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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation October 26, 2018


(former Ambassador now president of Ethiopia, Sahle-Work Zewde)
Dear women's representation community members,
AfricaNews reported this week on the selection of Ambassador Sahle-Work Zewde as Ethiopia's first woman president:          

The influential Addis Standard cited top government officials as confirming that Ambassador Sahle-Work Zewde, a top official with the United Nations, UN, was due to be Mulatu’s replacement.

Zewde was until recently, the UN Director General at its offices in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. She is currently the Special representative of the UN Secretary-General to the African Union, AU.

Sahle-work has a rich ambassadorial track record having served as Ethiopian ambassador to several countries previously. Her resignation from the UN role this week is said to be to allow her take the new position of president.

She is all set to be the first woman president of Ethiopia, but only after the joint session of the two legislative houses vote her to the role tomorrow. The vote is seen as a mere formality.


The first black woman city councillor, Arielle Kayabaga, and 5 other first time winners were elected in London, Ontario this week in the first use of ranked choice ballots for a general election in Canada according to this story in the London Free Press - this is great news for London & for the burgeoning movement for ranked choice voting in Canada. Two additional cities in Ontario, Cambridge & Kingston, voted to adopt ranked ballots this week:

Not only was this the first municipal council elected using ranked ballots in Canada – though the preferential vote didn’t seem to have much effect in London, where first-round leaders came through with victories in every ward – but it also includes the first openly gay person and the first black woman elected to London city council.

Six new city councillors were elected, including three in open seats and three wards where council incumbents went down in defeat.

Eight incumbents – Michael van Holst, Mo Salih, Jesse Helmer, Maureen Cassidy, Phil Squire, Josh Morgan, Anna Hopkins and Stephen Turner in Wards 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 11 – were re-elected.

Voters turfed this council’s longest-serving politician, 24-year veteran Bill Armstrong, in Ward 2, where Shawn Lewis came out with 63 per cent of the vote. Lewis is the first openly gay person elected to city hall.


There was a sobering article in the Wall Street Journal "Workplace Gender Gap" by Vanessa Fuhrmans about a survey from Lean In and McKinsey that confirms the persistent realities of sexual harassment and inequality and how the two are connected:

Women remain underrepresented within companies at every level, Facebook Inc.Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and other senior leaders said—despite the #MeToo movement.

Progress has “dragged to a halt,” said Ms. Sandberg, founder of LeanIn.Org, who spoke at a San Francisco event hosted by The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. “We’re at a really critical moment—a really critical moment where we need to invest in leadership.”

Women are entering the U.S. workforce in the highest numbers in decades, but gender parity isn’t improving, Ms. Sandberg said. Only about one in five senior leaders is a woman, and one in twenty-five is a woman of color, according to the fourth annual Women in the Workplace survey from LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co.

That is almost unchanged from the first survey 2015. Central to the problem: hiring and promotions.

Brenda Choresi Carter - director of the Reflective Democracy Campaign, wrote this note about a new report entitled A Rising Tide? that tracks the race and gender of candidates on the November ballot:


Against the backdrop of unprecedented political turmoil, the Reflective Demcracy Campaign just calculated the real state of the union. For over half a decade, we’ve tracked the grave imbalance between who Americans are and who represents us. From 2012 to 2016, little changed: across local, state, and federal office, white men – only 1/3 of the population – were 2/3 of all candidates and 2/3 of all elected officeholders.

Constituting what we have called a “veto-proof minority,” white men have always held a monopoly on political candidacy and political power in America.

This year, countless headlines have heralded the rise of candidates challenging the status quo. In our new report A Rising Tide? we looked behind the headlines and tracked the race and gender of candidates on the November 2018 ballot in races for Congress, governor seats, and a sample of state legislatures nationwide—and we found a historic shift.

