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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation March 25, 2022

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson 
Dear fans of women's representation,
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee and was a "model of composure" in the face of "egregious behavior of some on the Republican side" according to The Washington Post editorial board. 
Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin did not mince words in her column on the proceedings and the efforts by some to undermine the nomination of Judge Jackson:

It was then Jackson’s turn. She thanked God, her glowing family, her friends and her country. She invoked Justice Stephen G. Breyer, for whom she clerked, a not-too-subtle reminder that if the Senate found him acceptable, there should be no reason to oppose her. She gave a nod to Constance Baker Motley, the first African American woman appointed to the federal judiciary. And Jackson reaffirmed her “careful adherence to precedent,” acknowledging her tendency to write long opinions so people know exactly her reasons for deciding a case. (If only the Supreme Court’s right-wing justices felt similarly and stopped abusing the “shadow docket” and issuing orders without written opinions.)

Jackson provided a succinct description of her own view of what it means to be a judge: “I have been a judge for nearly a decade now, and I take that responsibility and my duty to be independent very seriously,” she said. “I decide cases from a neutral posture. I evaluate the facts, and I interpret and apply the law to the facts of the case before me.”

She is so manifestly qualified, so perfectly embodies the American dream and is so blessed with superior judicial temperament that it is obvious why Republicans are struggling. They just can’t seem to find a way to knock down a super-qualified, charming, humble and brilliant Black woman. It seems it does not occur to them that they should stop looking for the limelight (to further their presidential ambitions), ask short and reasonable questions and then vote to confirm on her qualifications. And that tells you everything you need to know about the decline of both the Senate and the Supreme Court.

A'Shanti Gholar, president of Emerge, wrote an excellent essay in Cosmopolitan about the "exhaustion of being the first Black women" to fill a position or office:
Black women vying for public office should also expect to see conservative leaders perpetuating racism under the guise of qualifications and electability. Before Brown was even announced as the nominee, President Biden vowed that he would nominate a Black woman, which prompted backlash from Republicans like Senator Ted Cruz. He called the decision insulting, suggesting the president should nominate the most qualified candidate instead—insinuating that Black women are inherently unqualified. Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson also hopped on the racist bandwagon, questioning whether Jackson was one of the “top legal minds in the entire country.” As if a Harvard Law degree and more than eight years of experience on the federal bench is not enough, Carlson, who does not have any professional or educational background in law, demanded that we see Brown’s LSAT score. Carlson’s and Cruz’s ridiculous claims prove that qualifications aren’t the real issue at hand. Rather, they fear that a gender and racial shift in government might kill the old boys club that has existed in politics for centuries and perpetuated a system that benefits white men the most.

I know firsthand how Black women in government struggle to find mentorship and guidance on these unique challenges, and yet, they continue to blaze trails and break down barriers despite them. Think about it: In recent years, around the country and throughout various levels of government, Black women have made high-profile history. In the 2020 presidential election, Kamala Harris was elected as the first-ever Black, South Asian, and woman vice president. Last year, Kristen Clarke became the first Black woman to head the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. Sändra Washington became the first Black lesbian on Lincoln, Nebraska’s city council in 2021. These women are giving way to a new generation of Black women leaders in politics and I am thrilled to see the lived experiences of my community reflected in the members of our nation’s governing body. And although I will continue to celebrate Black women breaking the ubiquitous glass ceiling, I look forward to the day when we don’t have to celebrate their historic firsts.
From the London School of Economics
Alexandra Kirienko wrote a fascinating blog for the London School of Economics about the impact of switching from discussion of gender discrimination to gender privilege:
When talking about issues of gender within organisations, we usually focus on gender discrimination – the missed opportunities are at the centre of what is being discussed. Let us flip the conversation this time and focus on gender privilege instead. Considering gender privilege allows a fresh angle and outlook to gender differences in the workplace. The reason gender privilege is becoming a locus of attention is because it is about additional advantages that are gained, not opportunities missed. Increased understanding of the issue can pave the way towards levelling the playing field among genders.
One measurable way of looking at gender privilege is examining the pay gap. The differences in remuneration by gender have been studied for several decades (Blau & Kahn, 1999; Manning & Saidi, 2010; Bishu & Alkadry, 2017) and evidence supports that men remain privileged in terms of total compensation at work. The latest data for the European Union for 2018 indicates that men in the EU earned approximately 16% more per hour than women (European Commission, 2021); this trend has remained largely unchanged over the last decade. For the United States, the Pew Research Center (2021) estimated that male workers earned on average 19% more of what female workers earned in 2020.

