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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation November 27, 2020


Dear friends,
I am grateful for the work that you are doing to advance women's representation and for the chance to work with the small but mighty team at RepresentWomen. I know that there are many important causes to support this holiday giving season but I do hope that you will consider a donation to support our research and advocacy to elect more women to office faster! We have lots of fun plans for 2021 - here is a sample of our 2020 projects:
  • PACs and Donors, Summer 2020: [LINK] - our 2020 PACs and Donors Report reviews the campaign finance data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics with a gender lens. While political scientists may dispute the impact of campaign finance on election outcomes, we argue that anyone who followed the 2020 primaries should be able to see that the viability of a candidate is often measured by her ability to raise funds.

  • PACs and Donors Case Studies [LINK] - our PACs and Donors Case Studies provide additional insight into the giving patterns of twenty-eight membership PACs across seven sectors. Our deep-dives include the breakdown of donations by both the gender and party of candidates in the 2018 midterm elections.
  • Ranked Choice Voting Report, Summer 2020 [LINK] -
    this report provides a thorough review of ranked choice voting in the U.S. and how it impacts women’s representation in the cities that have implemented it. Between 2010 and April 2020, 19 jurisdictions used RCV to elect sitting city officials, including 13 mayors and city councilmembers in 14 jurisdictions. Over the last decade, women have won 48% of all municipal ranked choice elections.
  • Party Rules Brief, Summer 2020: [LINK] - starting in 2016, the RepresentWomen team worked with a pro-bono team of lawyers at Hogan Lovells to research the gender balance rules political parties in each state have used to achieve gender parity amongst their state delegates to state conventions — following the example set by both the Democratic and Republican national parties. Over the summer, our team updated this research and crafted a brief to outline the history of gender balance rules in the United States and build a stronger case for similar rules elsewhere in American politics.

  • Tribal Nations Brief, Summer 2020: [LINK] - as research develops around women’s representation in the United States, it often focuses on national and state-level politics, sometimes at the expense of data and research on other examples of elected representation. Our Tribal Nations Brief contains some of our preliminary research on women’s current and historic political representation within Indigenous Nations in North America.

  • Incarcerated Women Brief, Summer 2020: [LINK] - public scrutiny over mass incarceration has led to a slight decrease in incarceration rates across the country, but women have still become the fastest growing incarcerated population over the past few decades. According to research conducted by The Sentencing Project in 2019, the population of incarcerated women rose by 750% between 1980 and 2017. Former incarcerated women face unique challenges in re-entering society and regaining voting rights — all of which impacts their political representation. Our Incarcerated Women Brief reviews the rising rates of women’s incarceration and the disenfranchisement of formerly incarcerated people.

  • Women and the Presidency book chapter, Summer 2020: [LINK] - this text is also included in a recently published book on the American Presidency, The Best Candidate: Presidential Nomination in Polarized Times (September 2020). Our chapter presents our contribution to the existing literature on the history of women who have run for the presidency and vice presidency, the structural barriers they faced, and our theory of change for rebalancing the equation.

  • District Design Brief, Fall 2020: [LINK] - our research finds that women are more likely to be elected in PR (proportional representation) systems; in the United States, multi-winner ranked choice voting is the best way to achieve proportional representation. Although Members of Congress were once elected in multi-winner districts, today, our best examples come from state legislative chambers, cities, and counties.

  • U.S. House Expansion Brief, Fall 2020: [LINK] - when the House of Representatives was established in 1789, there were 65 seats; the number of seats in the U.S. House steadily increased as the population grew and the U.S. expanded, until the Apportionment Act of 1911, which capped the “People’s House” at 435 seats, where it remains today. Increasing the size of the U.S. House would create new opportunities for women and people of color to enter Congress. Our U.S. House Expansion brief reviews the history of the U.S. House and makes a case for expanding the size of the House to 593 seats, per the cube root rule.

  • International Women's Representation Report, Fall 2020: [LINK] - our 2020 International Report, “Achieving Gender Parity: Systems Strategies Around the World,” is the third report in an ongoing series on the status of women’s representation around the world and the best practices for advancing women’s representation. Most countries that are outpacing the United States on the path to parity have either embraced proportional representation or adopted other systems strategies, including gender quotas, to advance women’s representation.

  • Gender Parity Index (GPI) Report, Fall 2020: [LINK] - our 2020 Gender Parity Index (GPI) is the seventh in an ongoing series that tracks and grades the progress each state is making towards gender parity each year. Each state receives a gender parity score of 0 (if no women are in office) to 100 (if only women are in office) to each state, according to the number of women in office at the national, state, and local levels. Each state is then awarded a letter grade according to its proximity to parity (50/100). In 2020, New Hampshire is the only state to have received an “A;” most states receive a “D” grade or less.

  • Gender Balanced Cabinets Brief, Fall 2020: [LINK] - after the President and Vice President, Members of the Cabinet constitute some of the most powerful leaders in the United States. But since Cabinet positions are appointed and not elected, it is up to the President to ensure that their Cabinet is diverse and representative. While 15 countries currently meet or exceed gender parity in Executive Cabinets, the United States is still far from achieving this goal. We created this brief on the history of women’s representation as Cabinet Secretaries in the United States to 1) affirm that women have the ability to wield executive power and 2) strengthen our call for the next administration to appoint a gender balanced cabinet.


I am a knitter so I appreciate that Eleanor Roosevelt took her knitting seriously enough to take it with her while traveling. She took a lot of things seriously of course, including democracy and our obligation to one another. Here is her Thanksgiving missive from 1949:
Today is Thanksgiving Day and, like so many other people in the United States, I will be looking back over the year and counting over in my mind the things for which I am most thankful in this year of 1949.

For my country I am grateful that the United Nations still holds the peoples of the world together and that we are still working for peace with the other nations of the world.

Next, I think I am grateful for the fact that there seems to be among us an ever-growing understanding of the responsibilities carried by the citizens in a democracy. It seemed to me that the results of our last elections showed in many places careful thinking and discriminating voting on the part of the people. The people of a democracy can only control their own government if they take an active part in the formation of policies through the development of public opinion and the election of people to office who truly represent them.

Education for citizenship in a democracy takes time but I feel, as my husband did, that one of the great strengths of our country lies in the willingness of our citizens to participate in the responsibilities inherent in life in a democracy.

On the personal side of the ledger, I am thankful for continued good health. I am thankful, too, for the opportunities to build friendship and affection in a widening circle of family and friends. There has been sadness in the last year, but there also has been much joy and laughter.

There are anxieties today but, certainly, as we look back over the accomplishments in our history we must be of good cheer and say our Thanksgiving Prayer with deep and heartfelt gratitude.

We can, I think, approach the coming year with courage. We are a very big family now in comparison with the little one of that first Thanksgiving Day. I heard a wise psychiatrist say the other day that he wished the parents of the children who came to see him would stop inspiring them with fear and give them a little more sense of the good things that prepare us to meet dangers and adventures with confidence and with hope. Many people suffer more in anticipation than they do under the actual blows of misfortune that fall upon them.

Though I believe that we should face our problems, our own shortcomings and our own weaknesses, I think it is even more important for us to recognize our achievements, the strides that we have made in many directions and the growth of the mind and spirit which has permitted us to be a part of a second world organization striving to achieve the longings of the human heart for brotherhood among men.
There were a lot of interesting stories this week but I suspect you may be focused on family and rejuvenation to prepare for the hard work ahead of us so I will just include links to a few articles that caught my eye:
We had a lovely holiday meal outside on our deck that featured a lemon tart, biscuits & rolls, creamed onions, a bevy of vegetables and lots of good cheer!
With gratitude,

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