Most U.S. States Get a "D" for Women's Representation
Dear fans of gender balance in politics,
Many thanks to RepresentWomen research director Courtney Lamendola who worked with her terrific team to release the 2022 Gender Parity Index this week.
While women's representation has increased since last year's report, most states still get a "D" -- no state gets an "A" -- and the current pace of progress is too slow to reach gender balance in politics in our lifetimes:
Nine years ago, RepresentWomen (then Representation2020) developed the Gender Parity Index (GPI) to help researchers and advocates rate progress towards gender-balanced governance in the United States. Each year, a Gender Parity Score is calculated for each of the 50 states and the U.S. as a whole. This score measures women’s representation at the national, state, and local levels of government on a scale of 0 (if there are no women in office) to 100 (if there are women in every office). Grades are then assigned according to a state's proximity to parity (50/100).
The Gender Parity Index is a measurement and evaluation tool that enables us to track outcomes for women in politics and make comparisons between states. One of the key takeaways from this exercise is that progress towards gender-balance is slower than it appears. Though it is true that women’s representation has increased over time, the Gender Parity Index shows that 1) not every state is on an upward trajectory towards parity, and 2) women remain underrepresented at every level of government, despite record progress.
At RepresentWomen, we use the Gender Parity Index to demonstrate the need for systems strategies that can improve women’s representation in politics. Our research shows that there are systemic barriers that make it more difficult for women to enter politics and limit progress towards parity in every state. Existing strategies that focus on preparing individual women to run for office are not enough to mitigate these barriers on their own. Complementary systems strategies are needed to address the systemic barriers that hinder women at every stage of the electoral process.
Gender Quotas Driving Increase in Women's Representation Around the Globe
Women hold only 30 percent of seats in the House of Commons, and Canada ranks (as of June 2022) a mere 58th of 185 countries with active parliaments, sandwiched between Zimbabwe at 57 and Viet Nam at 59.
Canada started the millennium ranked 27.
Progress then slowed and other countries pulled ahead. Countries like Mexico, Argentina, France, Spain and Belgium all outrank Canada, electing over 40 per cent women. The secret to their success? Laws that require political parties to run specified proportions of women.
These statutory gender quotas are found in over 80 countries, making Canada an outlier. And the success of quotas in countries like Mexico — that have strong parties and single-member districts — handily contradicts arguments that quotas are incompatible with Canada’s political system.
It’s time Canada got with the program and adopted gender parity for parliament.
Quota laws set different minimum percentages for women candidates, but the current state-of-the-art is gender parity — meaning gender-balance or 50 per cent women and 50 percent men.
The European Union considers gender parity a matter of fairness and democracy. So do all 33 Latin American and Caribbean governments, who committed to gender parity in the 2007 Quito Consensus.
The reasoning — echoed by feminist activists across the globe — is that governments and policies cannot be representative without including men and women in equal numbers. Indeed, voters perceive gender-balanced decision-making bodies as more trustworthy and more legitimate than those dominated by men.
Having a female CEO at the helm of a company or chairing its board tends to make a huge difference, Altrata’s latest Global Gender Diversity report said Thursday.
The report examined BoardEx data to study female representation on the boards and leadership teams of 1,677 publicly traded companies in 20 countries as of the first quarter of this year.
It found that female representation on boards and in executive suites remains woefully low. And women who occupy roles on corporate boards often do not hold the most powerful positions....
But having a woman at the top can ripple throughout the organization. Of the companies studied, U.S.-listed Organon had the highest proportion of female board members, while Singapore-based CapitaLand Integrated Commercial Trust tops the global list for corporate leadership.
Illustration: Lars Leetaru
What does gender have to do with environmental sustainability? These two issues may seem unrelated, but they are in fact closely intertwined. Indeed, a comprehensive report from United Nations (UN) Women found that women are disproportionately impacted by most if not all of the challenges highlighted in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For example, natural disasters (which have become more common due to the climate crisis) often disproportionately affect women, children, the poor, the elderly, and the disabled, whose perspectives often go unheard or ignored. Women and girls in many regions in the Global South are typically responsible for collecting water, which becomes a lot more taxing during droughts, and in Europe, women are more likely than men to live in flood zones, where the impact of climate change is felt most severely. Studies have also shown that gender-based violence, including physical, psychological, and reproductive violence against women, becomes more prevalent after natural disasters, with complex and far-reaching consequences on health and well-being.
