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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation May 18, 2018


Dear friends,

Another round of primaries this week resulted in wins for women in crowded primaries at the state and federal level - as the New York Times reports:

Just as the women’s marches and #MeToo helped define 2017, the surging numbers of female candidates have defined the midterm races now underway. Yet for all that, the November elections may not produce a similar surge in the number of women in Congress.

More than half the female candidates for House and Senate seats are challenging incumbents, who historically almost always win; there were far more wide-open races in 1992’s so-called Year of the Woman, which doubled the number of women in Congress. A large percentage of the women now running for open seats are in districts that favor the other party. And many female candidates are clustered in the same districts, meaning many will be eliminated in this spring and summer’s primaries.

Last Tuesday’s primary elections in Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana and North Carolina help illustrate the steep path. Two women ran for Senate, both were long shots, and both lost. In House races, 27 women won — more than half. But 16 will challenge incumbents in November, 15 of them in districts firmly favoring their opponents... 

If a woman wins in every district where one is running, 152 female voting members would make it to the House. That would nearly double their current share but men would still outnumber women by nearly two to one.

The increase in the number of female candidates tilts largely toward Democrats — at the start of this year, the number of Democratic women seeking House seats was up 146 percent from the same point in 2016; among Republicans, it was up 35 percent. And many of the women have less experience in government and politics than those who ran for Congress in the past.

“While we are encouraged by the energy and the enthusiasm and the engagement of women, I think we also at the same time have to be cognizant of the fact that many of these women, even when they win their primary, will be running very tough races in November,” said Debbie Walsh, the director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

“We are not going to see, in one cycle, an end to the underrepresentation of women in American politics that we’ve seen for 250 years,” she said. “The concern is, we need this energy and engagement to be here for the long haul. This is a marathon, not a sprint.”
The New York Times also reports today that the number of women running for Congress skews toward progressive women candidates - resulting in an even greater partisan divide in women's representation.
Kelly Dittmar and Debbie Walsh from the Center for American Women and Politics wrote a piece on Huffington Post this week about the primary results:

Twenty-six years ago, the election cycle of 1992 was deemed “The Year Of The Woman” by the press and the public alike. Following the controversial Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas marked by the sexual harassment allegations made against him by Anita Hill, a then-record number of women sought election in the Senate.

During that time, the then-director of the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) Ruth B. Mandel and scholar Irwin Gertzog prefaced a pre-election newsletter with this “note of caution” about characterizing 1992 as “The Year of the Woman:”

'The matter of parity for women and men in high public office is not a project of a single year ― or even a single generation. After all, we are talking about rearranging an ancient pattern, namely men’s leadership of the public world. That takes time'

Over two-and-a-half decades later, we’re seeing another uptick in women seeking elected office, and some publications are calling 2018 the next year of the woman. But has much really changed for women since 1992? While women’s congressional representation has tripled since the fall of 1992, today women are just 20% of all members of Congress and 11 states have no women representing them in Washington. In fact, gender disparities persist across all levels of office in 2018.

With history as our guide and nearly 50 years of experience evaluating women in politics, CAWP is continuing to heed Mandel and Gertzog’s caution in this year’s midterm election. Amid claims of another “year of the woman,” it’s unlikely that the notable increase in women’s candidacies will translate into unprecedented gains in women’s representation after Election Day.

As I mentioned last week, FairVote has been tracking the competitiveness of districts for over twenty years and projecting winners in House elections with almost 100% accuracy (husband Rob Richie has missed just one race!) using a formula that factors in the partisanship in each district. I will be updating this chart after each primary to complement the great work being done by others - here is a snap shot of results from this week's primaries:

Politico also had extensive coverage of the electoral outcomes for women in this week's primary elections in four states:

Tuesday was a a good night for female candidates.

In Pennsylvania, the state’s all-male congressional delegation is poised to gain several female additions, as women swept to House Democratic primary victories in a number of Democratic-leaning and contested districts.

In Nebraska, another woman — a Bernie Sanders-style liberal the party fears could harm its chances of winning back the House this fall — narrowly defeated a top Democratic recruit for a battleground congressional seat.

There were also closely watched statewide primaries in the four states that voted Tuesday. Pennsylvania Republicans picked their nominees to face two targeted Democrats: Sen. Bob Casey and Gov. Tom Wolf. And Idaho Rep. Raúl Labrador failed to overcome the struggles of GOP House members running in statewide primaries so far this year in his campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, losing to Lt. Gov. Brad Little.

