Weekend Reading on Women’s Representation: Senate Could See Third Black Woman Senator in 234 Years; Key Races in Boulder and St. Paul

Weekend Reading on Women’s Representation is a compilation of stories about women’s representation in politics, on boards, in sports and entertainment, in judicial offices and in the private sector in the U.S. and around the world—with a little gardening and goodwill mixed in for refreshment!

Last week, our 10th annual Gender Parity Index was released. Our longest-standing and most extensive body of work fueled some spirited and informed discussions about women’s representation in the U.S. on social media.

The Gender Parity Index can be used for:

  • Providing data-backed evidence on the ways democracy reform improves representation outcomes
  • Opening the eyes of communities and decision-makers on the need to invest in change
  • Providing data-backed evidence on the ways democracy reform improves representation outcomes in states that have adopted a given reform
  • Using the GPI as a tool for further research
  • Celebrating your state’s progress and the reforms and policies that contributed.

Gerry Langler, co-founder of Mentor Graphics, put out an excellent tweet showing how the GPI can be used for further research. He cross-referenced the GPI state ranking with how accessible a mail-in the ballot was to see if a pattern emerged. Our GPI is meant to be a comprehensive resource, and we are thrilled people are using it that way!

Read the full report to learn more about the status of women’s representation in the United States and the methodology of RepresentWomen’s Gender Parity Index—or head here for our top takeaways.

Council Member Nicole Speer Announces Candidacy for Boulder’s First RCV Mayoral Race

In 2020, via Ballot Measure 2E, Boulder adopted ranked-choice voting for mayoral elections by a margin of nearly 80 percent.

This November, Boulder will have its first ranked-choice mayoral contest; current councilwoman Nicole Speer announced her candidacy just last week. She is the only woman in the race thus far, alongside Councilmember Bob Yates and Mayor Aaron Brockett. 

Our 2023 Gender Parity Index shows that of Colorado’s 27 cities with over 30,000 people, which includes Boulder, nine have woman mayors (33 percent). Colorado ranks 17th overall.

If elected, Speer said she would bring an important viewpoint to the role.

“This is the first time that we are electing Boulder’s mayor. And the fact that I can be here as a queer woman, as a mother, as a scientist — things have changed. Seeing all of you here today, I know that more change is on the horizon,” she said. “It matters when we have different perspectives in the room, at the table.”

…Speer said one of her main priorities is to address the “economic precarity” of living in Boulder. Particularly concerning, she said, is the city’s recent spike in evictions, the displacement of older adults and people with disabilities, and the rise in homelessness, including among public school students. She said she wants to relax the city’s zoning laws to make it easier to build housing, dedicate more money to affordable and transitional housing, and raise the city’s minimum wage.

Maryland’s Democratic Primary Could Result in Third-Ever Black Female Senator in 234 Years

This week the Washington Post published an article by Lateshia Beachum about the momentum building around a woman candidate in Maryland’s Democratic primary race.

County executive of Prince George’s County, Md., Angela Alsobrooks (D) is running to succeed U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin following the news of his retirement.

If elected, Alsobrooks will become the third Black woman to serve in the U.S.Senate in its 234-year history. The first two Black women to run, win, and serve in the U.S. Senate were Carol Moseley Braun and current Vice President Kamala Harris.

While Alsobrooks is amassing a loyal base of supporters, she has found herself confronted with a hurdle too often faced by Black women candidates—inequalities in fundraising.

Black female candidates historically have had to rely on small-dollar donations as their White male counterparts tap long-standing networks of support, researchers say. But a review of early political giving shows that Alsobrooks’s candidacy has energized Black power brokers, policy wonks, and Democratic super givers — many of whom have no direct stake in Maryland politics.

“The data are clear: It is harder for a woman to get elected when we are more than 50 percent of the population. Women of color are having a harder time,” said Jennifer DiBrienza, 52, a California Bay-area resident who contributed $3,300 to Alsobrooks’s campaign after getting an email from the Electing Women Alliance, a national network of local giving groups that supports female candidates.

