Weekend Reading on Women's Representation October 29, 2021

By Cynthia Richie Terrell on October 29, 2021

Greta Thunberg, painted by Melanie Humble
Dear friends,
Over the coming weeks advocates, experts, and elected officials will gather in Glasgow, Scotland for COP26, an annual United Nations summit on climate change. My daughter Becca Richie will be there with her colleagues from Climate Clock to help pressure nations to commit to immediate and impactful measures to address the existential threats to our climate and planet. 
There was a compelling piece in The Diplomat about the role women can and should play in forging solutions to the climate crisis at the COP26 summit:

The upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) presents an opportunity for world leaders to put women and girls at the center of global efforts to adapt and build resilience to climate change. Based on the U.N. poll, 62 percent of young people said they believe that governments should prioritize climate action the most.

The climate and resource crises, as well as global inequality, have not disappeared during COVID-19. If anything, the pandemic has underscored the critical need to address gender inequality if we want to successfully combat the global pandemic and the climate crisis. It has also demonstrated the leadership roles that women and girls are playing in health and disaster response, especially at the local level.

COP20 established the first Lima work program on gender in 2014 to advance gender balance and integrate gender considerations into the implementation of the Climate Convention and the Paris Agreement. While there has been progress in promoting gender-responsive climate policy and action, there is still much to be done.

Today, climate plans, policies, and investments still do not adequately account for the distinct impacts of climate change on women, girls, and marginalized populations. Regardless of the sector – be it education, water, sanitation, or nutrition – it is very often women and girls who are expected to carry the increased burden caused by climate change, as well as the pandemic.

There are three key things that need to be prioritized: first, gender-responsive climate finance; second, women and girls’ education for inclusive adaptation; and third, mainstreaming gender equality for climate resilience.

Women possess an extraordinary – and often underappreciated – potential to drive climate change mitigation and resource management efforts due to their influential roles in families and communities.  Until recently, initiatives to empower women and adolescent girls as agents of change have remained woefully neglected in climate policy and finance circles.

We need to be intentional in addressing gender inequality and make women-focused investments to build their resilience to climate change.

Leaders from the G20 nations are gathering this weekend in Rome, Italy to discuss pressing issues facing the global economy. While women's rights and well-being are a priority issue for the summit, Angela Merkel is the only woman head of state to represent a G20 country and her tenure in office is about to end...yet another reminder that we need to invest in new innovative strategies that yield more women in executive leadership roles.

While women are under-represented at the G20 summit and in most governmental bodies around the globe, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has once again illustrated the power of executives to advance women's leadership by appointing a gender balanced cabinet. As this story in the Daily Sabah reports, women are not only well-represented on Trudeau's cabinet but hold positions in finance, defense, and foreign affairs - positions that have been hard for women to attain in other countries:

Maintaining that he intends to lead his party into the next election, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Tuesday overhauled his gender balanced cabinet, naming women to the foreign affairs and defense posts.

Trudeau named Mélanie Joly as foreign minister and Anita Anand as defense minister. Chrystia Freeland retains her positions as deputy prime minister and finance minister.

Women make up half of the Cabinet, as they have done since Trudeau’s Liberal government was first elected in 2015.

Trudeau gave an emphatic “Yes” when asked if he will lead his party into the next election. Trudeau has won three straight elections, but failed to win a majority of the seats in parliament in the last two elections. His Liberal party has to rely on at least one party to pass legislation and to remain in power in a minority parliament.

Joly, a 42-year-old from Montreal, previously served as minister of economic development and before that as heritage minister. Anand, a 54-year-old from Oakville, Ontario is just the second woman to serve as Canada’s defense minister. The 54-year-old from Ontario previously served as procurement minister and led the country's efforts to purchase vaccines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trudeau also created a new role, a minister of mental health and addictions. Carolyn Bennett has been tapped to take on the role.

