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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation July 23, 2021

Susannah Wellford, Mika Brzezinski, and Laura Cox Kaplan, RepresentWomen
Dear fans of gender balance in politics,
Journalist Mika Brzezinksi, who launched the Know Your Value platform on NBC 15 years ago, wrote this piece on what's next in the work for gender equality for a series celebrating the first 25 years of MSNBC:

For 15 years, "Know Your Value," my platform with NBC, has been committed to pay equity and equal representation. And it was my own personal story that led to my first book, “Know Your Value,” which is the foundation for the KYV platform. I teach women and minorities the part of the equation that they can control, which is based on effective communication and authenticity. Back in 2011 when I first wrote “Know Your Value” I could not believe that I would tell the story of my own pay equity issues at MSNBC and have it published with their endorsement. But this is who we are. As far as we’ve come over the past 25 years, I know there is a long road ahead for true equity across business, politics, education, and all facets of life.

No matter if you’re just entering the workforce or just a few years from retirement, it’s important for everyone to feel they are valued, and rewarded, for their skills. "Know Your Value" covers solutions for all ages, starting with “Earn it!,” my book written with co-author Daniela Pierre Bravo. As a dreamer, I hope Daniela’s story can inspire young women and minorities starting out in their careers. The most effective way we’ve seen to educate and empower women of all ages is to let them tell their stories of navigating life and career. Years ago, MSNBC witnessed the influence of "Know Your Value’s" mission. As partners, we traveled around the country holding events teaching women, especially in minority communities, how to know their value and communicate it effectively. With the backing of Comcast and NBCUniversal we shattered the norms of how women communicate about equity...

Happily, we are starting to see progress. More than a quarter century after Hilary Clinton declared “women’s rights are human’s rights,” and the United Nations’ Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action pledged to take the necessary steps to “remove all obstacles to gender equality and the advancement and empowerment of women,” support for gender equality has increased exponentially worldwide.

There are many ways to define gender equality, but pay equity, equal representation in positions of power and having the authority to call the shots are all vital facets of this key global metric. And they all lead to equal opportunities for success.

As the world marches towards the next phase of gender equality, we must wake up to the limitless advantages that come with gender equity. Equality is not only a right, it is also economically beneficial for the world. This is the time to set an example for the next generation of policymakers, of innovators and of citizens. This is the age of equality. This is the age of change.

Pivotal Ventures and The Holding Company released The Investor's Guide to the Care Economy: Four Dynamic Areas of Growth a "first-of-its-kind research effort that examines the depth of the $648B (and growing!) untapped opportunity in the care market" - here are the toplines:
Released in partnership with The Holding Co., this report comes as we emerge from a time when Americans’ caregiving responsibilities – so often invisible in our society – have been harshly in the spotlight and innovation is needed now more than ever.

A few top-line takeaways from the research summarized below, and the full report can be downloaded here:
  • The care economy totals $648 billion, making it larger than the US pharmaceutical industry, which is valued at $510 billion.
  • Child care is a $136 billion market that's ripe for reinvention, especially as US government spending provides fuel for private sector innovation.
  • American families across income levels are willing and ready to spend on care-related activities and chores at home, presenting a $217 billion opportunity.
  • 42% of employers plan to expand or add care as an employee benefit.

RepresentWomen's International Dashboard on Women's Representation

There are many obvious benefits to having more women in positions of political and  economic power but electing more women to office also correlates to greater overall happiness according to this article in Ms Magazine by Riane Eisler and Robyn Baker:
Happiness is often perceived as an elusive feeling, a fleeting moment in a person’s life. National happiness might sound absurd, but a recent report by the United Nations reveals that happiness can actually be a public policy with highly successful results. The 2021 World Happiness Report  shows that high levels of government spending on human infrastructure—the services and systems that improve people’s quality of life—are the key to happiness.

The top-ranked countries of the World Happiness Report share this high level of public investment in human infrastructure. Finland came in first for the fourth year in a row, followed by Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland and the Netherlands. They have very healthy market economies precisely because they invest heavily in caring for people, starting at birth.

These countries are not socialist—they simply have more women in leadership positions.

Finland, for example, passed the Parliament Act to give women the right to vote and run for parliamentary elections in 1906, much earlier than the U.S, and today women are about half of Finland’s national legislature.

However, neither the World Happiness Report nor policymakers acknowledge the connection between the two: Human infrastructure is supported by women in leading government positions. This correlation can be explained by another still generally ignored fact: that care work, such as caring for children and the elderly, has been devalued under a hidden gendered system of values that has gone along with the ranking of men/”masculinity” over women/”femininity.”

