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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation October 9, 2020


Emmanuelle Charpentier, left, and Jennifer Doudna may have made the most important biological advance since the discovery of the structure of DNA.Credit...Miguel Riopa/Agence France-Presse

Dear fans of women's representation and equality, 
Two women have jointly won the Nobel prize in chemistry - for the first time in the history of the awards. According to this story in The Washington Post by Ben Guarino, Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna were awarded the prize for their work on a gene-editing tool called CRISPR while poet Louise Gluck won the prize for literature:
A pair of scientists — Jennifer A. Doudna, a biochemist at the University of California at Berkeley, and Emmanuelle Charpentier, a French microbiologist — won the 2020 Nobel Prize in chemistry Wednesday for their work developing a revolutionary gene-editing tool that can change the DNA of plants and animals with extraordinary precision. The technique, called CRISPR -Cas9, is already being used as a cancer therapy and to cure inherited diseases.

“This year’s prize is about rewriting the code of life,” said Goran K. Hansson, secretary general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

This was the first time two women jointly won a Nobel in chemistry. “I wish that this will provide a positive message, specifically, to young girls who would like to follow the path of science,” Charpentier told reporters Wednesday morning.
“I’m over the moon, I’m in shock, I couldn’t be happier,” Doudna said at a University of California at Berkeley news conference. She said she and Charpentier are “waving to each other across the Atlantic right now.”

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said this prize was a long time coming. The 2012 publication of the scientists’ paper describing CRISPR is one of the most-cited studies in modern science. “Every year we are like: ‘Okay, is this going to be the year?’ ” he said, adding that he was “absolutely thrilled at 5:30 in the morning” to see the Nobel committee recognize the two researchers.
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Kamala Harris painted by Melanie Humble
Another milestone was reached this week when VP nominee Senator Kamala Harris became the first woman of color to represent a major party in a vice presidential debate. Glynda Carr, president and CEO of Higher Heights (which hosted an amazing debate night program) wrote about the historic event on BET:
Throughout history, Black women have played an outsized role in pushing America toward a true democracy. Women like Sojourner Truth, Charlotte Forten Grimke, Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Shirley Chisholm not only demanded the ballot and a say in our country’s trajectory at a time when it was dangerous and considered radical to do so, they also pushed for labor, economic, health care and education policies that ultimately enfranchised more Americans of all backgrounds.

Still today, Black women are functioning as key bridge builders who are attempting to close the gap between the America we are and the America we deserve. We’re working hard to construct a country with policies and representation that is inclusive of the voices and experiences of all its citizens. This election season, Black women are listening for candidates who understand the value of our role in this work. We’re keenly tuned in to the difference between those who want to offer us space in creating the blueprint for the bridge and those who will only go as far as handing us the tools to do the heavy lifting to build it or those who want nothing more than to step on our heads and hands as they trample over us.

During debates, Black women — who are among the country’s most active voters — need to hear from candidates real ideas for moving the country forward. We need to know that we are casting our ballots for leaders who see us as partners in governance, rather than subjects to be governed. Thus far, only former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris have articulated a platform and demonstrate a history of policies and legislative actions that speak to the concerns of most Black women voters. The Biden-Harris ticket is offering clear plans to address the most pressing matters for most of our communities, including COVID response, economic recovery, health care, community safety, criminal and racial justice, and climate change.
Helier Cheung had a good piece on the BBC that provides a recap of the largely-civil VP debate between Sen Kamala Harris and VP Mike Pence that explores the role of gender:
Wednesday night's vice-presidential debate was widely seen as civil, but with few memorable moments.

Yet one exchange that resonated strongly with many viewers - especially women - was when Kamala Harris responded to Mike Pence interrupting her by smiling and saying: "Mr Vice-President, I'm speaking… If you don't mind letting me finish, then we can have a conversation."

In fact, Ms Harris responded to an interruption with the phrase "I'm speaking" on three occasions.

Many considered these to be poignant moments that chimed with their own experiences of seeing women struggling for air time, or being interrupted by men in work situations.

