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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation July 12, 2019


(The US women's soccer team after their win this week)
Dear friends,
As I am sure you've heard by now, the US women's soccer team won the World Cup this week in an exciting match against the Netherlands. While the struggle continues for equal pay for these incredible athletes their win is a testament to the impact of Title IX that's a terrific example of a systems reform that created equality of opportunity for women in sports and education. The New York Times reports on the team's triumph:

Few sports teams are asked to carry so much meaning on their shoulders, to represent so many things to so many people, as the United States women’s soccer team. Few athletes are expected to lead on so many fronts at once, to be leaders for equal pay and gay rights and social justice, to serve as the face of both corporations and their customers. Fewer still have ever been so equipped to handle such a burden, so aware of themselves, so comfortable in their own skin, as those American women.


There were a number of international stories that caught my eye this week including this article from En that reports on the record number of women elected to parliament in Indonesia:
The General Elections Commission (KPU) released a report on its official Twitter account about women’s representation at the Indonesian parliament, which the commission deemed the highest in the post-reform (pasca-reformasi) era.

The infographic shows that women’s representation in the House of Representatives (DPR) in 2019 reached 118 seats.

This fact, says KPU, is the highest it has ever been throughout history; “Did you know that the 2019 general elections have the highest women’s representation at the House of Representatives (DPR) post-reform,” the Twitter account said.

This amounts to 20.5 percent from the entire DPR seats. As a comparison, 2014 saw only 97, or 17.3 percent, female representatives in the DPR.


According to this fascinating piece in The Japan Times, there are a record high number of female candidates for the Diet in part due to the new voluntary targets set by the government to increase women's representation in government - targets are a central part of RepresentWomen's advocacy in the US:

In terms of female representation in the Diet, Japan came in last among the Group of 20 major economies and 164th overall in a global ranking by the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union in 2018. The proportion of women in the Lower House stood at 10.2 percent, while that in the House of Councilors was at 20.7 percent as of January.

To address the imbalance, the government has set a target of raising the ratio of women in leadership positions to 30 percent by 2020.

The country also introduced in May last year a law calling on political parties to set targets for female candidates, although it is nonbinding and does not penalize violators.

Lindsay Benstead had a very interesting piece in The Washington Post about the impact of greater numbers of women in office in Tunisia which has seen an increase of women in politics in recent years as a result of gender quotas:
Even in democracies like the United States, gendered networks play a role in perpetuating gender gaps in politics, business and the arts. Female leaders were more likely than male leaders to hire women — evidence that gendered networks play a role in promoting — or hampering — women’s equal access to opportunities. The findings from Tunisia also shows that quotas improve women’s representation, especially in authoritarian and democratizing countries with weak parliaments or clientelistic politics. That men’s access did not diminish when women were elected suggests that in North Africa, as in consolidated democracies, promoting gender equity need not be considered a zero-sum game.
Avi Green, executive director of the Scholars Strategy Network shared two news items that speak to the power of systems strategies to advance women's representation as a follow up to last week's Weekend Reading - I thought I would share Avi's post to make sure everyone saw it:
A couple of things this week made me think of the strong argument for systems change as the most viable path to gender parity:
1) I listened to the terrific July 10th NYT podcast, The Daily, about the race in North Carolina. At the end, Michael Barbaro asks NYT reporter Julie Davis, "What happens if [the female candidate Dr. Joan] Perry loses?"

Davis responds: "I think there is going to be a lot of soul searching among the leaders of the party about what they can actually do to diversify on gender lines. They have outspent the forces supporting Greg Morphy, a large factor. This is a smooth-running campaign, they have candidate [Perry] who really fits the ideology of the district. And part of this effort is a gamble that even if voters maybe not be ready to embrace a candidate like this, that with the concerted effort of party leaders with enough money, with enough preparation, that they can turn that tide. If that turns out not to be the case, that voters don’t want to elect a person like this, they are going to have to reevaluate and figure out what it is going to take to change the game."  
Of course, Perry lost. Changing the game, as Davis said, seems like the best option going forward.
2) I am a huge fan of Stanford political scientist Jonathan Rodden's new book, Why Cities Lose.  Rodden argues that people who live in and near cities have been, are, and will be structurally denied electoral power proportional to their actual numbers, and that this is a feature of all contiguous single-member district systems, from Australia to Britain to the US.  (Regardless of whether the districts are made by legislators or independent commissions). Rodden explains that correlates to major reductions in policy commitments to the things people who live in cities prefer, including civil rights, women's rights, and environmental protection, compared to other democracies with proportional requirements and multi-member districts.  Highly recommended.
The New York Times story referenced above regarding Dr Joan Perry's surprising loss this week - despite impressive endorsements, stellar qualifications, and solid funding  - is further confirmation that the cards are stacked against women in politics and suggests that systems reforms are needed to address the myriad of deeply-rooted structural barriers that women candidates face.

The results are in from the first big test of the Republican Party’s efforts to recruit and elect more women to Congress this election cycle — and rebuild its majority.

And things are not looking good.

Dr. Joan Perry, a newcomer whom Republicans regarded as a top recruit for 2020, was soundly defeated on Tuesday by Dr. Greg Murphy, a state legislator, in a House Republican primary race in North Carolina that illustrated how steep the party’s climb will be as it tries to build more gender diversity. A very conservative female physician stood against a very conservative male physician, and all things being equal, the man won.

“Of course it was disappointing,” said Representative Elise Stefanik, Republican of New York, who supported Dr. Perry and has dedicated her political arm to electing more Republican women. “I am concerned about this false assumption that is made that somehow women candidates are not conservative. That is not the case. Women candidates are just as ideologically diverse in the Republican Party as male candidates are.”


Register here for Women & Money: Making Money Moves That Matter that terrific allies Tuti Scott and Marianne Schnall are organizing - I hope that you will join us there for what promises to be a timely and important conversation - see the attached pdf for more details:
Brenda Choresi Carter, director of the Reflective Democracy Campaign, reminded me of the terrific report The Electability Myth - that was released last month, here is an excerpt:

There’s no mistaking that white men dominate politics. At 30% of the population, they hold62% of elected offices at the local, state, and federal level – more than double their share.But while white men may still have a monopoly hold on elected office, they do not hold amonopoly on electability.In 2015, our research found that when they’re on the ballot,women of all races and men of color win elections at the same rates as white men.Running the data on the 2018 elections confirms it: white men’s electability advantage is a myth.


RSVP here to see the acclaimed film 'Councilwoman' & attend a terrific panel discussion including Carmen Castillo, Margo Guernsey, & Brenda Choresi Carter next week:
  • 6:30 - 8:30pm
  • Wednesday, July 17
  • Landmark's E Street Cinema
I hope that you have a great weekend!

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