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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation May 3rd, 2024

 Dear Readers,

Happy May, Friends! This month brings us endless possibilities, warm sunshine, and a refreshing sense of hope. 

This week, I had the opportunity to attend the always-inspiring 18th annual Young Women to Watch Awards hosted by the phenomenal organization Running Start. Founded by Susannah Wellford, CEO and a valued board member of RepresentWomen, it empowers young women to pursue political office. 

This annual awards ceremony honored outstanding young women leaders and showcased  Running Start’s impactful work in their lives. Attendees even used ranked choice voting to select Running Start’s 2024 Ambassador from five impressive finalists! I'm deeply impressed by Susannah and Running Start's dedication to creating change. Their efforts empower young women, especially women of color, to become community leaders.

Pictured from left to right: Lindsey Wiliams Drath, Forward Party CEO; Susannah Wellford, Founder & CEO of Running Start; Cynthia Richie Terrell, Founder and Executive Director of RepresentWomen.

Pictured from left to right: Courtney Lamendola, RepresentWomen’s Research Director; Ashley Thurston, RepresentWomen’s Communications Director; Allissa Bombardier Shaw, RepresentWomen’s Outreach Manager; Rina Shah Bharara, RepresentWomen’s Board Member

In addition to the inspiring awards, our team connected with program attendees to share details about our Gender Parity Index and upcoming virtual roundtable on Black women candidates.

Pictured left to right: Courtney Lamendola, Ashley Thurston, and Alissa Bombardier Shaw. 

This week, explore how public funding for campaigns can level the playing field and encourage more women to run for office, learn about the challenges women face in securing local government seats in England, discover what resources can empower mothers to pursue political careers, and examine why gender diversity in corporate leadership positions is still lagging.

Breaking Barriers for  Black Women Candidates - Wednesday, May 8, 2024

RepresentWomen recently published an informative and crucial research brief, Breaking Barriers for Black Women Candidates. To celebrate its release, we are bringing Black women leaders together to discuss their experiences navigating politics and sharing viable solutions to remove barriers Black women face when entering the political arena.

RepresentWomen’s Research Associate and author of the brief, Marvelous Maeze,  eloquently writes in a forthcoming op-ed:

Throughout history, Black women have faced marginalization, dismissal, and being underestimated. We've had to fight twice as hard to gain half as much recognition, to be viewed as capable leaders, and to have our voices heard in decision-making forums. When I witness Black women breaking through these barriers to assume positions of influence in government, it reaffirms our determination and strength.

Register today to join this in-depth discussion next Wednesday, May 8, 2024

For the First Time, Two Women Are Elected in Gombe State, Nigeria

Credit: Nigerian Tribune

Gombe State in Nigeria shatters glass ceilings! This week, the state elected its first two women council chairpersons. This is a monumental and inspirational win for Gombe and a powerful symbol of progress for women in Nigerian politics. 

Yemi Kanji from the Nigerian Tribune reports:

History was made on Monday, 29th April 2024, when Two Women were sworn in as democratically elected Executive Chairpersons of local government councils in Gombe for the first time.

The Two Women who were declared winners of their various LGAs during the Council elections held last Saturday, 27th April 2024, are Hon Fatima Binta Bello, Shongom LGC, and Egla Idris, Billiri LGC, all of them members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Tarana Burke, MeToo Founder, Expresses the Need for the Movement Beyond Celebrity Convictions

Credit: Lelanie Foster from TIME 

The recent overturning of Harvey Weinstein's rape conviction due to procedural issues is a stark reminder of the need for reform in our justice system. Tarana Burke, an influential voice for victims and survivors of sexual assault and harassment, made it known that rulings like this showcase the need for the movement. This is not just about holding perpetrators accountable; it's about ensuring a fair and just system for all.  

However, women like Rowena Chiu, who bravely shared her story of being sexually assaulted by Weinstein, fear that this might be a setback. Yet, she remains hopeful of getting cases like this to trial, resulting in convictions.

Alys Davies from BBC News reports

She spoke after a New York Court of Appeals ruled that Weinstein, once one of Hollywood's most successful and influential producers, did not receive a fair trial in 2020 because prosecutors called witnesses whose accusations were not part of the charges against him.

The consequence: the judges ordered Weinstein face a new trial.

Weinstein's New York trial was pivotal for the MeToo movement, the campaign against sexual abuse which went viral online after several women came forward alleging that he had sexually abused them.

Ms Burke, an activist who works with survivors of sexual violence, began using the phrase "Me Too" in 2006 to raise awareness of women who had been abused.

Eleven years later, it found global recognition after actress Alyssa Milano, one of those who accused Weinstein of sexual assault, used the phrase in a viral tweet.

Public Financing Emerges as Crucial Tool for Bridging Gender Gap in Political Representations

Credit: Brennan Center for Justice

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the representation of women in public office, both at the federal and state levels. Despite these gains, women remain underrepresented, especially women of color. One key factor contributing to this gap is the high cost of running for office, which disproportionately affects women due to limited access to wealthy donors. A solution to this barrier is public financing.

While public financing alone may not solve gender inequities in politics, it is vital for ensuring a more representative government. Check out our website for solutions to the various barriers women face while running for office.