Ms Harris was "clearly prepared" for interruptions, says Deborah Tannen, a linguistics professor at Georgetown University and expert in gender differences in language use.

She came across as "respectful" by saying "Mr Vice-President", while "I'm speaking" was not accusatory in the way "stop interrupting me" would have been, Dr Tannen told the BBC.

"Clearly her challenge throughout the whole debate was to avoid coming across as aggressive," she said.

"There's a double bind for women - because anything you do to come across as a forceful candidate violates expectations for women. I think she walked that fine line extremely well."
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Teen prime minister Aava Murato with Finland's prime minister Sanna Marin
My dear friend Melanie Humble sent me this charming story on the BBC about Aava Murato, the 16 year-old Finn who took on the role of prime minister for a day in Finland this week:
Finland may frequently top lists for gender equality,

But Prime Minister Sanna Marin has taken the fight to end the gender gap one step further and let a 16-year-old girl fill her seat for the day.

Aava Murto may not be making any new laws on Wednesday, but she is meeting politicians throughout the day to highlight women's rights in technology.

The swap comes ahead of the UN's Day of the Girl, and is part of a global campaign by a children's charity.

It is the fourth year Finland has taken part in Plan International's "Girls Takeover", which allows teenagers from countries from across the globe to step into the shoes of leaders in politics and other sectors for a day.

This year's focus is on promoting digital skills and technological opportunities for girls, with Kenya, Peru, Sudan and Vietnam among the countries holding their own swaps.

"It is a pleasure to be speaking here before you today - although, in a way, I wish that I did not have to stand here, that campaigns like the Girls' Takeover were no longer necessary," Miss Murto said in a speech on Wednesday.

"However, the truth is that we have not yet achieved gender equality - not anywhere on earth. Although we have accomplished a great lot of good in this area, there is still much work that needs to be done. "

The teenager, who actively campaigns on climate and human rights issues, applied to take part in the scheme. She will round off the day by meeting the prime minister to discuss gender equality in technology on Wednesday evening.
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Portland Press Herald
There was a great piece about ranked choice voting in Teen Vogue this week written by Lauren Young that cites research from FairVote and RepresentWomen:
Why are elections experts in favor of RCV?

Voters have more of a voice

Winner-take-all voting methods award the candidate who receives the highest number of votes, but not necessarily a majority. In 2009, Chris Christie became governor of New Jersey with 48.4% of the vote; Democrat Andrew Gillum lost his high-profile 2018 Florida gubernatorial run to his Republican opponent 49.2% to 49.6%; and in Maine, nine of the state’s 11 governor races between 1994 and 2014 were won with a less than 50% majority.

According to Represent Women, a nonpartisan nonprofit with a mission to increase representation for women through barrier-breaking voting reforms, in an election with three or more candidates, as many as almost 67% of voters may find themselves having voted against the race’s winner. Jake Auchincloss, who is considered likely to replace Rep. Joe Kennedy III in Congress this fall, was one of nine candidates in his recent Massachusetts primary, which he won with just 22.4% of the vote.

RCV “is giving all voters more of a voice in the system” Deb Otis, senior research analyst at FairVote, tells Teen Vogue. “[This] allows for more voices in the conversation and it gives voters the power to vote for our favorite candidates and then truly elect folks that represent our views.”

It puts more women and people of color in office

There’s also data that shows RCV not only puts more voices into the conversation but elects more diverse candidates. A 2020 report released by Represent Women found that women have won 45% of all municipal elections between 2010 and 2019 in the 19 cities and counties that have adopted RCV for municipal elections. As of this April, 46% of all mayoral seats and 49% of city council seats decided by RCV are held by women.

An April 2018 study compiled by FairVote also demonstrated strong evidence that RCV improves racial diversity among officeholders. Looking at the four Bay Area cities, including San Francisco and Oakland, where RCV (referred to there as “alternative vote”) was adopted in 2000, FairVote found candidates of color won 62% of races after the implementation of RCV, compared with 38% prior to its implementation. This effect has been particularly true for women of color: Between 1995 and 2014, the chances for women of color to win an election in cities without RCV dropped from 19.2% to 6.6%, while in cities with RCV, their chances of winning increased by 20.4% to 21.6% over the same period.