In addition, many policies and initiatives designed to address environmental issues do so while ignoring or even actively harming women and other underserved groups. For example, women and poorer households tend to be affected more negatively by environmental policies such as expansions of public transport, carbon pricing, and taxes, because these policies often overlook the needs of women and underserved groups (e.g., by optimizing public transit for traditional 9-to-5 commutes rather than school pickup routes, or by increasing the prices of goods on which women and families rely). Similarly, in one case, climate-driven efforts to install “clean” cooking stoves were discontinued when organizers realized their impact on emissions was smaller than initially expected, disregarding the unexpected positive byproduct that these stoves improved women’s and children’s health and safety...
The good news is, while women are especially vulnerable in this climate crisis, they are also uniquely positioned to act as powerful agents of change. On average, women have smaller carbon footprints than men, more-responsible attitudes towards climate change, and greater interest in protecting the environment, with notable examples including activist Greta Thunberg, primatologist Jane Goodall, and consumer advocate Erin Brockovich. Female leaders are already tackling the climate crisis from the grassroots up to the top levels of the corporate world, with studies showing that organizations with more female executives and board members have better performance in terms of both environmental impact and broad corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals. Indeed, research has identified a distinct female leadership advantage: Women have been demonstrated to be more effective leaders both in normal times and during crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic (in the U.S. and across 91 countries), and the data suggests this advantage extends to the climate crisis as well.
The bill is endorsed by a wide range of democracy and youth organizations and cosponsored by leading voices in the Senate and House. Through my work engaging young people across the country in organizing, education, advocacy, research, and scholarship — and litigation when necessary — I hear about how they are systematically forced to use provisional ballots in successive elections based on issues related to their voter registration and voter confusion; how they need to travel far off campus to vote, sometimes taking multiple buses and hours-long trips; how they cannot meet identification requirements because they are from out-of-state or do not have a driver’s license, but often use the most widely available form of identification they have, a student identification card....
The Youth Voting Rights Act takes the best of the American village: empowering young people to write the future they will inherit, with multigenerational support. This is the country we should aspire to be.
Last month, Kishimoto was elected mayor of Suginami ward in Tokyo, becoming the first female leader in its 90-year history. In a country with low levels of female representation, Kishimoto said she decided to run for office to “promote democracy” and to champion causes close to her heart, such as labour rights and the environment.
“When I looked at Suginami and what local people faced there in terms of public services, childcare and urban planning, I thought something had to change and I believed I could do something with them and for them.”
Prior to running for mayor, the 47-year-old Kishimoto worked for 25 years as an environmental activist at Transnational Institute, a Dutch research organisation. She recently returned to Japan after a decade living in Belgium with her husband and two children. Despite her political opponents' criticisms of her Belgian residency, she’s maintained such strong ties with Japan that this didn’t seem to sway most voters.
Sadly, Charlotte never did boldly announce gender disparity in the middle of MoMA, in real life or on TV. Art Girl Rising simply used the familiar pop culture reference to capture the attention of Instagram users like myself and point us towards a very real, ongoing issue.
Upsettingly, the idea that, in 2002, 10% of MoMA's collection was by women seems generous when in 2004’s re-hang of the permanent collection (with works spanning from 1879-1969), that number was closer to 5%. Jerry Saltz’s 2007 article Where Are All The Women? for New York magazine noted that the re-hang exhibited only 20 works by women out of 415 in 2004, and 19 out of 399 in 2006. Twelve years later, MoMA’s formerly abysmal representation of women rose to 23%— or 336 of 1,443 exhibited works. Apparent progress but still a deep divide, one that the art historian Maura Reilly described as “tokenism”. For ARTnews, Reilly framed the massive 2019 re-hang as both exciting but disappointing — the central characters continued to be the white men of always, with women and artists of colour in supporting roles.