But Tuesday’s contests were dominated by crucial primaries that will play an important role in the battle for control of the House next year. Pennsylvania was ground zero in that effort: Democrats are hoping a newly redrawn congressional map and a spate of retirements will lead to a handful of pickups in November and get the party closer to the 23 seats it needs to regain control of the chamber.

A Native American woman has won the democratic primary in the race for governor in Idaho reports Mic:

Paulette Jordan, a state senator and member of the Coeur d’Alene tribe, has won the Democratic nomination for governor of Idaho.

The New York Times called the race for Jordan just before 1 a.m. Eastern, with Jordan leading her Democratic opponent by around 20 percentage points.

The 38-year-old Jordan was the progressive favorite in the race, while Idaho’s Democratic establishment lined up behind businessman A.J. Balukoff, who ran for governor unsuccessfully in 2014. Balukoff, a moderate who contributed to Mitt Romney’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, ran as a pro-business candidate, while Jordan focused on populist issues, calling out state Republicans for their ties to big business interests.

Vox ran a story on the on primary outcomes in Pennsylvania which currently gets an F for women's representation on RepresentWomen's Gender Parity Index - several women are strong  contenders on the November ballot:

Pennsylvania’s all-male congressional delegation will likely soon be no more: After Tuesday’s Pennsylvania primary elections, multiple women are likely to win their House races in November. The state’s recent redistricting has made its congressional map fairer and, in turn, leveled the playing field for women, who are likelier to run as Democrats.

Three Democratic women won their primaries in districts that Hillary Clinton won by big margins — and a fourth woman is running in a district Clinton won by 1 point for an open seat in a year that’s shaping up to be favorable to Democrats. But that’s not all: Three more women won in districts that Donald Trump won, but given that Democrats captured a seat earlier this year that Trump won by 20 points, things could look very good for women’s representation in the Pennsylvania delegation next year.

Women in the entertainment industry made headlines this week by unveiling a charter to push for gender parity - The Guardian reports on the launch:

A new charter aimed at improving gender parity at the Cannes film festival, and which is expected to be adopted by other leading film festivals, has been unveiled.

Under the charter, the Cannes film festival will record the gender of the cast and crew of all films submitted, make public the names of selection committee members and work towards gender parity on the Cannes board.

However, the festival stopped short of promising to introduce gender parity in terms of directors of films selected, confirming festival director Thierry Frémaux’s long-held position that the selections should be based on “artistic merit” alone.

The announcement of the charter was preceded by a discussion featuring gender equality movements including Time’s Up, UK organisation Women in Film & TV and the Greek group Greek Women’s Wave. Among the topics covered were the lack of compelling roles for women in film, the gender imbalance among film critics and the need for better guidelines around the filming of sex scenes.

Speaking to the Guardian at the conclusion of the event, Women in Film & TV chief executive Kate Kinninmont said that the pledge was a “fantastic starting point”, but added that the wider film industry needed to do more to increase the number of women working within it.

“If there were equal numbers of men’s and women’s films to choose from it would make the job of festivals a lot easier,” she said. “By the time we come to the festivals that’s just an endpoint.

There a lots and lots of women directors who haven’t had a chance yet. In the next couple of years we will see them and then I think the festival will have no trouble doing 50/50 selections.”

It is believed that the transparency charter will be adopted by other international film festivals such as Sundance, Venice and Berlin.

Laura Cox Kaplan has started a new podcast series called She Said/She Said, Laura writes:

"Too often, conversations aimed at women are one-sided, simplistic, and characterize all women as having the same view on policy, success, and leadership. If we really want to encourage and empower all women, we need to celebrate, support and showcase a broader range of role models whose unique voices, perspectives, thoughts and opinions are the very definition of authentic leadership.

I am incredibly fortunate to have a politically diverse group of friends. We don’t agree on every issue — far from it — but the way in which we discuss, support, empower and inspire each other is the fuel that keeps us going! 

In creating She Said/She Said, my goal is to share the power that comes through connections and rich conversation, while at the same time showcasing the unique ways in which women are leading, and defining impact, meaning, and success on their own terms"

My once small son (now tall - pictured below with sister Becca, friend Rosie & RepresentWomen/FairVote fan & patron Becky Liebman) is scheduled to graduate from college this weekend! A hearty congratulations to all whose children, parents, family and friends are finishing or starting a new phase in life!


P.S. VoteRunLead & wework are launching a new partnership next week in Washington, DC on Tuesday - hope to see some of you there!

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