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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation October 11, 2019


Dear friends,
The terrific team at the Center for American Women and Politics released their report Unfinished Business: Women Running in 2018 and Beyond this week that examines the gains women made in the midterm elections in 2018 and the barriers that still persist. Read the full report here but here is an excerpt from the Executive Summary:
Gender disparities in American politics were not upended in a single cycle, but the 2018 elec- tion marked sites of progress as well as persistent hurdles for women candidates. Evaluating the 2018 election in the context of both past and present offers key insights into the gendered terrain that candidates will navigate in 2020 and beyond.

Women candidates in election 2018 disrupted the (White male) status quo in American politics and challenged assumptions of how, where, and which women can achieve electoral success.

  • Women ran for and were elected to office in record numbers in the 2018 election, in addition to achieving historic milestones for women’s political representation
  • Women were winners in 2018, outperforming men among non-incumbents at nearly every level in both primary and general elections. Women candidates won the majority of U.S. House seats that flipped from Republican to Democrat in election 2018.
  • More than one-third of women of color elected to the U.S. House for the first time in 2018 won in majority-White districts. 
  • Women running in 2018, especially Democratic women, embraced gender as an electoral asset instead of a hurdle to overcome en route to Election Day. They drew upon distinctly gendered experiences and challenged both the valuation and expression of stereotypically masculine credentials for officeholding.
  • Women challenged gender and intersectional biases while campaigning, proving their power in disrupting instead of adapting to the prevailing rules of the game.  
  • Many women candidates refused to wait to run for office in 2018, challenging party norms as well as historical hurdles confronting young women and mothers of young children.
  • The rise in the number of women donors and their concentration of support for Democratic women candidates created more equitable financial conditions between women and men in 2018.
  • While sexism in the electorate contributed to President Trump’s success in 2016, research indicates that some Republican candidates paid a penalty for perceived sexism in 2018.
  • In 2018 and 2020, greater scrutiny of and public backlash to gender and/or intersectional media bias reflects some progress in creating a media landscape where bias – even if it persists – does not go unanswered.


Eleanor Roosevelt was born on October 11, 1884. My grandfather worked with her husband to electrify America - which in and of itself changed the lives of women in ways too numerous to count. Eleanor had a rich life after the death of Franklin in 1945 working as a diplomat and champion for workers, women, and children everywhere. The White House Archives offers this glimpse into her life:
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was the longest-serving First Lady throughout her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four terms in office (1933-1945). She was an American politician, diplomat, and activist who later served as a United Nations spokeswoman.
A shy, awkward child, starved for recognition and love, Eleanor Roosevelt grew into a woman with great sensitivity to the underprivileged of all creeds, races, and nations. Her constant work to improve their lot made her one of the most loved–and for some years one of the most revered–women of her generation.

She was born in New York City on October 11, 1884, daughter of lovely Anna Hall and Elliott Roosevelt, younger brother of Theodore. When her mother died in 1892, the children went to live with Grandmother Hall; her adored father died only two years later. Attending a distinguished school in England gave her, at 15, her first chance to develop self-confidence among other girls.

Tall, slender, graceful of figure but apprehensive at the thought of being a wallflower, she returned for a debut that she dreaded. In her circle of friends was a distant cousin, handsome young Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They became engaged in 1903 and were married in 1905, with her uncle the President giving the bride away. Within eleven years Eleanor bore six children; one son died in infancy. “I suppose I was fitting pretty well into the pattern of a fairly conventional, quiet, young society matron,” she wrote later in her autobiography.

In Albany, where Franklin served in the state Senate from 1910 to 1913, Eleanor started her long career as political helpmate. She gained a knowledge of Washington and its ways while he served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. When he was stricken with poliomyelitis in 1921, she tended him devotedly. She became active in the women’s division of the State Democratic Committee to keep his interest in politics alive. From his successful campaign for governor in 1928 to the day of his death, she dedicated her life to his purposes. She became eyes and ears for him, a trusted and tireless reporter.

When Mrs. Roosevelt came to the White House in 1933, she understood social conditions better than any of her predecessors and she transformed the role of First Lady accordingly. She never shirked official entertaining; she greeted thousands with charming friendliness. She also broke precedent to hold press conferences, travel to all parts of the country, give lectures and radio broadcasts, and express her opinions candidly in a daily syndicated newspaper column, “My Day.”

This made her a tempting target for political enemies but her integrity, her graciousness, and her sincerity of purpose endeared her personally to many–from heads of state to servicemen she visited abroad during World War II. As she had written wistfully at 14: “…no matter how plain a woman may be if truth & loyalty are stamped upon her face all will be attracted to her….”