President Biden named a record number of women to his cabinet and just this week issued a National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality designed to advance and secure women's basic rights. Kiersten Marek, founder of Philanthropy Women writes about the strategy that includes a number of "interconnecting priorities" to address the crisis women & girls are facing:
1. Good jobs for women.
2. Ending gender-based violence.
3. Protecting reproductive health.
4. Improve access to education for women and other marginalized groups.
5. Gender equity and fairness in justice and immigration systems.
6. Advance gender equality under the law.
7. Integrate gender equality into climate change mitigation.
8. Close STEM gender gaps.
9. Grow women’s leadership across all sectors of society.

This agenda will have a “whole-of-government” implementation strategy and an Annual Report submitted to President Biden will be made public.

In order to produce this strategy, over 250 stakeholders including nonprofits, unions, worker organizations and academics convened a total of 15 issue-based events hosted by the Gender Policy Council. In addition, over 270 youth leaders added their ideas in youth-focused listening sessions. Members of Congress, state leaders, Tribal and local leaders also contributed to the formation of this plan.
There was a fascinating article in The New York Times about Black women mayors and the terrific new report from Higher Heights and the Center for American Women and Politics on Black women in American politics:
When Kim Janey failed in September to qualify for the mayoral runoff election in Boston, effectively ending her time as the city’s top leader, her political rivals rejoiced and her supporters were dismayed. But her loss affected one group in particular: the collective of seven other Black women who are mayors of large cities. It’s currently a record number.

Black women mayors lead eight of the 100 cities with the largest populations in the United States, according to data from the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers University. Their disparate communities stretch across both coasts, the Midwest and the South, from Boston, San Francisco and Chicago to New Orleans, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. Some of their cities have large Black populations but others do not. And the women have forged a quiet fellowship because of their relative scarcity and similar experiences of managing the myriad facets of a big city as mayors in a shifting political landscape.

That these eight Black women have achieved this milestone is both remarkable and a long time in the making, say analysts of Black politics. The number of female mayors of any race in major U.S. cities has more than tripled in the last decade, from just nine in 2011 to 31 today, according to CAWP, which began tracking this data in 1997. But within that number, the rise of Black women has been particularly dramatic.
Next Tuesday is election day in the United States with two states - Virginia and New Jersey - holding contests for legislative and statewide executive offices. The Center for American Women in Politics has compiled lists of the key races to watch along with tallies of the number of women running and currently in office.
New systems strategies are needed in New Jersey, which gets a "D" on RepresentWomen's Gender Parity Index, the Center for American Women and Politics is highlighting the following races:
  • Sheila Oliver (D), the current lieutenant governor, and former state Senator Diane Allen (R) are competing in the NJ lieutenant governor’s race. This position has been held by a woman since its inception in 2010.
  • A record 84 (54D, 30R) women are running in the general election for seats in the New Jersey Legislature. The previous record was 77, set in 2017.
    • 19 (13D, 6R) women are running for New Jersey Senate seats. This is not a record; that record was set in 2017 at 25.
    • A record 65 (41D, 24R) women are running for New Jersey General Assembly seats. The previous record was 60, set in 2019.
  • No Asian or Pacific Islander (API) woman has ever been elected to the New Jersey Legislature. At least six API women are running this year to become the first. More than 10% of the state identifies as Asian or Pacific Islander. These candidates include:
    • Sadaf Jaffer (D-16)
    • Anjali Mehrotra (D-21)
    • Shama A. Haider (D-37)
    • Ellen J. Park (D-37)
    • Bina Shah (R-14)
    • Raya Arbiol (D-12)
Records to beat:
  • Record number of women serving in the New Jersey Legislature is 38, first set in 2019.
  • Record number of women serving in the New Jersey Senate is 12, first set in 2017.
    • The record number of women winners in New Jersey Senate general elections is 11, first set in 2011.
  • Record number of women serving in the New Jersey General Assembly is 28, first set in 2009.
    • The record number of women winners in New Jersey General Assembly general elections is 26, first set in 2009.
Current numbers:
  • 37 women serve in the New Jersey State Legislature, comprising 30.8% of members.
  • In the Senate, women hold 11 seats, or 27.5% of the total number of senators.
  • In the Assembly, women hold 26 seats, or 32.5% of the total.
  • New Jersey ranks 25th among the 50 states in CAWP’s state rankings of women’s representation in state legislatures