The next area to consider is the way gender privilege manifests itself across C-suite and board level management. In the US men are advantaged in holding senior appointments: 79% of C-suite executives in corporate America are male (McKinsey, 2020). Across the FTSE 100 companies in the UK, there are 94 men as compared to only six female chief executive officers (Cotton, 2021). Many of the steps that are currently being taken to improve gender diversity at companies are unfortunately found to be highly ineffective. The IBM Institute for Business Value report looks at longitudinal data of 429 companies who participated in their survey both in 2019 and 2021, examining ranks across 10 industries and nine geographic regions (2021). The report finds that advancing women is not a top priority for the majority of global organisations, and that most equality programs do not necessarily lead to better outcomes. One reason behind the ineffectiveness of such programs is because interventions do not sufficiently address mindset change (IBM Institute for Business Value, 2021).
A pro-EU rally in Kiev on Nov. 26, 2013. (Ivan Bandura / Flickr)
RepresentWomen's research associate Alisha Saxena and digital manager Kaycie Goral had a timely piece in Ms Magazine about women's representation in post-Soviet states:
The conflict in Ukraine demonstrates that misogyny and authoritarianism walk hand in hand. Though we cannot claim all post-Soviet states are flourishing democracies, and we absolutely cannot claim that gender is central to the conflict in Ukraine today—we can assert that the fight against autocracy and the establishment of a free and fair nation relies on bringing everyone to the table. Women included.

New research from thinktank RepresentWomen shows that intentional strategies in the region have bolstered representation in many post-soviet states. Beneficial techniques which are often overlooked or outright rejected in U.S. Politics.

As part of their international research series, RepresentWomen’s brief on this region shows gender quotas or something similar might be an interesting lever for increasing women’s representation and overall fairness in government.

While discussions of quotas are unpopular in the U.S., in the post-Soviet region three out of five top countries for women’s representation use quotas and four of the bottom five countries do not. This research also found women’s representation in the executive branch was higher in countries with a previous or current female head of state.
Photo illustration by TheWrap (Getty Images)
RepresentWomen's Strategic Partnerships Manager Katie Usalis had a terrific piece in The Wrap about the use of ranked choice voting by The Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts & Sciences:
Interestingly enough, after the first use of ranked choice voting, women made up 61% of the Academy’s Board of Governors and the representation of racial minorities increased from 24% to 29%. There’s still a long way to go for people of color, but it’s good to see movement in the right direction. And that all occurred in the very first use of the new system. It’s clear that voters want more diversity and fair representation in their leadership. The Academy uses RCV because it’s common sense: It’s fair, and produces results that reflect actual preferences...

This experience with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is a perfect diorama of what can work in our U.S. political elections. In fact, this system is already working across the country. RepresentWomen’s RCV Dashboard shows us that 43 jurisdictions nationwide have abandoned the outdated winner-take-all system and upgraded to ranked choice voting. It also shows us that when voters’ power is strengthened, they vote for candidates who are women and people of color...

As seen in the Oscars, in New York and in many other elections around the world, when an electoral system empowers voters to choose their real preferences (rather than the lesser of two evils) without fear of wasting their vote, women win.