Marina Pino and Julia Fishman in Ms. Magazine report:

Women candidates rely more heavily than men on small donors, typically defined as those giving $200 or less. From 2012 to 2018, women running for the U.S. House raised, on average, a 70 percent greater share of their funds from small donors than their male opponents. But it’s tough to run a competitive campaign this way if opponents have access to big checks.

Unsurprisingly, women candidates have historically raised less money than men. In 2018, for example, women running for Congress in the most competitive districts raised an average of $500,000 less than their male counterparts.

Public financing is the most powerful reform available to address this fundraising gap. The policy comes in a variety of forms, but most seek to boost the power of small donations.

In one popular model—the small donor match system—modest contributions are multiplied with public funds. An example is New York state, where a groundbreaking program is in place for its first electoral cycle this year.

There, in-district donations to state legislative candidates of under $250 are matched on a sliding scale, offering the highest match to the smallest donations.

For statewide races, eligible donations are matched six to one. That means a donation to a statewide candidate of, say, $10, is boosted by $60 in matching funds and becomes worth $70 to the candidate. 

By amplifying the value of small donations, public financing turns a challenge for women candidates—reliance on a broad network of small donors—into an opportunity.

Persistent Gender Gap in English Local Elections: Only One-Third of Candidates Are Women

Credit:  Annabel Moeller.

A recent study by the Fawcett Society and Democracy Club reveals that only a third of local election candidates in England are women. Despite little change since 2021, women still need to be represented across various political positions, including police and crime commissioners and mayors. The article suggests removing structural barriers women face in politics by implementing Section 106 of the Equality Act, establishing proper parental leave policies for councilors, and setting term limits.

Maya Oppenheim for Independent UK reports:

“Despite knowing that women tend to be more significantly impacted by local decisions, as we are more likely to rely on council-run services like social care, we are failing to make real progress on women’s representation at the local level.”

She called for the government to urgently gather candidate diversity data – saying, “We simply don’t even have the numbers on how bad the situation is for Black and minoritised women.”

She added: “And we need to make being a local councilor accessible to representatives who have caring responsibilities.”

Researchers, whose study has been released just days before the local elections on Thursday, found all parties failed to reach gender equality in terms of candidates.

Working Mothers in Politics Demand Support to Balance Family and Public Service

With Vote Mama Founder and CEO, Liuba Grechen Shirley 

Mothers serving or aspiring to enter political arenas often face challenges and judgment on whether they are fit for office. An article by Kevin Johnson from the National Press Foundation highlights the persistent challenge of balancing family responsibilities with public service for working mothers in America's political system. Liuba Grechen Shirley, founder of the Vote Mama Foundation and a partner of RepresentWomen, and Virginia state Sen. Jennifer Carroll Foy, emphasized the need for additional support for working mothers to achieve equal access to public office and other public service. Check out Vote Mama’s website for more information on how to support mothers in public office.

Liuba Grechen Shirley, founder of the Vote Mama Foundation, and Virginia state Sen. Jennifer Carroll Foy said additional support is needed, especially for working mothers. The support is required to gain equal access to elective office and other forms of public service.

“So, we are trying to change the structural barriers, trying to change the way that people run, trying to change the way that people serve,” said Grechen Shirley. Her group has been a leading advocate for mothers’ full participation in the nation’s political system. “There is now a very high attrition rate for moms serving in state legislatures… That needs to change.”

Gender Balance in Corporate Leadership Shows Slow Gains 

Credit Michelle Pereira

An article from Fortune by Tacy M. Byham emphasizes the importance of investing in women's leadership skills early in their careers. Despite some recent milestones, such as more women becoming CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, gender gaps persist in corporate leadership. The main issue lies in the lack of opportunity and support for women's career advancement. This leads to a significant mentorship gap and a tendency for women to leave companies to seek better opportunities elsewhere.

Like in politics, structural solutions can help women in the corporate world reach their full potential and become leaders.

Certainly, any progress is good, but at this rate of change, we won’t see an equal number of men and women in CEO seats until the next century. Instead of patting ourselves on the back over paltry progress, we should be asking why, after all this time, women leaders, and especially CEOs, still like shark attacks—extremely rare but widely covered by the media, skewing our perception so that it feels much more common.

It’s not because women can’t break through the glass ceiling. It’s because they can’t get off the floor to start with…

Countering these trends hinges on managers building trust with their teams through showing empathy, revealing their own vulnerabilities, and creating opportunities to have open, honest, disclosive conversations around overall well-being. Women need to know not only that they can be leaders and human beings, too, but also that they’re part of a culture that prioritizes their personal and professional development and takes the desire for mentorship and work-life balance seriously. After all, “if she can’t see it, she can’t be it,” and women are more likely to self-disqualify from leadership roles rather than her role as partner or caregiver. Organizations can’t let that happen.

While our progress toward gender equity on the leadership bench is promising, there is certainly much more work to be done. Since 2020, there has been an 18% decrease in the number of leaders who endorse their company’s overall DEI efforts. Organizations can proactively improve by carefully examining their own leadership pipelines and start being more intentional in preparing women and diverse talent for advancement, rather than for their next career move.

With the weather warming up in DC this week, I can’t help but wonder about all the fun ways readers are enjoying the outdoors. Let us know your favorite ways to enjoy spring with this ranked choice voting poll! 

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


With Love,

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