 

Virginia also gets a "D" on RepresentWomen's Gender Parity Index but both the Democrats and Republicans have a women of color running for lieutenant governor so that means there will be a woman holding statewide executive office in Virginia regardless of which party dominates. Here are the races and stats that CAWP is tracking:
  • Hala Ayala (D) and Winsome Sears (R) are competing in the general election to be Virginia’s lieutenant governor. Either one would become the first woman of color elected statewide in Virginia. Ayala identifies as Black, Latina, Lebanese, and white, while Winsome Sears identifies as Black.
  • The Virginia Senate does not have elections this year.
  • A record 72 (49D, 23R) women are running in the general election for seats in the Virginia House of Delegates this year. The previous record was 62, set in 2019.
  • The overall record for women candidates in general election contests for the Virginia General Assembly (the combined upper and lower chambers of its legislature) is 85, set in 2019 when both chambers were up for election.

Records to beat:

  • The record, and current, number of women serving in the Virginia General Assembly is 42, set in 2021. Currently, 11 women serve in the Virginia Senate, meaning that at least 32 women must win House of Delegates races in order for this overall record to be broken.
  • Record number of women serving in the Virginia House of Delegates is 31, set in 2021.

Current numbers:

  • 42 women serve in the Virginia General Assembly, comprising 30.0% of members.
  • In the Senate, women hold 11 seats, or 27.5% of the total number of senators.
  • In the House of Delegates, women hold 31 seats, or 31.0% of the total.
  • Virginia ranks 28th among the 50 states in CAWP’s state rankings of women’s representation in state legislatures.

New York City will vote next week in a plurality-winner election to install the winners of the ranked choice voting primary held in June - women's representation on the NYC Council is expected to increase from 28% to 57% thanks to 21 in 21, open seats, public financing, and ranked choice voting!
Elections will be held in Florida and Ohio to fill Congressional seats - with a number of women who may split the vote in the antiquated plurality system - and in a number of cities across the United States including 30 plus cities that will be using ranked choice voting to elect the mayor and city council. Sara Swann writes about the jurisdictions using RCV next week in The Fulcrum:

More cities than ever before will use ranked-choice voting in their elections next Tuesday, furthering the alternative voting system's momentum across the country.

In Utah alone, 19 cities will use ranked ballots — most for the first time — after opting into an RCV pilot program earlier this year. This brings the nationwide total to 50 jurisdictions using RCV, with more than two dozen using it in elections this year. Outside of Utah, three of those cities are also newcomers to RCV.

Ranked-choice voting saw its biggest debut yet earlier this year in New York City's primaries for mayor and city council, which drew national attention...

Utah by far has the most jurisdictions that have switched over to RCV. In addition to the state capital, Salt Lake City, 22 other cities opted into ranked elections this year. In four jurisdictions, though, there weren't at least three candidates on the ballot to rank, so those places will use traditional plurality voting.

"Good governance starts locally, which is why we're thrilled so many Utah cities have embraced ranked-choice voting," said Stan Lockhart, an advocate with Utah Ranked Choice Voting and former chairman of the Utah Republican Party. "This will be an opportunity for Utahns to test out ranked-choice voting ballots for themselves, and we're confident that Utahns will appreciate being offered back-up choices in the ballot box."

Minnesota is another state with several cities using RCV in its elections next week. Minneapolis, which adopted RCV in 2006, was one of the first jurisdictions in the country to make the switch to the alternative voting system. The state capital has a highly contested mayoral race with 17 candidates on the ballot, including incumbent Jacob Frey. Additionally, the cities of Bloomington and Minnetonka will be using ranked ballots for the first time.

Santa Fe, N.M., also has competitive RCV elections for mayor and city council on Nov. 2. The state capital first used ranked ballots in its 2018 elections.

RCV itself will be on the ballot in three cities next week. Voters in Ann Arbor, Mich., Broomfield, Colo., and Westbrook, Maine, will consider ballot measures to adopt RCV for future contests.