“We know that it’s not equal, and it takes active work to make it all equal,” DiBrienza continued. “There are going to be some people who say, ‘Enough with race and gender,’ but I think they’re in denial of our reality.”

Black female candidates historically have less access to moneyed circles and often represent areas that command fewer resources, making it necessary for them to raise money themselves, especially in the primary, Sanbonmatsu said.

Ben Ray, senior director of campaign communications for Emily’s List […] added: “There are millions of American women, Black women that deserve to see themselves in the legislative body that makes laws that apply to them.” 

Pushing for Parity: Craig Foster’s Call for Gender Equality in FIFA Leadership Highlights Lingering Challenges and Tokenism in Soccer

In a thought-provoking piece for Forbes, Samindra Kunti highlights the concerns raised by Craig Foster, a sports analyst and advocate for human rights. Foster has expressed his worries regarding the FIFA Council’s inadequate representation of women. In a bold move, on the eve of the FIFA Women’s Football Convention in Sydney, Foster rallied for a vote in the FIFA Council, advocating for global gender equality and the inclusion of women’s voices in decision-making. 

The 37-member FIFA Council now includes a mandatory female rep from each confederation as of 2016. This boosted council numbers by 18 percent. Progress has been made, yet parity remains elusive. Female representation in FIFA has been marred by challenges and a lingering perception of tokenism rather than true catalysts for positive social change.

RepresentWomen’s research underscores the efficacy of gender quotas in boosting female leadership. The data reveals a compelling correlation between countries that have adopted gender quotas and increased representation of women in leadership roles. Implementing a gender quota system could yield substantive change in FIFA’s leadership composition and, crucially, help dismantle the perception of superficial commitment to gender equality that has historically tarnished the organization.

“At the moment, one-sixth of the FIFA Council is female, and that’s seen as a step forward, and that’s embarrassing for the game.”

Craig Foster

“I’ve seen at least 15 conferences on gender equality, and yet the only thing I’ve seen come out of them aside from dialogue is a statement of people saying I’m going to continue to support women’s soccer.”

Craig Foster

In a sport that has long had problems with female executives, female membership of the FIFA Council has often looked like window dressing. One of the very few outspoken soccer officials, the president of the Norwegian FA, Lise Klaveness, failed in her bid to become the first woman to get elected on the UEFA executive committee in a direct vote against male candidates. 

“The game is very skilled at just providing small incremental growth for people and at externalizing anyone who says anything that is challenging to the global governing body.”

Craig Foster

Proportional Representation Helped Women Get Elected in 2022

The Electoral Reform Society is a U.K.-based independent organization that advances pro-democracy reforms in the UK. The leading solution that they advocate for is proportional representation. Specifically, multi-winner ranked-choice voting (or, as they call it, the Single Transferable Vote).

RepresentWomen is a big advocate for multi-winner ranked-choice voting for the same reasons as the ERS: It gives voters more voice and more choice and removes barriers for a more representative elected body. Check out our Memo: Voting Systems and Women’s Representation to learn more!

Thea Ridley-Castle, research and policy officer at the ERS, reports on the impact voting systems have on representation outcomes:

Quotas make a real difference to women’s representation in parliament, but so does the electoral system.

In 2022, countries with either proportional representation (PR) or mixed electoral systems collectively elected 29% women to their parliaments, whereas countries with majority or plurality systems like First Past the Post only elected 22.4% women to their parliaments. The electoral system used also influences the likelihood of applying gender quotas.

…countries which use Proportional Representation consistently elected more women in 2022 in comparison to countries with a plurality/majority system and that positive effect was amplified through the application of gender quotas.

Matland and Studlar argue that “the greater number of parties in proportional representation systems provides an increased probability that one party will decide actively to promote women candidates” When one party starts standing female candidates, others tend to follow.

Proportional voting systems rely on larger constituencies that elect more than one MP. These ‘Multi-Member Districts’ allow parties to field numerous candidates within the same constituency. There is a greater opportunity to field more diverse candidates alongside the incumbent.