Women in leadership positions understand this historic pattern and that its solution lies in providing more choices to families for access to public services that help nurture human development and balance the gendered division of labor. Therefore, the presence of women in government leads to more caring policies that support human infrastructure for all, from high quality early education to universal health care.
Letitia James, the author, celebrating the likely women's Council majority (photo: @21in21NYC)
New York Attorney General, Letitia James, wrote a powerful piece in the Gotham Gazette about the many women winners in the New York City ranked choice voting primary held last month - check out RepresentWomen's new dynamic map for a full list of all the races:
New York’s biggest strength – by far – is its diversity. New Yorkers speak more than 700 languages, represent hundreds of countries, and span every level of socio-economic status. We’re every color, every religion, and every identity. Our communities thrive when we lean into our diverse cultures, ensuring voices from all corners of our city are heard and represented. Unfortunately, our City Council has historically failed to achieve that.

For a city with a population that is more than 50% women, there is no excuse for not having that same proportion represented in local government. Inclusive leadership leads to inclusive policies, and the most diverse city in the world needs a government that reflects all that we are and represent.

We are finally poised to achieve that goal, with a majority of women well-positioned to take over the New York City Council for the first time in history. If elected in November, this new class of City Council members will take office in January and finally mirror the pluralism and diverse cultures of the city it will represent.

Over the past two decades, the number of women in the City Council decreased dramatically. Out of 51 Council seats, only five women were non-term-limited incumbents set to remain in office in 2022. Our city government was failing to reflect the heterogeneity of the five boroughs. Yet, when faced with higher stakes than ever before, New Yorkers responded resolutely, voting for women across the board.
Two of the many women who won their primary race for NYC council, Sandy Nurse & Crystal Hudson, wrote an excellent piece in The New York Daily News about their support for ranked choice voting:
Ranked-choice voting has just played a key role in delivering a government that truly represents the vast diversity of our city. It’s exactly what New York needs.

Yet the new, popular voting system has come under fire in recent weeks after the Board of Elections mistakenly included more than 130,000 dummy votes in its preliminary ranked-choice tally of early and primary day votes. It was a terrible error, but the error has nothing to do with ranked-choice voting and everything to do with an outdated system of political patronage that allows the board to be made up of party insiders and relatives of elected officials, instead of qualified election administrators.

The politicians who are pointing fingers at ranked-choice voting for the tallying fiasco are willfully ignoring the obvious: They have the power to give us the election administrators we deserve. And they’re threatening the very system of voting that for the first time in our history has delivered a majority-female City Council.

New York City is 52% women, but only 14 women currently serve in the 51-member Council. That’s a failure to reflect the lived experiences of the majority of New Yorkers. Not anymore: We are two of the 29 glass-ceiling-shattering women who are likely to become councilmembers. What’s even more groundbreaking is that 86% of us are women of color. We are both Black women — Sandy is Afro-Latina, and Crystal will be one of the first two openly gay Black councilmembers.

Of course, ranked-choice voting isn’t the only factor in this huge success. We and other candidates won our races by building strong, broad and diverse coalitions of support, including everyone from NYCHA residents to immigrant communities to union members to faith leaders to long-time district residents. With or without ranked-choice voting, we were always planning on running campaigns that reached every voter, in every neighborhood, to talk about the issues that matter to our communities, from affordable housing to fully-funded schools to a real plan for racial equity. New changes to the city’s matching-funds program, which amplify small-dollar contributions, also helped power campaigns with grassroots support up and down the ballot.

But we can’t discount ranked-choice voting, which has historically resulted in more wins for women and candidates of color. This is the system that helped elect Oakland’s first woman mayor, San Francisco’s first Black woman mayor and Minneapolis’s first two Black trans City Council members. And now, it’s delivering for New York.

In many districts across the city, the old system didn’t leave room for candidates like us, and voters missed out because of it. Often, there was only opportunity for one progressive, one woman or one person of color on the ballot in a single race. If there were more of us, we’d risk splitting the vote and canceling each other out.

Sandy experienced this when she briefly ran for Assembly under the old system. There was a firm expectation that the progressive candidates who didn’t have enough funding and support at a certain point in the race would drop out, and voters would coalesce behind whoever was left standing. That meant a lot of voters had to settle before Election Day. But with ranked-choice voting, voters don’t have to settle, and candidates don’t have to start their campaigns wondering when they’ll have to cut them short.

Plus, with the new system, we knew that some of our competitors’ supporters might rank us second or third, which meant we could focus on running positive campaigns. By focusing on substance and the issues that matter to voters, Crystal was able to win the most first and second choice votes in her race. There’s evidence that suggests that with campaigns like ours, women are more likely to run and succeed.

Throughout our campaigns, we heard over and over that ranked-choice voting was too complicated for voters of color. That’s not only false, but also racist and insulting. We spoke with voters about how to rank candidates, ensuring everybody knew how to take full advantage of the new system.