After the President’s death in 1945 she returned to a cottage at his Hyde Park estate; she told reporters: “the story is over.” Within a year, however, she began her service as American spokesman in the United Nations. She continued a vigorous career until her strength began to wane in 1962. She died in New York City that November, and was buried at Hyde Park beside her husband.


As some of you know, I have been pushing to rename Dulles Airport the Eleanor Roosevelt Airport for the last several years to honor Eleanor's service. While there are clearly more pressing matters, there are currently zero airports in the United States and the Dulles brothers for whom the airport is named undercut democracy around the world - and I would argue created many of the conflicts that continue to this day. Next year is of course the centennial of suffrage and so that makes it an especially good year for a #Campaign2Rename things after women. So please read about my proposed Sandra Day O'Conner airport and sign and share the petition for an Eleanor Roosevelt Airport - ERA - in our nation's capitol.
Rebecca Sive will be talking with Linda Hirshman on her podcast Two Broads Talking Politics!
  • October 11th
  • 9pm Eastern


Another event that looks great is this discussion on Women, Politics, and Power in the New Media World featuring an amazing lineup of speakers including: Gwen Young, Betsy Fisher Martin, Christine Matthews, Crystal Patterson, Jenna Golden, Rebecca Schuller, and Lucina Di Meco - wow, great speakers!
  • 4:00 - 5:00pm
  • Tuesday, October 15, 2019
  • RSVP
There was a very interesting piece in The Hill entitled Why American politics needs gender quotas that of course caught my eye for it is intentional actions like gender quotas and special temporary measures that are the single most effective way to increase women's representation in government around the world. While I would love to live in a world where quotas were not necessary, it's clear that those who hold power share it very reluctantly. Voluntary recruitment targets for parties and giving targets for PACs & donors will pave the way for more women running and are born out of the same systems change thinking as Title IX, the Voting Rights Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act - all of which have created enduring change.

After the 2018 elections, many Americans celebrated the unprecedented number of women gaining seats to Congress. There was reason to celebrate: both the House and Senate included more women than ever before, with proportions of 23.5 percent and 25 percent, respectively, in both chambers.

Yet, these proportions are dismal when compared to most countries in the world, both advanced democracies and developing countries. Last month, the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s database of women in world parliaments ranked the United States 78th out of 193 countries in the world. Why is this the case? And how have so many other countries, like Rwanda, Mexico, Spain and Argentina, nearly reached parity for women in their legislatures? The answer is gender quotas.

Gender quotas are institutional mechanisms intended to increase the representation of women in politics. In some places, like the United Kingdom, gender quotas have been implemented for parliamentary elections at party levels. 

Elsewhere, like in most of Latin America, legislative quotas are mandatory to all parties, and in many African and Middle Eastern countries, women are elected or appointed through reserved seats. Most quotas require a minimum 30 percent of women, but they generally range from requirements of 20 to 40 percent. 

Within the first decade of the millennium, a new wave of quota activism emerged with force throughout the world. This time, legislative proposals for parity systems that require 50 percent of the candidate slots for women and the alternation between male and female candidates in party tickets for legislative elections have been adopted in countries like France, Nicaragua, Bolivia and South Africa, among many others.

Gender parity is based on the principle of equality of outcome and democratic representation and rooted in universally recognized human rights principles. Overall, and as stated in the Montevideo Strategy, parity has been deemed “necessary to overcome certain structural challenges entrenched in the current unequal power relations” between genders. 

While increasing the proportion of women in legislatures has obvious representational benefits, gender quotas and parity have also led to substantive policy results. Through quotas, women have been able to increase the passage of legislation that has benefitted women at large.

For example, Argentina has had a minimum 30 percent mandatory legislative gender quota since the 1990s. Legislation dealing with domestic violence, reproductive rights, reproductive health, reforms to the criminal code, and the more recent gender parity law were all proposed by women legislators. In other words, introducing policy that is more inclusive of women in public office is not only a question of representativeness akin to a democratic political system like the U.S. but it is also a means to diversify policy and expand women’s perspectives.


