Skip navigation

Weekend Reading on Women's Representation March 22, 2024

Dear Readers,

This week, we celebrated the re-introduction of the Fair Representation Act. I joined my friends, Rashad Robinson (CEO of Color of Change), Lisa Rice (director of Make all Vote Count, DC), Paul Brandeis Raushenbush (CEO of the Interfaith Alliance), Norm Ornstein (from the American Enterprise Institute) and Representative Don Beyer, to speak about the merits of the FRA and herald its reintroduction in Congress. 

My quote in Representative Beyer’s press release about the re-introduction not only amplifies the FRA's positive impact on how we elect our public servants, but also on who we elect to serve in office.

The Fair Representation Act outlines a bold plan to increase competition and fairness in U.S House elections and reduce polarization, with added benefits for women candidates. No single reform would create more opportunities for women and people of color from across the geographic and partisan spectrum to win seats in Congress. The ability to compete in fair elections is central to our vision of how we achieve gender balance for women in Congress, in our lifetimes.

With RepresentWomen team members Alissa Bombardier Shaw, Courtney Lamendola, &  IREX fellow Vishmee Warnachapa 

The Fair Representation Act Featured on NPR & The Fulcrum

Credit: FairVote

The FRA has the potential to create a more diverse government through the implementation of ranked choice voting and the creation of multi-member U.S. House districts drawn by independent redistricting commissions. This voting system also combats gerrymandering and amplifies voter power.  Our friend at FairVote, the amazing Deb Otis, discussed the re-introduction of the FRA on a podcast on NPR this week.  Alaska and Maine have already seen major results from implementing RCV and Deb explains why more states are considering the new system and reinforces why the FRA is a true model for a more representative democracy.

The Fulcrum featured a terrific piece from Drew Penrose & Dave Daley about the impact of this proportional voting system and how it holds the potential to transform the way we elect our public officials:

Our country is more politically sorted than it has been in a century, but we are not nearly as sorted as the simple narrative suggests. Liberal voters live in the reddest parts of rural America, and conservative voters live in the bluest of cities. However, they are invisible in winner-take-all congressional elections. Every vote they cast fails to elect anyone.

That means they’re invisible in Congress itself, which John Adams wrote “should be in miniature, an exact portrait of the people.” Instead, the people’s House is the very picture of gridlock and extremism. It’s an unrepresentative body sent to Washington from uncompetitive districts in hyper-polarized times that has hamstrung action even on issues where large majorities of us agree.

While our politics may seem intractably broken, there are solutions available, if we can muster the will to change. Much of the national reform energy revolves around ending gerrymandering or opening primaries, but while both of those fixes would do some good around the margins in a handful of states, genuinely solving the problem everywhere requires a bolder approach.

The most meaningful change would put an end to winner-take-all, single-member districts and create a proportional House with larger, multimember districts and proportional voting. This might sound like a big lift, but it’s fully constitutional, deeply aligned with our founding vision, and only requires Congress to pass a statute. For example, the Fair Representation Act, a bill to be reintroduced in Congress this week by Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), would do just that by requiring every state to replace its winner-take-all elections with proportional ranked-choice voting.

Civil Rights Pioneer Dorie Ann Ladner Dies at 81, Leaving an Inspiring Legacy of Activism 

Credit: SNCC Digital Gateway

Sam Roberts from the New York Times reports on the tragic passing of Dorie Ann Ladner, a prominent figure in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. She passed away at the age of 81 due to complications from Covid-19. She was a dedicated activist who played a significant role in fighting against racial segregation in the South. Ladner actively participated in various civil rights campaigns, including voter registration efforts and integration movements.

Born and raised in racially segregated Mississippi by a mother who taught her to take no guff, Ms. Ladner joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee as a teenager; left college three times to organize voter-registration campaigns and promote integration; packed a gun on occasion, as some of her prominent colleagues were shot or blown up; befriended the movement’s most celebrated figures; and participated in virtually every major civil rights march of the decade. 

“The movement was something I wanted to do,” she told The Southern Quarterly in 2014. “It was pulling at me, pulling at me, so I followed my conscience…”

Ms. Ladner also founded the Council of Federated Organizations, a network of civil rights groups; was arrested in Jackson for trying to integrate a Woolworth lunch counter; barely escaped a bomb that had been mistakenly placed next door to where she was staying in Natchez while directing an SNCC project; organized voter registration drives, including the Freedom Summer campaign in 1964 and worked with Fannie Lou Hamer, who was summarily evicted from her plantation home for registering; and was an organizer of the integrated Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which challenged the all-white state Democratic delegates to the party’s national convention in 1964.

Women's Influence in Florida Politics Soars: Despite Persistent Challenges 

Credit: RepresentWomen

ClickOrlando’s article highlights the increasing influence of women in state-level politics, exemplified by figures like Senator Kathleen Passidomo in Florida. Women’s representation in Florida’s state legislature has crossed 40% in 2023. Despite progress, challenges such as gender biases, funding disparities, and harassment remain obstacles for women in politics.

Check out our web page on barriers women face in politics to learn about solutions to these barriers.

Passidomo is one example of the growing power of women in government, especially at the state level. In Florida, 25% of seats in the State House and State Senate were held by women in 2016, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures. In 2023, that number was 41.3% — the highest among the southeastern states…

Americans were also more likely to say that a woman’s chances of getting into office were hurt if they were assertive (29%), showed emotions (58%) or unmarried (42%).

Funding and support are also big obstacles.

“Though women have a really strong track record of winning elections, not everyone believes that and so it can be hard to run for office and raise money when people don’t think that you are qualified or you don’t look the part and I do think for many women, we also face double standards and run for office, too,” Eskamani said.

