By Cynthia Richie on July 08, 2016
The recent tumult in electoral outcomes and violence in our communities underscores for me the imperative of representative government. While it is not a salve for all the pain and hurt and fear swirling in and around our borders, I believe that a thriving democracy is an essential component of efforts to build a more just world.
Meetings with women's representation experts in Iceland and in Ireland in June have fueled my passion for winning gender parity through changes to recruitment norms, voting systems, and legislative practices and supporting the great work being done to train and support women candidates.
My older daughter Anna is pictured here with Nan Sloane of the UK's Labour Party, Katie Ghose director of the Electoral Reform Society, and Yvonne Galligan of Queen's University in Belfast. I look forward to continuing the conversation with these and other great women who are grappling with antiquated voting systems and outdated recruitment practices. The US has a lot to learn from the sophisticated conversations about gender parity taking place in Canada, the UK, and Ireland.
Representation2020 is very fortunate to have a terrific team of summer interns who have written an impressive array of blogs - here are links to a sample of their great work: Can Multi-Winner Districts Increase Women's Representation by Xiaojing Zeng & Orion Marchese, Where Does the US Stand on Gender Quotas & Elect and Protect Women Today by Maddie Kane, Perceived Media Bias Around Women in Politics by Anjali Bhatt, and First Openly Transgender Person Wins Major Party Nomination for Senate by Rachel Swack.
The team has also launched a series called #SummerOfSuffrage to highlight state passage of suffrage and progress toward parity across the nation. Here are a few samples of that social media effort. Help us to spread the word about the history of suffrage and reform by liking posts @rep__2020!
Wisconsin Public Radio had a great segment on a new study on the impact of gender quotas. While this research focused on the use of quotas in Sweden, there is overwhelming evidence from the Quota Project that the effectiveness of quotas is widespread and significant. I know the term 'quota' makes people squeamish but I am eager to push past that and embrace quotas - or 'targets' - as a mechanism for leveling the playing field for women candidates.
We are all familiar with 'quotas' for Oscar winners, Olympic competition, and meteorological events but few people know that political parties have gender quotas for their state committees and convention delegates. The Ohio Republican State Central and Executive Committees instituted their gender quotas in 1992:
Rules Relating to Delegates and Alternate Delegates To The Republican National Convention
(c) Beginning in 1992 and in every Presidential election year thereafter, every Presidential candidate filling slates of candidates for Delegate and Alternate Delegate in the Ohio Republican Presidential Primary Election shall apportion his or her Delegates and Alternate Delegates in such a manner as to guarantee equality of representation (plus or minus one) between men and women. Commencing with the Presidential election of 1992 and in alternating presidential elections thereafter, in the first Congressional district the first delegate named shall be a woman, and thereafter delegates from each successive district, in numerical order shall be named in alternating order, man and woman, until all district delegates have been selected, in the intervening alternate Presidential election years, in the first Congressional district the first delegate named shall be a man, and thereafter delegates from each successive district, in numerical order shall be named in alternating order, woman and man, until all district delegates have been selected.
I think that the US Senate is a great place to start the conversation about quotas. Having one man and one woman from each state would certainly improve an institution riddled by geographic and demographic unfairness. I suspect that if all the groups working to elect women candidates began to push for a gender quota in the US Senate we would a) get some attention, b) begin to change the narrative about representation, and c) be applauded by the more than 100 nations who have led the way on this important conversation. Anyone interested in figuring out the next steps?
Australia had elections this week and the proportion of women in parliament climbed 1.9 percent according to a sassy piece in Junkee. An interesting piece in Toronto Metro discusses women's representation in Canada. Women in the UK are considering the use of quotas to increase workplace diversity according to the online news site Recruiter while women in Ireland have benefited from the introduction of electoral gender quotas according to a piece in SpunOut that concludes:
In an ideal world, we simply wouldn’t need them, but Irish politics has been far from ideal for the last hundred years.
Gwen Young's terrific project to reach gender parity in all civil service positions by 2050 was profiled by Natalia Brzezinski in the Huffington Post while Emily Crockett wrote a piece on Vox about Hillary Clinton's plans for a gender balanced cabinet.
Finally, a news clip about former Navy intelligence officer Julia Feltcher dropping out of the FL 4 congressional race - citing her need to care for her infant son - was a reminder that we must work to make sure that the campaign process and elected office are options for all.
Thanks for reading,
Don't forget to follow Presidential Gender Watch on social media and tune into To the Contrary on PBS!