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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation May 13, 2022

Dear fans of women's representation in politics,
Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month! This week we are celebrating AAPI women leaders and exploring AAPI women's representation.

While numbers vary, multiple sources suggest that about 6% of Americans identify as AAPI. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, AAPI women hold the following offices:
  • 2 members of the U.S. Senate
  • 8 members of the House of Representatives
  • 1 Delegate
  • 3 statewide elected executives
  • 21 state senators
  • 26 state legislators
  • 4 mayors in the top 100 largest cities

Lisa Cook painted by Melanie Humble
The U.S. Senate voted by a slim margin this week to confirm Lisa Cook to the Federal Reserve Board according to this article in The Washington Post. Cook will be the first Black woman to serve on the Board:

Cook was confirmed by a 51-to-50 vote in the Senate, with Vice President Harris casting the tiebreaking vote. No Republicans voted for Cook, and Democrats, who hold a razor-thin majority, had delayed moving forward on her nomination until they could assemble all 50 of their members to back her.

Cook is among the country’s preeminent economists and teaches at Michigan State University. Her research has focused on macroeconomics, economic history, international finance and innovation, particularly on how hate-related violence has harmed U.S. economic growth. Her work has analyzed how patent records show that the riots, lynchings and Jim Crow laws that targeted African American communities in the late 1800s and early 1900s hurt Black people’s ability to pursue inventions and discoveries at the time.

“If there is something that impedes the rate of arrival of ideas, you’re going to slow down the economy,” Cook said on the “Planet Money” podcast in 2020. “It’s not just for that period. And it’s not just for Black people. This is a cautionary tale for all economies.”

Cook also worked on the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers during the Obama administration and has held visiting appointments at the National Bureau of Economic Research, the University of Michigan and the Federal Reserve Banks of New York, Chicago, Minneapolis and Philadelphia.

President Biden has sought to assemble the most diverse Fed board in the agency’s 108-year history. And Fed experts say the package of nominees the White House recently named goes a long way toward fulfilling Biden’s promise to make the Fed more reflective of the country it serves.
RepresentWomen's director of programs and partnerships Katie Usalis wrote this terrific piece for Ms Magazine about the need for affordable childcare and the correlation between strong women's representation and investments in what Melinda Gates has coined the Care Economy:
Many countries around the world understand the reality of the care economy and don’t run from the ever-evolving needs of our workforce and family dynamics. Considering the fact that parents make up 72 percent of our labor force, it seems a wise economic decision for governments to make it easier for parents, particularly moms, to juggle the demands of both paid jobs and childcare responsibilities.

Among the world’s wealthiest countries, 25 offer unconditional free access to childcare, at least part-time, for all children 3 years or older. Even here at home, New Mexico’s Governor Michelle Lujan Grishman recently launched a package of initiatives aimed at eliminating the cost of childcare for most New Mexico families. No other state has moved to enact such a comprehensive childcare support program to such a broad economic demographic.

Is it a coincidence that she’s a woman governor? I’d argue no. Three of the top five countries for family-friendly policies in the OECD also rank in the top 15 globally for gender balance in politics.
I really enjoyed reading this interview between Glassdoor and business psychology professor & author Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic - it's worth reading every word but here is a snippet:
Glassdoor: How can women insert themselves into more leadership roles? Are there ways to showcase competence over confidence?

Chamorro-Premuzic: They should not insert themselves, they should be chosen.

Not because they are women, but because they have talent.

The selection of incompetent men over competent women is the number one problem we need to fix.

But instead, all the advice points the finger at women, blaming them for not leaning in, for not speaking when they have nothing to say, for not seeming more confident, more kind and caring, more ambitious, for not overcoming imposter syndrome, or not being more authentic.

We keep trying to fix women when what we need to fix is the system: a pathological system that rewards style over substance, and selects overconfident imposters over truly talented leaders.

In short, what we need is a meritocracy so talented women can become leaders, and so we improve not just gender parity, but the quality of our leaders.
Eliza Reid
The Minnesota Star Tribune explores women's leadership and gender equity in this lively interview with Iceland's first lady Eliza Reid:
Q: Why do you think Iceland has been more driven than the United States to make these reforms toward gender equality?

A: We have an advantage because we're a small country. We have a feeling that each person really makes a difference. It also helps us to measure success quickly. All the statistics show us that working toward gender equality is better for society. The more gender-equal a society is, the longer-living its population is, the more peaceful it is, the happier it is. But what I'm also trying to say with the book is that it's not all down to government-led, top-down policies.