Concerns about harassment and even violence are also issues.

Several recent studies have found that women and minorities in office were more likely to face negative treatment by the public.

Spotlight on Women Leaders: Liberia’s Madam Geepea-Wilson’s Journey from Empowering Rural Women to Political Leadership.

Credit: Sondah Geepea-Wilson via Twitter

Front Page Africa’s article takes us on a journey through Madam Sondah Geepea-Wilson’s life and how she became the brilliant changemaker she is today. She lived through the Liberian Civil War as a child, leading her to understand the change she believed the country needed, and  advocate for women in leadership and. When running for the representative seat in Nimba County, she was met with dissent, her campaign materials were destroyed, and she and her supporters experienced political violence. Although she did not win the seat, she has not resisted the fight. She is currently a campaign coordinator for the National Unity Party Alliance. 

Women worldwide face barriers to running and serving in elected and appointed offices. During our 2024 Democracy Solutions Summit, a keynote speaker, Namatai Kwekweza, eloquently explained the importance of intersectionality and being aware of the obstacles women face. A closer look at what women worldwide experience can help inform our work in our own communities. Let’s move the women's representation movement forward together! 

Women in Liberia are breaking barriers by taking on roles in fields traditionally dominated by men.

While active leadership roles are reserved for men in Liberia, Madam Sonda Geepea Wilson has broken the taboo and mastered empowering rural women, enabling them to etch a decent livelihood.

“My journey to politics finds its roots in my first hand experiences with the sufferings of children during and in the aftermath of the civil war,” Geepea-Wilson added.

Claudia Sheinbaum Leads Mexican Presidential Race as First Jewish Candidate

Credit: AFP

As the presidential race in Mexico continues, Claudia Sheinbaum, a physicist of Jewish descent, holds a significant lead over her closest rival, Xóchitl Gálvez. This election marks a shift in Mexico's political landscape, given Sheinbaum's gender and religious background. If elected, she would be Mexico's first Jewish president. 

Whether a woman president in Mexico will improve the livelihood of women in the country remains to be seen, but having two women candidates vying for the presidency is something to celebrate.

Ilan Stavans from the New York Times reports

Mexico’s presidential campaign is well underway and if the polls are to be believed, Claudia Sheinbaum, a physicist and candidate of the left-leaning ruling Morena party, could be the country’s next president. Ms. Sheinbaum, who is of Jewish descent, holds a staggering 30 percentage point lead over Xóchitl Gálvez, a tech entrepreneur of Indigenous descent. However, the election is not until June 2, and politics, like life, is full of surprises.

That the two leading candidates are women is seismic in a country imbued with machismo, where gender violence is rampant, and the fight for women’s rights has been especially sluggish under the incumbent president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, who is limited by Mexico’s Constitution to one six-year term…

If elected, Ms. Sheinbaum will be Mexico’s first Jewish president. She rarely identifies publicly as Jewish and has neither played up nor sought to avoid her identity. As a Mexican of Jewish origin, I have seen with amazement and optimism how so many Mexicans in a predominantly Catholic country are backing someone of her gender and religious origin.

Philadelphia’s City Council Lags Behind in Women’s Representation 

Credit: RepresentWomen

Tom MacDonald’s article for WHYY PBS covers a missed opportunity to increase women’s representation in Philadelphia. A recent Pew report highlighted Philadelphia's lagging gender balance on its city council, with only seven out of 17 seats held by women. While the several open seats in this election cycle helped elect more women, the rate of progress was slow compared to other major cities.

Our “Why Women Won in 2021” report covers strategies Philadelphia could employ to fast-track gender balance in the city.

Katie Martin of the Pew Philadelphia Research and Policy Initiative co authored the report, which showed all but two major cities — San Diego and Washington, D.C. — boosting the number of women in their legislative bodies.

Martin explained, “The city increased its share of female representation from 35% to 41% but dropped in ranking from fifth to ninth. The other cities really grew their female representation.”

Houston and San Antonio showed greater increases than Philadelphia, and Phoenix led the survey with close to 80% women in their council.

Last week, I asked readers to indicate their policy priorities for the 2024 election with a ranked choice voting poll. Universal Healthcare was the winner!

This week, Representatives Don Beyer and Jamie Raskin reintroduced the Fair Representation Act (FRA) to Congress. If passed, the FRA would shift the landscape of American democracy for the better. Let us know what your favorite aspect of the FRA is with this poll!

Watch the Democracy Solutions Summit Online

The terrific lineup of women experts who participated in our 3d annual Democracy Solutions Summit

If you missed the Democracy Solutions Summit or want to rewatch it because it was so good, you can find recordings for Day One, Day Two, and Day Three on RepresentWomen’s YouTube channel. Please let me know if you have suggestions for how we can make it even better next year!

Amber McReynolds, Maggie Toulouse Oliver to Speak on March 25th

RepresentWomen board member Amber McReynolds & democracy champion Maggie Toulouse Oliver will join a panel of women experts to speak about the Women Who Make Democracy Work, hosted by Issue One, this coming Monday, March 25th at 3pm. Register here.

That's all for this week. Have a great weekend!

Cynthia Richie Terrell


In two weeks, I will celebrate my birthday. With the beginning of Spring comes a renewal of hope, joy, and a refreshing sense of purpose. This is how I am approaching not only my birthday but also the work we do here at RepresentWomen. This Spring, renew your sense of hope. Create joyful memories. Take some time to stop and enjoy the smell of fresh flowers or embrace the sunlight on your skin. I’m excited for all we have in store for the month of April and the year ahead. I hope that you will support our work as we seek to impact change for the betterment of all of us. 

Continue Reading

Read More