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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation January 10, 2020


(Kelly Loeffler being sworn in this week)

Dear women's representation enthusiasts,
There are now 26 women in the United States Senate following the swearing in this week of Kelly Loeffler from Georgia - this is the highest number of women to serve in the U.S. Senate - ever - according to this story from Politico:

Republican Kelly Loeffler was formally sworn in Monday as the newest senator from Georgia, replacing retired Sen. Johnny Isakson and becoming only the second woman to represent the state in the Senate.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp tapped Loeffler, a wealthy finance executive, to replace Isakson in December, despite questions about her conservative credentials and a push from President Donald Trump to instead nominate Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) — a strong ally on the Hill.

“This is the most women to ever serve in the Senate, and it comes at a time when we need more diverse voices in politics, not fewer,” they said in a joint statement. “It took 27 years to go from two women to 26, and we should be able to reach equal representation in the Senate much more quickly.”



(Credit: David Becker/Getty Images | Democratic Debate in Nevada 2019)
There was a thoughtful, yet unsurprising, piece on the University of California site by Karen Nikos-Rose about the under-representation of women in politics in the US despite an increase in the number of women voters and energy around women candidates for the presidency (just three women remain among democratic presidential nominees with the withdrawal today of Marianne Williamson):

“A few years ago I took my children on a tour of the state Capitol building. My daughter was very interested in the art — the woodwork, the decorative tiles, and the paintings. After viewing the gallery of governor portraits, she turned to me and asked, ‘Where are all the girls?’”

Bernadette Austin, associate director of the University of California, Davis, Center for Regional Change, studies regional issues and demographics in California, and told this story in a recent newsletter to stakeholders.

“We know that representation matters,” she wrote. “When we see people like ourselves in positions of leadership, it signals that someone who shares our history and worldview is making decisions that reflect our interests and values.”

California, as Austin’s daughter observed, has never had a woman governor, although nationwide, 44 women have served or serve as governors of U.S. states, with a handful having served as governors of U.S. territories. Nine women currently serve as governor of a state.


There was a terrific piece on built in by Molly Fosco about effective strategies from companies that prioritize gender parity:

Most tech companies will tell you they want to hire and promote more women, but how many make it a real priority? 

In early 2019, IBM’s Institute for Business Value conducted a survey of 2,300 organizations worldwide and found that women hold just 18 percent of leadership roles in those companies. Seventy-nine percent of companies surveyed said that promoting women into leadership roles is not a formal business priority to them. 

But the survey also found a small cohort of businesses that do prioritize advancing women’s careers. These companies, which IBM calls “First Movers,” report outperforming their competition in revenue growth, profitability and employee satisfaction. IBM analyzed those results and identified four key strategies that other organizations could follow to help close the gender gap and improve company culture.


The four key strategies that “First Movers” are using: 
  1. They provide career development planning specific to women’s needs. IBM has career development programs focused on building relationships and influence to help women advance into leadership roles.
  2. They use the same metrics for men’s and women’s job performance evaluations and apply them equitably. 
  3. They provide men and women with equal career opportunities.
  4. They work hard to create a culture that embraces women’s leadership styles. At First Mover companies, all executives regularly challenge gender-biased behaviors and language. 

It starts with awareness

Since releasing the First Movers study, IBM has launched the BeEqual campaign, a call for organizations around the world to commit to making gender equality in leadership a formal business priority, holding leaders accountable for results and creating a culture of inclusion. 

As of 2016, more than 24 percent of IBM’s global leadership is composed of women, including the chair, president and CEO, Ginni Rometty. Many women executives at IBM are in emerging tech sectors such as AI and machine learning, like Suh, which is notable considering that women make up just 26 percent of the overall AI workforce.  

Gender parity in corporate leadership won’t happen overnight, but Suh said IBM aims to demonstrate that it is possible. “I genuinely believe it starts with awareness,” she said. “The more that the community at large is aware, and tech in particular, the better.”


(Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui of Cambridge, MA)
The city of Cambridge, MA - that has used a proportional voting system for nearly 80 years - elected Sumbul Siddiquia mayor this week according to a story in The Harvard Crimson:

The Cambridge City Council elected Councilor Sumbul Siddiqui the new mayor of Cambridge for the 2020-2021 term by a unanimous vote at the council’s inaugural meeting Monday.

Siddiqui, a long-time Cambridge resident, is in her second term on the Cambridge City Council and will serve as Massachusetts’s first Muslim mayor.

Her election marks the end of Marc C. McGovern’s tenure as mayor of Cambridge for the 2018-2019 term. McGovern announced last week that he would not be seeking reelection, throwing his support to Siddiqui.

Prior to serving on the council, Siddiqui earned a bachelor's degree in public policy from Brown University and a law degree from Northwestern's Pritzker School of Law. She has also served as an AmeriCorps fellow at New Profit, a Boston nonprofit organization that works to improve social mobility for children.

In her address to the council at Monday’s meeting, Siddiqui discussed the role service has played in her life.

“When people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m a public servant,” Siddiqui said. “And I’m very proud of that answer, because service has defined my life.”

“Service is second nature in Cambridge,” she added. “It is one of our greatest strengths."


For a roundup of all the big wins for ranked choice voting in the last decade read RepresentWomen fellow Maura Reilly's piece in Ms Magazine:

The political landscape over the last decade was marked by increasing polarization, partisan majorities in many states that impose policies out of step with the views of most Americans—and gerrymandering and winner-take-all electoral systems making a mockery of the prospect of political accountability.

But it was also a decade in which ranked choice voting (RCV) spread across the country.

In municipalities which use RCV, many now have gender parity or even women majorities on city councils and school boards—including Las Cruces (New Mexico), Oakland (Calif.), Santa Fe (New Mexico) and St. Paul (Minn.). Cambridge, Massachusetts has used RCV since the 1940s, and, following the most recent November 2019 municipal elections with its “fair representation” form of RCV that replaces winner take all rules, women now hold eight of the 15 seats on the School Board and City Council which are chosen by RCV.

In the past decade, 58 women have run in the Cambridge RCV elections, 30 of those women have won meaning 52 percent, more than half of the women who ran, won. This compares to male candidates who have a success rate of 38 percent for the last ten years, there were a total of 110 male candidates and men only won a total of 42 seats over the decade. 

Between 2010 and 2020, there have been 26 mayoral races which use RCV ballots. Women won 10 of those races, or 38.5 percent—all first winning with RCV, usually against better financed male rivals. The victors include Betsy Hodges (Minneapolis, Minn.), London Breed (San Francisco, Calif.), Jean Quan (Oakland, Calif.), Libby Schaaf (Oakland, Calif.), Kate Snyder (Portland, Maine), Pauline Russo Cutter (San Leandro, Calif.), Delanie Young (Telluride, Col.) and Kate Stewart (Takoma Park, Maryland).



This week we kicked off our coverage of #SuffrageCentennial milestones - please join us on social media as we celebrate women leaders - including many of you (!) - throughout the year!
That's all from me tonight.
P.S. Weekend birthdays include Rep Sheila Jackson Lee, Victoria Woodhull, considered by some to be the first woman to run for president of the United States, Hattie Caraway who was the first woman U.S. Senator, and Alice Paul, a Quaker, who like me graduated from Swarthmore College but, unlike me, was a co-author of the Equal Rights Amendment.

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