Last month, the Philadelphia City Council passed a resolution to study using RCV for municipal elections. The council is holding public hearings to discuss the switch.

And while the Virginia governor's race won't be utilizing ranked ballots, the state Republican Party used a form of ranked-choice voting in its nominating contest in May.

"Ranked choice voting is the fastest-growing, most bipartisan voting reform in the country. We're thrilled that more than 30 cities will use RCV next week and that the year's most high-profile elections in Virginia and New York City featured primaries with RCV," said Rob Richie, president of FairVote, an RCV advocacy organization. "Whether it's in progressive New York City or conservative Utah, voters overwhelmingly report positive experiences with RCV. Looking forward, I can't wait for Alaska and Maine to use RCV next year, and for advocacy drives to bring RCV to more cities, use RCV to handle crowded fields in presidential primaries and forever end gerrymandering by using RCV in tandem with multi-member districts."

RepresentWomen tracks international women's representation in order to better understand the structural barriers women face in politics and the systems changes like ranked choice voting that help to create opportunities for more women to run and win - as we will witness in NYC next week. 
I am very pleased to announce that we are releasing the first in a series of regional country briefs that examine women's global representation. Many thanks to Lexi Long, Alisha Saxena, Asel Timur Kyzy and the rest of the RW team for their work to compile, analyze, and present the data. Read the full brief here and click through the country graphics below for a quick look into women's representation in Post-Soviet States:
The Soviet Union, also known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was established in 1922 with 15 republics, making it the largest country in the world- for reference, it was 2.5 times larger than the United States and was one-sixth of Earth’s land surface. On December 26th, 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved, resulting in the creation of 15 new and independent states: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

Under the Soviet Union, women’s rights were enshrined by the constitution, which guaranteed equal rights for women in all aspects of life, including the economic, cultural, social, and political spheres. Soviet women were actively involved in the labor force and in domestic affairs- this “double burden” also meant that they experienced time poverty, or a lack of adequate time for leisure and rest. Despite this, Soviet women were still 49% of all local officials and 32% of all federal officials in 1980. However, Soviet women were less likely to be promoted within the government hierarchy, and some women also preferred local politics due to their time poverty, which can explain women’s reduced levels of representation between local and federal government. Throughout the state’s existence, women’s political representation greatly fluctuated, especially in political party leadership, which is proof of the inadequate implementation of their 30% gender quota.

Why Read This Brief? This brief chooses to analyze these 15 post-Soviet states primarily because their constitutions, political parties, electoral systems, and sociocultural attitudes have all been developed in the last 30 years. Being some of the most newly formed states in the world, these post-Soviet states are still in the process of expanding their legal codes, updating their electoral codes and institutions, and creating mechanisms to monitor the realization of gender equality. Each country in this region has experienced similar and unique barriers in their journey to state development, as well as some resounding successes that other countries should consider implementing within their own governments. Overall, this region is one of the most unique in the world, and there are many successes and challenges which can be identified to enhance our understanding of both the post-Soviet states and governments around the world.
Sandra Mason, newly-elected head of state for Barbados
 
Barbados took another decisive step toward autonomy from Great Britain this week by electing Sandra Mason who will replace Queen Elizabeth as head of state in the small island nation. According to this story in The New York Times by Christine Hauser Mason's new position is notable because the prime minister of Barbados is also a woman - I like this model for leadership:)
Ms. Mason’s election is also notable because both the prime minister and the head of state will soon be Barbadian women. “Even if it is mostly ceremonial,” Mr. Lynch said in an interview, “you have got to have confidence if the president and the prime minister have got confidence in each other.”

After she is sworn in, Ms. Mason will become the ceremonial leader of an island that is facing labor shortages, the effects of climate change and economic difficulties due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on its tourism sector, the prime minister said.

In her speech after the parliamentary vote, Ms. Mottley said the real work would begin the day after the island becomes a full republic.