Will there be a tide of change in 2018? While we can’t predict the outcome of the November 6 election, here’s what we do know: Across America, ballots will offer voters a wider range of candidates than ever before. Here’s what we found when we tracked the demographics of general election candidates for congress, state legislature, and governor:
    • Since 2012, white men have decreased as a share of Congressional candidates by 13%, and by 12% in our sample of state legislative races.
    • At the state legislative level, 36 out of 43 states analyzed saw an increase in women candidates since 2016, and the average increase is 24%.
    • For the first time, white men are a minority of Democratic Congressional candidates, dropping from 53% in 2012 to 42% this year.
    • In our sample of state legislative races, Democratic women of color candidates increased by 71% since 2012.
    • The race and gender breakdown of Republican state legislature candidates has remained relatively unchanged since 2012.
  • Overall, women candidates for Congress have increased by 44% since 2012—driven by a 75% increase in women of color.
As if in response, Anna Fahey from Sightline Institute wrote about this week about proportional voting systems and the reasons that they lead to the election of higher numbers of women & people of color:

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert the other night. Ardern is notable in many ways. As Colbert pointed out, she’s the second-youngest leader of New Zealand—at 37, she’s also the youngest elected woman leader in the world today. She’s one of the world’s 10 women heads of state (that’s just over 7 percent of 137 chiefs of government worldwide). She’s New Zealand’s third woman prime minister in around 100 years. And she’s the second head of state in history to give birth while in office—ever. (Hence, alas, an inordinate amount of press focus on her multitasking while breastfeeding).

Ardern is also notable because she’s in office in large part due to New Zealand’s electoral system. New Zealand uses proportional representation to elect its leaders.

Wisconsin Public Television ran a nice piece on Emerge WI this week:
A first look tonight at what people are calling the year of the woman in U.S. politics, but it’s not just an uptick in the number of women running at the federal level. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports the number of women running for state legislative seats is up 28% compared to 2016. Two-thirds of them are Democrats. Wisconsin is right in there with 62 women running for legislature. 50 of those are Democrats. “Here & Now” reporter Zac Schultz met up with some candidates in Wisconsin to find out what’s driving their run.
Kristina Wilfore shared the second episode of Fatima's Hand - about the push for women's equality in Ukraine: listen online or through iTunes podcast. And if you missed the first episode you can listen here.
Heather Wolf shared info on how to support candidates endorsed by the non partisan Women's Campaign Fund, one of the oldest PACs for women candidates which in 2017 adopted a commitment to 50% women's representation by 2028 - you can find out more about the candidates that have received the 2018 seal of approval.

WCF supports competent women candidates who demonstrate they have what it takes to: win their races, find and build on common ground, and work effectively for the good of all at every level of elected office in the United States.

"Our criteria are not easy to vet," says WCF Chair, Georgia Berner.  "With more than 200 women running this year, we made tough choices about several campaigns where a woman had a good record of reaching common ground overall, but a campaign strategy of divisive tactics.  People vote for what they want and expect to see the action and attitude they voted for in office."

"Alternatively, we find at least one race (PA 5) where opposing candidates meet the criteria we think builds good government." Berner adds. "We narrowed a long list of impressive women to a short list that serve as bellwether races for our goals.  WCF applauds the more than 40,000 women who took steps toward candidacy since late 2016.  Our message to them is simple: continue to claim your voice."
That's all for this week - trying to keep these shorter though it is very hard!
P.S. I'll share two more stories from this week if you are reading this with a cup of something warm on Saturday morning - these are both from The New York Times and worth a thorough read:

I know that when I hear 2018 called the Year of the Woman, I am supposed to huddle with my girlfriends, preferably over rosé, and celebrate the historic number of female candidates in the midterm elections. And yet, I have to confess that the term bums me out.

Really? I think whenever I hear it. We only get a year?

The way we talk about all of these female candidates as they try to drag that cave man known as Congress a bit closer to gender parity leaves me discouraged about how little progress we’ve made. After all, it was Senator Barbara Mikulski who, after she was re-elected in the first Year of the Woman in 1992, said that the term “makes it sound like the Year of the Caribou or the Year of the Asparagus.”

Are female candidates still unicorns, magical woodland creatures that rear their sparkly horns every couple of decades, and only when provoked, as they were after Anita Hill’s testimony in 1991 and Christine Blasey Ford’s agonizing account of sexual assault last month?

Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris have signaled they may run for president in 2020, which would make that election the most female ever (The Year of the Woman on Steroids, to borrow The Washington Post’s phrase). So it’s all the more urgent that we find a less archaic way of talking about women in politics, preferably one that doesn’t make them seem like a stop in the Chinese zodiac.

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