Our conversations proved what we already knew: ranking is easy. Exit polling showed that 95% of voters found their ballots simple to complete and 83% ranked more than one candidate. And voters agree that ranked-choice voting is better than the old system: 77% want to use ranked choice voting in future elections.

We know what it’s like to live on the margins and what it means to be left behind. We know the strong impact government can have on New Yorkers’ daily lives. That’s why it’s so important, and so historic, that the next City Council will actually look like New York. Ranked-choice voting is one reason why. New Yorkers deserve the system of voting that has changed our city for the better, and we will fight to strengthen it for generations to come.
The 2020 race for two At-Large seats on the D.C. Council attracted 23 candidates — and prompted calls for the city to adopt ranked-choice voting. Martin Austermuhle / DCist/WAMU
The incredible outcomes for women candidates chronicled by Tish James, Sandy Nurse & Crystal Hudson along with other pro-voter impacts of ranked choice voting in New York City have re-inspired democracy advocates on the city council in Washington, DC to push for RCV according to this piece on WAMU:
A majority of D.C. council members are supporting a bill that would bring ranked-choice voting to D.C. as soon as 2024.

The bill, introduced Wednesday by At-Large Councilmember Christina Henderson and six of her colleagues, comes in the wake of New York City’s recent mayoral election, the first citywide election to be conducted using ranked-choice voting. The system allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference; if no one candidate wins an outright majority, the worst-performing contender is dropped and votes are recalculated using voters’ second choices, and so on until one candidate wins a majority of support.

Under Henderson’s bill, voters would be allowed to rank up to five candidates in any one race, like in New York. In a statement, she said New York City’s experience shows the benefits of ranked-choice voting.

“With the unofficial results of New York City’s primary election — the largest jurisdiction to use RCV — voters elected the second Black Mayor in the city’s history, the first ever majority female City Council, and an overwhelming number of voters ranked three or more candidates,” she said. “As D.C.’s elections become more competitive, it’s time to consider whether a new process for selecting our elected officials is needed.”

Advocates say ranked-choice voting helps do away with situations where large numbers of candidates split the vote, leaving the winner with only a small proportion of overall support. That was the case for Henderson herself, who won her seat with less than 15% of the vote in a field of 23 candidates vying for two At-Large seats. (Councilmember Robert White won the other seat with just shy of 26% of the vote.)

Ranked-choice voting also made a cameo in Virginia earlier this year, when Republicans used it during their statewide convention to pick their candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. Political analysts noted that Republican leaders likely opted for the system to prevent any candidate — seven competed to be the gubernatorial nominee — from winning with less than majority support.
Rep. Sharice Davids did pushups for good luck as she prepared to draw her number during the member-elect room lottery draw on Capitol Hill. | Courtesy of Davids' office
The start of the Tokyo Olympics has re-focused the conversation about gender equality in athletics amidst new commitments for the games to be gender-balanced by 2024.
Women who serve in Congress who were/are athletes were featured in this piece in Politico by Shia Kapos:
Women athletes have never been so inextricably linked to political discourse as they are today — speaking out on criminal justice reform, #MeToo, Senate races, publicity rights for their name, image and likeness (NIL), and inequalities in the NCAA.

And when the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team takes the field at the Tokyo Olympics, we can expect a renewed discussion on pay equity.

The female athletes who now serve in Congress see this sports-politics nexus as marking a powerful new moment for women, who are — across all areas of society — becoming more comfortable speaking up about policy and politics. The media, which for years focused more on women’s appearance than activism, has also become less dismissive of women who enter the political arena.

“Women are at the point where they’re not going to sit back and think in that old-fashioned way of being lady-like and just taking it. I think we’re at an age in 2021 that when women see something that needs correcting, they’re going to say something,” Rep. Cheri Bustos, a two-sport college athlete (basketball and volleyball), told Women Rule. Bustos is still an athlete — she plays on the congressional softball team — and counts New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand as a tennis partner. (Gillibrand's first leadership position was as captain of Dartmouth’s women's squash team.)

This week, Bustos and Gillibrand co-sponsored a bill that would end forced arbitration for sexual assault and harrassment claims. Forced arbitration clauses prevent workers from suing their employers, requiring them to bring complaints privately instead. Lawmakers say the new bill would give women in the workplace a stronger voice.

“Women athletes have far more power and influence than I ever could have dreamed of when I was playing,” Rep. Lori Trahan, a Massachusetts Democrat, told Women Rule. “They have a pivotal role in our country’s public discourse especially right now and the coming years as we continue working to create a more equal playing field, whether it’s in business, government or the economy.”

Trahan, who earned a scholarship to play Division 1 volleyball at Georgetown University, expects the expanding spotlight on women’s sports to be far-reaching as young people take notice.

