving mark out opposite ends of a new kind of philanthropic continuum. This continuum — what we call the MacKenzie-Melinda Scale — has the potential to realign the philanthropy world and its $1 trillion in assets.

On one end of this new scale, MacKenzie Scott avoids the spotlight to make no-strings-attached donations, and she does so without the assistance of a formal foundation or philanthropic infrastructure. She’s even stopped announcing how much she’s giving away in favor of focusing attention on the organizations she supports.

On her blog, she pushes back against society’s restrictive definitions of philanthropy and philanthropists, saying what matters is “intention and effort” — not the number of zeroes.

On the other end, Melinda French Gates stands up as a public voice and a vocal advocate for gender equality. She organizes data-driven giving through a well-developed and well-staffed limited-liability corporation called Pivotal Ventures that builds multi year commitments and partnerships with grantees. Even within this structure, however, “it’s equally important to place trust in the people and organizations we partner with and let them define success on their own terms,” she writes in her recently updated Giving Pledge letter. “Philanthropists are generally more helpful to the world when we’re standing behind a movement rather than trying to lead our own.”

Keturah Herron was elected this week and is the first out LGBTQ member of the Kentucky state house 
The Victory Institute released a statement this week regarding a new poll that reveals "gaps in LGBTQ political representation" and stats on the number of LGBTQ officeholders:

New Gallup polling data shows 7.1 percent of the U.S. population identifies as LGBTQ – up from 5.6 percent in 2020. The new data, released yesterday, further reveals the enormous gap in LGBTQ elected representation in the U.S., where just 0.2 percent of elected positions are held by LGBTQ people. Currently, there are only 1,021 LGBTQ elected officials serving nationwide. To achieve equitable representation, voters need to elect 35,876 more LGBTQ people to public office.

Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute, released the following statement about the new data:

“It is encouraging to see the number of out LGBTQ people continue to grow and that a historic number of young people feel safe and confident to be open about their sexual orientation and gender identity. While this is a momentous time for our community, we still have a long way to go to gain equitable inclusion and representation in politics. LGBTQ people have historically been disenfranchised from government positions and this new data reveals the need to continue building momentum behind the Rainbow Wave until we achieve parity. Equitable representation cannot simply be an aspiration, it must be a reality. Our rights depend on it.”

A woman leads singing during a demonstration in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt. The group demanded the overthrow of the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. (Monique Jaques / Corbis via Getty Images)

RepresentWomen research associate Fatma Tawfik had a terrific piece in Ms Magazine about Arab women's representation - for more details read RepresentWomen's brief:  
Throughout history, Arab women have suffered greatly under foreign occupation, believing that one day their countries would be free and Women would have political freedom. However, their hopes were quickly dashed as they were forced to live under patriarchal oppression. Even when the Arab States began to attain their independence in 1918, starting from Yemen and ending with the United Arab Emirates, the silence remained.

After independence, some Arab states granted women the right to vote and run for office. In other Arab states, women had to fight harder and longer to receive the most fundamental political right: speech. In the not-so-distant past, women gained their hard-won suffrage in some Arab states, such as the United Arab Emirates in 2006 and Saudi Arabia in 2011.

When the Arab Spring revolutions encouraged many countries to seek political reform at large, with some succeeding in changing political norms and removing their authoritarian rulers, women were most affected by these political changes.

There has been a long history of silencing Arab women‘s political speech, but today this changes.
Italian President Giovanni Leone and Vittoria Leone Walk with President Gerald R. Ford and First Lady Betty Ford through Quirinale Palace in Rome. Photo: The U.S. National Archives, Public Domain.
I enjoyed this piece in Italics Magazine on women's representation and political leadership in Italy:
Two weeks ago, Sergio Mattarella was sworn in as the Italian President of the Republic. He accepted his second seven-year term after six days and seven inconclusive votes forced MPs, Senators, and regional representatives to plead his return to office. During this period, many senior politicians and public figures, mostly from the entertainment industry, proposed that Italy should be ready for a female head of state. That hope was dashed, and led many to speculate that this was a sign of Italy’s cultural unreadiness to having female leaders.

At one point, Matteo Salvini, the leader of the Lega, proposed that the center right-coalition should “nominate a clever woman.” This was met with scorn as a patronizing statement. Why assume that any female nominee to the presidency would not be clever? Eventually, Salvini did in fact nominate Maria Elisabetta Casellati, the Senate speaker, but with less than 400 votes she could not be considered eligible.

There were other women tipped for the job. The current Justice Minister Marta Cartabia, the former Justice Minister Paola Severino, and former Milan mayor Letizia Moratti. On the list of possible candidates were also Liliana Segre, a much respected Holocoust survivor who was named senator for life in 2018, and Emma Bonino, a current senator and leader of the small liberal party +Europe. None of these women even made it to the roster.
Activists march to a “No More Excuses: Voting Rights Now!” rally in Lafayette Square in in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 5, 2021. The rally called on the Biden administration “to take immediate action for voting rights.” (Alex Wong / Getty Images)
Jennifer Weiss-Wolf and I co-wrote a piece for Ms Magazine about RepresentWomen's upcoming Democracy Solutions Summit which includes commentary from 20 women leaders on their vision for democracy:
These are trying times, no doubt. We have heard multiple well-informed people talk about plans to become self-reliant homesteaders because of “how things are going” in our country. Others have even casually mentioned that they have an escape plan lined up in case things “continue to go south.”

As Vice President Kamala Harris famously said, “The status of women is the status of democracy.” A recent essay in Foreign Affairs underscores that “the 21st [century] is demonstrating that misogyny and authoritarianism are not just common comorbidities but mutually reinforcing ills.” Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that the United States, which now sits at a stunning 72nd in the global ranking of political gender parity, is not even considered a “full democracy” by the Economist Intelligence’s Democracy Index 2021.

Extreme political and cultural polarization puts our “functioning of government” score at an all-time low, placing the U.S. below countries that have even experienced multiple military coups. The January 6th riot on the Capitol, unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud, the politicization of a public health crisis, gerrymandering … all have contributed to a real and felt decline in the quality and effectiveness of our democracy. The United States, one of the world’s oldest democracies, is now seeing a rise of antidemocratic views, not only among citizens, but squarely within its established political parties.  

But never fear. We come bearing good news. There is hope. And that hope, we believe, is the shared power and potential of mobilized women to forge a new movement for a 21st century democracy. A movement guided by passion and participation. A movement designed to propel a virtuous circle of reinforcing cultural and institutional advancements, where true representation becomes a reality in our lifetimes. A movement that, as history shows, is destined for lasting success because it is envisioned and fueled by women and people of color.
I hope that you will register for RepresentWomen's Democracy Solutions Summit and invite a friend or co-worker to do the same! So far we have over 30 incredible women experts confirmed with even more to come! 
Snowdrops in my garden
That's all for this week,
P.S. Checkout out this week's suggested reading:

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