Q: How can everyday people work for gender equality?

A: Are we cheering on our female athletes as much as we're cheering on our men? Are we reading books by women as much as books by men? Are we going to movies that feature women as much as men? Are we hiring equally? Are we being diverse in our representation? Are we speaking up for people?
According to this troubling article in Women's Agenda there has been a decline in the number of young women in Australia who are considering a career in government:
Young women aren’t feeling any more optimistic about our parliamentary landscape, opportunities to build a career in politics or their safety, new research has found.

The report, conducted by Plan International Australia and YouGov, found that 60 per cent of young people don’t believe Parliament has improved or become any safer in the past year, while almost fifty percent rejected going into politics because they believe they would experience discrimination for being female.

Three quarters of respondents said they don’t feel politics is an equal or inclusive space for them, while the same number of first time respondents said they did not feel politics is an equal space for women and people of colour.

The report, which was co-written with young people including Plan International’s Youth Activists, details the views of first time voters regarding a wide range of issues, from diversity and representation in politics to the need for gender quotas and younger voices.
Advocates for increasing women's representation in the United States will want to read this post by Katie Usalis and Steven Hill on Democracy SoS that explores the proportional voting systems that are electing more women to office in Australia and in other countries around the globe:
A look at well-established democracies that are more successful at achieving gender parity provide some guidance about what would transform the political landscape. Leaders in electing women include Australia (53% female representation in the Senate), New Zealand (49% female representation in its Parliament), Sweden (46%), Finland (45.5%), Spain (43%), Netherlands (41%) and Germany (35%).  Most of their political parties prioritize recruitment of female candidates – including nominating high numbers of women – and they have sensible childcare policies that make it possible to serve effectively once in elected office.

But the research of experts like RepresentWomen and the late Professor Wilma Rule have shown that the biggest reason for female candidates’ success in these democracies is the use of “fair representation” electoral systems (also known as proportional representation, or PR).

One PR method combines ranked-choice voting and multi-seat districts, where political parties (or, in a nonpartisan election, groupings of like-minded voters, i.e. liberals, conservatives, progressives) win seats in proportion to their vote share. If like-minded voters have twenty percent of the vote in a ten-seat district, its candidates win two of ten seats, instead of none; forty percent wins four seats, and sixty percent wins six seats....

How important is the electoral system to women’s success? A real-world test is provided by nations that use both fair representation electoral methods and US-style one-seat, “winner-take-all” districts to elect their national legislatures. We can observe the same voters, the same attitudes, expressing themselves through two different electoral methods. The result? In Germany, New Zealand, Korea, Scotland, Wales and London city council, which all use this “mixed member proportional” method, women often win twice as many seats in the fair representation method as they do in the one-seat, “winner-take-all” districts. In Australia, multiseat PR is used to elect its Senate and has resulted in 53% female Senators, while the single-seat districts in the House is only 31% female.
Sheryl Sandberg
Finally, Sheryl Sandberg was interviewed about her thoughts on women's equality and leadership for this piece in Harper's Bazaar - I'd love to chat with her about electoral reform and other strategies that are truly transformative:
For her part, Sheryl is determined to make sure that more women want to take up leadership roles. This can be done when we as a society take away stumbling blocks that put into question a woman’s ability to work and raise a family and also make it harder to do both by not providing affordable childcare options. Or by having a partner who is willing to take up their equal share of household duties. That we change the tendency to discourage female ambition and drive while encouraging it in men.

“As men get more powerful, they are better liked. As women get more powerful, they are less liked. Girls as young as junior high start acting dumber to attract boyfriends. Boys don’t act dumber to attract girlfriends. Because we want boys who are smart. That’s something you look up to. Now, I hope that doesn’t happen everywhere. But these are the stereotypes we need to face. Because it turns out being ‘in the room’ is really interesting,” says Sheryl.

But beyond creating her Lean In organisation to empower women, being an advocate for gender equality and her day job of helping to run one of the most powerful companies in the world, Sheryl is leading by example in another fundamental way. She is showing women that success in the workplace doesn’t mean having to adhere to the norms and codes set up by men.
That's all for this week my friends, here's to a light-filled weekend,
P.S. Check out suggested reading from AAPI authors:

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