“We look forward, therefore, to Dec. 1, 2021,” she said. “But we do so confident that we have just elected from among us a woman who is uniquely and passionately Barbadian.”
WomenLift Health, a project of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is sponsoring the fifth annual Women Leaders in Global Health Conference with a special focus this year on closing the gender gap in health in South Asia and Africa. Use this link to register for the conference and participate in this very important conversation:
On 15-16 November 2021, WomenLift Health will convene the fifth annual Women Leaders in Global Health (WLGH) Conference. This year’s conference comes at a unique time of increased urgency around the need to reimagine leadership in global health. COVID-19 has taken a disproportionate toll on women -- especially women of color -- and experts warn we may emerge having lost decades of progress toward gender equality. An inclusive and equitable pandemic recovery requires a different kind of leadership that centers women of diverse backgrounds and experiences in decision-making, challenges barriers like sexism, colonialism, racism and builds resilient health systems that meet the needs of the most marginalized and vulnerable.
 
The two-day event, with regional focuses on South Asia and Africa, will feature a range of dynamic sessions, including fireside chats, plenaries, panels and interactive workshops with prominent leaders, experts and activists from around the world.
 
Speakers include:
  • Ify Aniebo, Founder, Afroscientric
  • Barkha Dutt, Award Winning TV Journalist; Washington Post Columnist
  • Monica Geingos, First Lady of Namibia
  • Celine Gounder, President/Founder of Just Human Productions; Infectious disease physician; Served on the Biden-Harris COVID-19 Transition Advisory Board; Host & Producer of Epidemic and American Diagnosis
  • Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, Former President of Mauritius
  • Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Founder & Chairperson, Biocon
  • Fidji Simo, CEO, Instacart; Co-founder, Women in Product; Co-founder, Metrodora Institute
  • Anita Zaidi, President, Gender Equality and Director, Vaccine Development and Surveillance, and Director, EDD...and many more

In late October I am always reminded of my husband's 9th great grandmother, Susanna North Martin, whose strong-tongue and status as a property owning woman incited an angry mob. She was found guilty of witchcraft and hanged on July 19, 1692. Her trial is available online in case you are curious about how the patriarchy operated in Puritan America. Her life and death are summed up here:
Born Susannah North in England in 1621, she moved with her family to Salisbury, MA when she was 18. In 1646, at the age of 25, she married widower George Martin and they lived west of the Powow River. In 1654, the area separated from Salisbury and became Amesbury, Massachusetts. The Martins were two of the earliest residents of Amesbury, which would be officially incorporated in 1668. In total, the couple had eight children. Susannah was left a poor widow in 1686 when George Martin died.

Forthright and argumentative, Goody Martin’s past included six unsuccessful lawsuits to inherit her father’s estate. She had appeared in court as a defendant numerous times for a variety of offenses, including calling one neighbor a liar and a thief. She was accused of witchcraft on two occasions before 1692, with the charges eventually dropped.

Thirty years of gossip and accusations had hardened Martin. She laughed at her accusers during her examination, treating them with contempt. Skeptical of the witch hunt, when asked if she had compassion for the afflicted, clear-eyed Martin replied, “No. I have none.”

At her June trial, at least nine (some suggest as many as 24) neighbors traveled to Salem to testify against Martin. Among the personal grievances harbored over the years were claims that she had caused one man’s oxen to drown themselves, her specter had stalked a farm hand, she had bitten another man’s hand, she had driven a neighbor mad, and she had been seen at witch meetings. Her reply? “I have led a most virtuous and holy life.”
I am happy to announce that we have completed the first phase of our ongoing work to make our content accessible to those with disabilities and those whose primary language is not English. We have translated our website into the 6 languages whose speakers are the least likely to also speak English - here is a sample of the Spanish language site!
Finally, it's harvest time in the garden - this weekend I will pick pumpkins, spinach, kale, green beans and the last of the tomatoes and basil - autumn has arrived in the Mid-Atlantic!
That's all for this week,
Cynthia
P.S. Check out this week's suggested reading and remember to cast your vote in RepresentWomen's "Final Girl" contest!