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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation February 2nd, 2024

Dear Readers,

As we celebrate the opening of Black History Month, we want to highlight the phenomenal contributions of Black women who have fought for equality, representation, and justice. We honor these trailblazers, from Shirley Chisolm to Kamala Harris, who have paved the way for others and made history with their resilience and determination.

The fight for representation continues. Black women still face significant barriers when running for office. We must address the hurdles they face and support policies that create more opportunities for Black women to run, win, serve, and lead.

This month, we will release our Black Women In Politics brief. This in-depth release is the first step in our continued research. It takes a closer look into the challenges Black women face in political arenas and proposes impactful solutions that can help level the playing field.

While you read this week, honor Dr. Deborah Ann Turner for the dynamic legacy she leaves behind, learn about political violence plaguing South Korea and how the Congress of Bosnia and Herzegovina plans to combat sexism in local politics, understand the impact of primaries on our democracy, and celebrate President Biden’s historic LGBTQ+ nominations.


Remembering Dr. Deborah Ann Turner

Credit: League of Women Voters

The president of the League of Women Voters, Dr. Deborah Ann Turner, passed away this past Sunday. Serving as president of the organization for 20 years, Dr. Turner advocated for voting and women's rights. We honor Dr. Turner for her unwavering commitment and compassion and the indelible mark she left on the fight for justice and racial equality. 

A statement from the League of Women Voters written by Shannon Augustus reflected on her legacy: 

A fearless advocate for voting rights and women’s rights, Dr. Turner devoted her life’to impacting meaningful changes in the lives of voters across the nation. As the 20th president of the 103-year-old voting rights organization, Dr. Turner played a pivotal role in fighting for a more fair and representative union while uplifting racial equity in the League’s mission work. 

Dr. Turner joined the League of Women Voters of Metro Des Moines in 2010 and later served as president until 2015. At the same time, she also served on the LWV of Iowa board as the state vice president from 2011 to 2015, becoming co-president in 2015. In her dual roles with state and local Leagues, Deborah has devoted her leadership to strengthening relationships between local leagues and the state Board.     

“Dr. Turner was the consummate leader who poured her heart and soul for the preservation of our democracy," said Virginia Kase Solomón, CEO of the League of Women Voters. “Her leadership exemplified grace, empathy, strength, and determination, and we will forever be grateful for her passion and dedication to this organization.”

Barriers To Women Serving in Office: South Korean Lawmaker Bae Hyun-jin Attacked Amid Rising Political Violence

Credit: Yonhop

The recent attack on South Korean lawmaker Bae Hyun-jin by a 14-year-old sheds light on the disturbing rise in political violence in the country. Highlighting the dangers of polarization within their political system, the attack comes on the heels of another act of political violence, the stabbing of opposition leader Lee Jae-Myung.

The Brennan Center’s research titled “Intimidation of State and Local Officeholders” shows that violence against elected officials has had a troubling increase since the January 6th insurrection. This report echoes the need for policies to safeguard politicians, especially women candidates, who often face threats and harassment.

The Associated Press reports:

The motive of the attack wasn’t immediately clear.

Bae was elected in 2020 and is seen as a close confidante of President Yoon Suk-yeol, whose office pledged a thorough investigation of the attack. Politicians from both Yoon’s People Power Party and the liberal opposition have denounced the attack as an assault on the country’s democracy.

“Our politics have lost their way. We have all talked about the need to end the politics of hate, but the language we throw at our opponents remains sharp, and old-fashioned politics that cater only to the most extreme, hard-core supporters continue to thrive,” People Power Party spokesperson Jung Kwang-jae said.

South Korean politics is deeply divided along ideological and generational lines and regional loyalties, and the bickering between political parties has intensified ahead of the parliamentary elections in April.

Challenges and Opportunities: The Growing Pains of American Democracy and The Primary Elections

Credit: RepresentWomen

A Time Magazine article by Laura Thornton, senior vice president of democracy at the German Marshall Fund, examines the challenges caused by the American primary system and winner takes all voting rules.. Despite the promise of inclusivity, American primaries often fall short of producing representative, issue-focused candidates. U.S. presidential primaries are a unique challenge because even though they allow the people to choose their candidates, they do not necessarily accurately reflect the people's intentions. Proposing and adopting systematic solutions such as ranked choice voting for presidential nomination processes and proportional ranked choice voting for elections uplifts candidates who authentically represent the needs of the people and helps to reshape American democracy.