In contrast, in First Past the Post, the focus is on one candidate, which minimizes the opportunity to consider the balance across candidates. Moreover, it may be necessary to remove an incumbent or go against central party interest to put forward a woman candidate. Matland and Studlar argue that parties may “ignore the external challenge” in to avoid “creating internal strife and antagonizing powerful intraparty interest.”

Could St. Paul Have a Women-Majority City Council?

Katie Galioto reports on an exciting scene in St. Paul, Minnesota. Ramsey County Elections Office was abuzz as five women individually filed their candidacies for the St. Paul City Council. These candidates want to redefine the city’s leadership to bring about change. The council will undergo its most significant change since the 1990s due to four current members opting not to run for reelection. 

RepresentWomen’s Impact Analysis of NYC’s Woman Majority Council Brief analyzes how a women-majority city council affects policy outcomes. We’d be interested to see how St. Paul changes if all of these women win.

With four of seven members stepping down at the end of the year, the council is poised for its biggest shakeup since the ’90s. As the November election draws nearer, a group of women are supporting each other on the campaign trail in the hopes of becoming the youngest, most diverse, and first all-female council in city history.

Kim filed alongside fellow newcomers Anika Bowie, Saura Jost, and Cheniqua Johnson — who are vying to represent the city’s First, Third, and Seventh wards, respectively — as well as incumbent Council Member Mitra Jalali.

Across-the-board victories for the slate of candidates, which includes incumbents, Rebecca Noecker and Nelsie Yang, would herald in a council entirely under the age of 40. All seven members would be women, and a majority would be women of color.

“What drove me to run is that I didn’t see myself or the people I care about reflected in city conversations,” Jalali said, noting that the demographic shift would reflect the changing makeup of St. Paul’s population.

Wyoming, the So-Called “Equality State,” Is Still Far From Gender Parity

In an article for U.S. News, Josephine Rozzelle highlights how gender equality in Wyoming is far from reach. In 1869, the Wyoming Territory became the first of any state or territory to permanently give women the right to vote and hold office—50 years before Congress passed the 19th Amendment extending voting rights to women across the country.

While many might know it as the Cowboy State, another one of Wyoming’s nicknames is the Equality State, a nod to Wyoming’s early steps toward equal rights for women. However, the significant aspects of gender inequality throughout the state highlight how much further we still have to go in the fight towards women’s representation.

“In a 2022 analysis, U.S. News ranked Wyoming 45th out of the 50 states for gender equality. The state lagged behind other states most in two categories – representation and power and family planning – and struggled to see gender parity across a number of metrics, including college graduation rates, mental health, and affordability of being a single parent.

Working women in the Equality State also face one of the largest gender wage gaps in the country and are severely underrepresented in management positions. Meanwhile, women who choose to have families face a relatively high maternal mortality rate and limited access to birth control.

Jennifer Simon, founder of Wyoming Women’s Action Network, a women-focused advocacy group, recalls how the late journalist Cokie Roberts summarized the state’s history with gender equality during her keynote speech at a Wyoming Women’s Legislative Caucus conference in 2019.“I’ll never forget how eloquently she characterized something I often felt but never quite had words for,” remembers Simon. “‘Wyoming has had a lot of firsts, but not a lot of seconds.’”

One possible explanation for the decline in female legislators is a change the state made to its electoral system in 1992. After a federal court ruling, Wyoming reapportioned all of its electoral districts to be single-member districts, meaning voters choose one candidate rather than multiple. Research indicates fewer women may run and be elected from single-member districts. This system also can make races more contentious, a factor that may discourage women from running, according to Republican state Rep. Sandy Newsome, who represents part of northwest Wyoming. Advocates like Simon say the state needs to address its gender inequalities in order to stem the flow of young women out of the state.

“They’re running into the real effects of those policy decisions, and it becomes almost impossible for them to stay,” Simon says. “I want this state to be a great place for all of the young women I know who have gone to college to come back and live their lives, raise their families.”

Rank Your Favorite Way to Cool Off

Here in the D.C. area, we’ve been feeling the heat, with temperatures in the 90s on most days. Rank your favorite way to cool off!

Up next:

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.

This post was originally published on this site