And this isn’t just about fairness. Representation matters because diversity and gender balance in policy-making positions improves policy processes and policy outcomes. As Stefani Brown James of The Collective PAC said, “For us to have a democracy that works for the people, it should be made up of the people. And most importantly, to change the laws so that they better reflect the needs of our communities, we need to change the lawmakers.”

And to change the lawmakers, we need to change the systems we use to elect them.
Steve Pond from The Wrap teamed up with FairVote to explain how the Oscar winner for Best Picture will be decided using ranked choice voting in this piece - you can join in the fun by ranking your vote for Best Picture and for Best Actress -- love the gender categories used in the entertainment industry to ensure that women are nominated & win:
Last week, on the day that Oscar voting began, TheWrap joined with FairVote to host a poll of the last 10 years of Oscar Best Picture winners. The poll was designed both to show which of the past decade’s winners is the favorite, and to illustrate how the Oscars’ ranked-choice (or preferential) system of vote counting works in the Best Picture category.

And now, as Oscar voting is closing, here are the results. The answer to which film is the favorite is simple: “Parasite.”

Bong Joon Ho’s South Korean film that won the Oscar in 2020, is by far the favorite of the 270 people who participated in the poll. Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” finished second, followed by, in this order, “Spotlight,” “The Shape of Water,” “12 Years a Slave,” “Argo,” “Nomadland,” “Birdman,” “The Artist” and, in last place, “Green Book.”
While Natalie Daniels of writes about gains for women in the entertainment industry in the last year:
March marks the beginning of the month-long celebration of Women’s History Month 2022, a time to celebrate the contributions women have made in America. This year’s theme, “Providing Healing, Providing Hope,” gives tribute to caregivers and frontline workers during the pandemic as well as honors how women have provided hope and healing.

At, we commemorate the strides that have been made to achieve gender equality within the entertainment industry, but there is a lot more work to be done for women’s rights in Hollywood.

In Hollywood, women stepped up to the challenge and achieved major milestones in 2021.
Celebrating women leaders during Women's History Month - and every month!
As Women's History Month comes to a close, I am mulling the work ahead to advance representation and leadership in politics for all women in the United States. While I am deeply concerned about the attacks on Judge Jackson during her confirmation hearing, I am also excited by the opportunities to build strong partnerships that foster innovative and transformative strategies that yield a truly reflective democracy.
RepresentWomen is hosting Ranked Choice Voting in NYC: Lessons Learned and Next Steps, a virtual discussion about how we can use the lessons of RCV in New York City in other parts of the country on March 30th at 7pm. I hope you can join us - register HERE

That's all for this week my friends,

P.S. Madeleine Albright died this week at the age of 84, here is a snippet from her obituary in The New York Times:
Her performance as secretary of state won high marks from career diplomats abroad and ordinary Americans at home. Admirers said she had a star quality, radiating practicality, versatility and a refreshingly cosmopolitan flair. She spoke Czech, Polish, French and Russian.

Unlike her immediate predecessor, Warren Christopher, a reserved foreign policy wonk who saw his role as Mr. Clinton’s diplomatic lawyer, Ms. Albright was an aggressive advocate of Clinton policies. Conscious of television cameras but remarkably natural in public, she strolled through crowded capitals (with discreet security guards) like a tourist with free time on her hands.

She was a diminutive presence with an assured style: impeccably tailored and perfectly coifed, with touches of gold or pearl in her brooches, an amused smile for the cognoscenti and eyes that missed nothing. In meetings with foreign diplomats, colleagues said, she was firm but flexible, prepared to move beyond her talking points and to engage her counterparts in frank oval-table bargaining.

“So often in diplomacy, it’s all set pieces,” an aide told The New York Times. “You say this and I say that and the meeting ends and nothing happens. But she engages. And in contrast to nearly all her predecessors, she doesn’t hide policy differences, but brings them out, and speaks very directly of them, saying things like ‘Here’s what we agree on, here’s what we don’t. Let me tell you what the real problem is.'"
"It took me quite a long time to develop a voice and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent." Madeleine Albright

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