Congratulations to Erin Loos Cutraro, the Founder & CEO of She Should Run, who was featured in Entrepreneur Magazine this week:

Women held just 90 of the 535 seats in Congress when Erin Loos Cutraro founded She Should Run in 2011 to encourage more women to run for office. Today, women have won 127 congressional seats, and Cutraro has her sights set on a big goal: to get 250,000 women to run for office by 2030. “We can’t expect to achieve the best policies when we’re not engaging half the population in policymaking,” Cutraro says. The She Should Run Incubator, launched in 2016, has coached roughly 17,000 women weighing a run for office, and one in eight actually made it to a ballot. “We now have a baseline to build on,” Cutraro says. Ahead of the 2020 election, the organization is working to help allies encourage women in their own networks to run, and has produced a professional development series so businesses can help open leadership pathways for their female employees and foster conversations between employees and employers on topics such as impostor syndrome and the value of diversity. The goal, she says, is to meet women where they already are. “We’re operating in a space that didn’t exist before,” Cutraro says. “There is no formula.” 


There was an interesting story on the Inter Press Service about the number of women ambassadors at the UN which has now risen to 50 in all:

New York’s diplomatic community has continued to be enriched by a record number of women Permanent Representatives (PRUNs)—50 in all, as of October 2 – compared with about 15 to 20 back in the 1980s and early 1990s.

But the history-making number is still short of gender parity, falling far behind the 140 men who are PRUNs in the 193-member General Assembly, the highest policy-making body at the United Nations.

The remaining three women are designated Charge d’Affaires ad interim or acting heads of their respective diplomatic missions – and don’t hold the rank of PRUN.

The 50 PRUNs, who are also designated as Ambassadors, are members of an exclusive association called the “Circle of Women Ambassadors”— even as the circle has steadily kept widening.

The only other glass-shattering UN event took place in September 2014 when six of the 15 members of the UN Security Council– long monopolized by men– were women.

“It’s a little strange that it’s taken us this long,” Ambassador Sylvie Lucas of Luxembourg, was quoted as saying, more than five years ago.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told delegates last week that “no country in the world is on track to attain gender equality by 2030, and women continue to be hampered by discriminatory laws, unequal access to opportunities and protections, high levels of violence, and damaging norms and attitudes.”

So, gender parity among men and women ambassadors may be a long way off.

Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Permanent Representative of Bangladesh, and a one-time UN Under-Secretary-General told IPS: “To me any progress which manifests equality and representation of women’s recognized engagement is welcome.”

The fact that, at the moment, the number of women Permanent Representatives to the UN at its headquarters has reached the highest point ever is a development worthy of our attention, he said.

“However, we have a long way to go even to reach the numerical equality among 193 Member States”, said Ambassador Chowdhury, the initiator of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 as President of the Security Council in March 2000: a resolution that underlined the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, and on peace negotiations and peace-building.

The Women's Foreign Policy Group also tracks women leaders in this terrific resource: 2019 Guide to Women Leaders:

The Women’s Foreign Policy Group publishes the Guide to Women Leaders in International Affairs to highlight womenleaders shaping foreign policyaround the world. The Guide provides an index of prominent women from across the international community,includingheads of state and government, government ministers, leaders of international organizations and corporations, American officials and diplomats, and women representatives to the US and the UN. This free publication is availableonline at WFPG advances women’s leadership in international affairs and amplifies their voices through substantive global issue discussions and mentoring. Founded in 1995, WFPG works tirelessly to expand the foreign policy dialogue across political divides and generations, and to support women at every stage of their careers

That's all for now friends, I am off to Serbia this afternoon to meet with parliamentarians at the meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union to talk about strategies to get more women into office and meet the UN's Sustainable Development Goals on women's representation and leadership.
Have a great week,
P.S. Rep Don Beyer (VA-D) is a terrific champion for women's rights and equality who follows in the footsteps of his grandmother Clara Beyer. Thanks to Don, Megan and to your entire family for your leadership.

Clara Mortenson Beyer, 98, the former associate director of the Bureau of Labor Standards and a leading expert on labor law and administration, died of an acute cardiac arrhythmia Sept. 25 at her home in Washington.

Mrs. Beyer was an aide and adviser to Frances Perkins, who served as secretary of labor for 12 years during the Roosevelt administration, and in that capacity she was an influential figure on labor policies of the New Deal era.

She was associate director of the Bureau of Labor Standards from its creation in 1934 until 1958, when she left the Labor Department to join the staff of the International Cooperation Administration, a forerunner of the Agency for International Development. In that job she toured developing nations to investigate labor conditions and policies.

At the Labor Department and at AID, Mrs. Beyer was a champion of women's issues. She was co-author of the Percy amendment to the International Cooperation Assistance Act of 1973 that targeted specific amounts of U.S. foreign aid to programs serving women.


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