“Women athletes being more exposed to young people, whether on social media or TV, I think benefits the youngest players,” Trahan said. “I have young daughters who see these women and they look at them and see that they can be whatever they want to be if they work hard. It’s an important message.”

That sports ethic is what drives the women athletes in Congress, too.
This article by Meredith Deliso on NBC discusses some of the gains women have made in sports and some of the hurdles women athletes still face:
At the first modern Olympic Games, held in 1896 in Athens, there wasn't a single female competitor. When the 2020 Games kick off in Tokyo this month, nearly half of the athletes competing will be women.

Tokyo marks a "turning point" for the elite international sporting competition as the most gender-equal Olympics in the games' history, organizers said, with women accounting for nearly 49% of the 11,090 athletes. That's up from 45% at the last games in 2016 in Rio, 23% at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, 13.2% at the 1964 Games in Tokyo, and 2.2% at the 1900 Games in Paris -- the first to have female athletes.

When the games return to Paris in 2024, there is anticipated to be full gender parity, with the same number of female athletes as male athletes.

The milestone comes as the 2020 Games have sparked a conversation around the needs of mothers in particular, regarding accommodations around pregnancy, breastfeeding and child care and as scandals involving the abuse and harassment of female athletes continue to plague sports globally.
U.S. women's soccer team member Megan Rapino, painted by Melanie Humble
While this piece by Talya Minsberg in The New York Times examines the barriers women face as athletes and the over-representation of men on the International Olympic Committee:
For the first time since the founding of the modern Olympics 125 years ago, the Games have nearly reached gender parity.

Of the nearly 11,000 athletes arriving in Tokyo, almost 49 percent will be women, according to the International Olympic Committee, up from 45.6 percent at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games and 44.2 percent at the 2012 London Olympics. (The I.O.C. does not have data on the number of nonbinary athletes at these Games.)

Many countries credit the strides to broad policy changes, increased funding and promotion of female athletes in mainstream media. But for other nations, equality is far off: Men enjoy far more funding, news coverage and opportunities than their female counterparts.

Even as gains are made on the field of play, the makeup of the overwhelmingly male I.O.C. remains behind. Women make up 33.3 percent of its executive board, and 37.5 percent of committee members are female...

Before the opening ceremony on Friday, many countries — including the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada and China — announced team lineups that had more women than men.

In the United States, Title IX, the 1972 law that provided girls equal opportunity in high school and college sports, has propelled women to higher levels at a pace few nations have been able to match.

But this is the first Summer Olympics in which Britain has more female athletes, 201, than men, 175.

“There isn’t a comparable piece of legislation in the United Kingdom in respect to the sport, so there is still a significant gap between boys’ and men’s opportunities and girls’ and women’s opportunities in sport,” said Dr. Heather Dichter, an associate professor of sport history at De Montfort University, in Leicester, England. “Until recently, funding has been tied to success.”

It is a bit of a chicken-and-egg game when it comes to providing adequate resources for women’s sports, she added. Some nations fund their athletes and teams based on previous success, which is challenging to achieve without funding. The cycle continues.
Nadia Calviño, by Jorge Alvaro Manzano, Flickr
Women are making strides in leadership in Spain with this week's announcement of a cabinet shuffle that means that women will hold 63% of seats according to this story in Bay Side News:
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has made a far-reaching reshuffle of his cabinet as the ruling socialists seek to regain the initiative after a series of setbacks on the political, economic and diplomatic fronts.

In a larger-than-expected reconfiguration of the government, Sanchez has promoted Nadia Calvino, Spain’s economy minister, to his new number two, as several prominent government figures have left their posts.

In an address to the nation, Sanchez announced the formation of what he described as the new government that will focus on economic recovery and the use of 140 billion euros in the European Union. funds That Spain hopes to help it recover from the ravages of the pandemic – which the government hopes will help restore its fortunes.

“The recovery government begins today to overcome the worst disaster in decades,” he said. He added that the change involved a “generational renewal,” with the average age of ministers dropping from 55 to 50, and the proportion of women rising from 54 to 63 percent.

Among those leaving the alliance are Carmen Calvo, Sanchez’s main deputy to date – a position Calvino would hold – as well as Secretary of State Arancha Gonzalez, Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff and strategist Ivan Redondo, and Jose Luis Abalos, a veteran socialist who served as Minister of Transportation.

The new foreign minister will be Jose Manuel Alparís, a former Sanchez adviser who is now ambassador to France, who prides himself on his diplomatic experience and closeness to the prime minister.

The promotion of Calvino – a former senior European Commission official – means she will chair cabinet meetings in Sanchez’s absence.
It's been a good week in the garden...
Here's to a restful weekend to power our work for parity,
P.S. Below are the women who won their primary race for the NYC council last month! If this graphic seems a little crowded just wait till we get to gender parity in Congress!

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