Parties could also certainly abandon the winner-takes-all approach in favor of proportional voting in all state primaries…Preferably, parties could adopt ranked choice voting (already used in some cities and states), allowing electors to sort their preferences, reallocating vote choices according to these rankings if no candidate achieves a majority. This system encourages candidates to seek broad-based support, ensuring the eventual winner represents a majority preference…

Candidate selection must not only be inclusive but also promote broad societal representation, coherent policy goals over individualistic agendas, and civility and consensus over extreme minoritarianism. Such a gargantuan task is akin to changing the course of an entire naval fleet. Reimagining America’s candidate-selection process into one that fosters broad acceptance is an ambitious but necessary endeavor that could redefine the trajectory of our democracy.

Nomination of Judges Berner and DuBose Addresses Critical Need for Diversity in Federal Judiciary

From left to right, Judges Nicole Berner and Melisa DuBose. Credit: RepresentWomen

Candice Norwood and Orion Rummler wrote an article for The 19th discussing two potential new appointments to the judiciary. President Joe Biden is on the brink of making history by appointing 11 openly LGBTQ+  judges to lifetime appointments on the federal bench, with the newest nominations of judges Nicole Berner and Melissa DuBose. As LGBTQ+ rights cases continue to escalate, these nominations hold significant weight.

Berner would be the first openly LGBTQ+ judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which is currently considering two separate cases about government-sponsored insurance benefits for adults receiving gender-affirming care in North Carolina and West Virginia. The Senate Judiciary Committee recently advanced Berner’s nomination to the full Senate for a vote, which is expected to take place within the next few weeks…

DuBose would be the first openly LGBTQ+ judge, and the first person of color, on the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island. DuBose is currently awaiting her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing…

Lena Zwarensteyn, senior director of the fair courts program at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said that the importance of having more out LGBTQ+ judges is twofold: It helps to build more public trust in the judiciary, and it brings needed perspective into courtrooms that have not had LGBTQ+ life experiences represented on the bench. 

Congress Launches Guide to Combat Sexism in Local Politics in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Promoting Gender Equality and Democratic Participation

IPU Data. Graphic Credit: RepresentWomen

The Congress of  Bosnia and Herzegovina recently launched a practical guide aimed at preventing and combating sexism in local politics. The guide offers valuable insights on identifying sexism and indicates key measures to promote a more gender-inclusive culture at the local level.

At RepresentWomen, we understand the impact of fostering positive cultural changes and attitudes towards women leaders. Structural changes, highlighted in this guide, will empower women to run for office and serve in political roles.

The Council of Europe reports:

More than 30 representatives of local authorities, entity and state-level institutions, and civil society organizations attended the online launch of the Guide, a timely resource in view of the 2024 local elections in the country. Opening the event, the Congress Thematic Spokesperson on Gender Equality, Eirini Dourou (Greece, SOC/G/PD), emphasized that “gender equality and women’s empowerment is needed to build cohesive, resilient communities and promote the respect of fundamental rights at local level”.

The Guide provides insights on how to identify sexism, and details appropriate measures for fostering a more gender-inclusive institutional culture and greater equality at local level. Participants of the launch event also learned about the overall work of the Council of Europe Office in Sarajevo on enhancing gender equality, including through its action on combating digital and sexual violence against women, in implementing the standards set by the Istanbul Convention which Bosnia and Herzegovina ratified in 2013.

Noting the vast legal framework and good practices already in place in Bosnia and Herzegovina, participants and panelists recognised that combatting sexism in local government requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders and that the Guide can be used as a source of inspiration for all other levels of governance facing similar challenges.

Rank the Best Album Nominees!

Last week, in honor of the Oscar nominations, we asked readers to rank their favorite female director. We counted your votes and Ava Duvernay takes the crown! A formidable talent in the film industry, Duvernay continues to shine her light by captivating audiences through masterpieces such as Selma, When They See Us, and more recently, Origin.

This year, female artists make up the majority of nominees for Best Album at the 66th Grammy Awards. Vote in our poll and rank your favorite before this Sunday’s ceremony.

That's all for this week, enjoy your weekend!

-Cynthia Richie Terrell 

P.S. This powerful video, “Redraw the Balance,” illuminates the need for equitable representation in our imaginations. The children in the video were wide-eyed in their response when seeing women in “traditionally male” industries.  This response is a stark reminder of how limitations can be imposed on our dreams.

Our fight for representation is not just about changing policies to achieve parity in leadership; it's about being an aspirational example for future generations. When children see diversity across the landscape and multiple industries, the message will be clear: there are no limits to achieving my dreams. We must continue to teach our children & our young women that there is power in the belief that anything is possible.


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