Part of the reason RCV benefits women and people of color seeking elected office is that it eliminates the issue of vote splitting. Vote splitting occurs when ideologically similar candidates run in the same election and divide votes, enabling a third candidate to consolidate the remaining votes. Often, Otis points out, this phenomenon has the effect of pushing women, people of color, and other diverse candidates to the sidelines of elections.
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If you are interested in learning more about ranked choice voting sign up to join a conversation next week between my husband Rob Richie and former presidential candidate Andew Yang who is a very enthusiastic backer of the reform:

Andrew Yang has been a leading voice in support of ranked choice voting. We’ll ask how Andrew learned about RCV and why he supports the reform, what he expects for the future of election reforms, and open it up for a Q&A with you. FairVote president and CEO Rob Richie and communications fellow and author David Daley will lead the discussion. 

If you weren’t able to join us last week for “The Future of American Elections: Redefining Representation for American Voters” we’ve got you covered! Visit our YouTube page to watch the recordings. 

Our webinars won’t end there! We have more webinars to come until the end of the year.  

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RepresentWomen is glad to be a resource for journalists, elected officials, and activists who are engaged in one way or another in the conversation about advancing women's representation but it is always especially fun when someone with a large following shares our data! This week Nina Garcia, the editor of Elle Magazine, highlighted our Gender Parity Index.
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The note below is from our terrific partners at the film Represent:
We are delighted to share that the nationwide broadcast of Represent is just around the corner! We have a couple fun opportunities for promoting the broadcast and streaming on that we wanted to share with you - thank you for helping get the word out!
  • 19th Centennial Series Discussion with ReflectUS - Oct 22 - Director Hillary Bachelder will moderate a discussion with ReflectUs, our featured candidate Myya Jones and an elected (TBD) about how far we've come on gender parity in politics, and how to expand the bench of women leaders. Join us!
  • Watch Parties and Twitter Live Chat - Oct 26 @10pm (check local listings) We are encouraging folks to tune in from home for our premiere, and host conversations with friends and family (safely and socially distanced of course!) using a new Watch Party Toolkit — including a short discussion guide, custom Zoom backgrounds, and our candidates' favorite party recipes! Please share our toolkit signup form via social media:
  • Please help get the word out on social media using the graphics and sample posts in our social media toolkit. Our hashtags are #RepresentPBS and #WomenRepresent
  • Streaming Launch - 11/3. Starting Election Day, we'll be hosting a promotion where if folks post their "I voted" stickers or wristbands, they'll get a free download code for Represent on iTunes. We'll send more about how/where to post soon.
Please reach out with any questions — or if you'd like to partner on content or events around the film in the coming weeks. Thank you and be well!
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October 11th will mark the 136th anniversary of the birth of former first lady and diplomat extraordinaire Eleanor Roosevelt. Her remarkable career included creating thousands of jobs for unemployed miners (with my dear Aunt Helen Nicholson's family - I love sleeping in the 'Eleanor Roosevelt beds' at my aunt and uncle's home), chairing the UN Commission on Human Rights, writing a weekly column called My Day, advocating for racial and economic equality, introducing children like me to children living around the globe via her recordings and records, and forging a transformative relationship with the press and the American people after the death of her husband Franklin. 
If I had a magic wand, I would do a lot of things, but top on my list would be to name more things after Eleanor - you can help in this valiant cause by signing & sharing the petition for the Eleanor Roosevelt Airport, isn't it time for an ERA in the USA?
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Thanks to everyone who sent me a note about my niece's wedding - it was a picture perfect day to celebrate a marriage with family and a few friends!
That's all for this week,
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P.S. Check out the new women's representation playlist on Spotify from the team at RepresentWomen and as always, consult our suggested feminist reading list:
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