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The WeLead Reader
April 20, 2019

Good Saturday morning and welcome to another edition of the WeLead Reader - your place for a week's worth of important news about women in politics. 

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Betsy Fischer Martin
Executive Director
She Leads

Time for Parity: Time Magazine announced their Time Top 100, which for the first time is almost half women. The list includes: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, former first lady Michelle Obama, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, teenage activist Greta Thunberg, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

Getting Real:  When women win, things start happening.  That's the message from Colorado where more women in legislature means more bills aimed at addressing gender inequity in the workplace. "To understand how women’s leadership impacts legislation," Denver's 5280 Magazine takes a look "at the various bills circulating through the legislature that are intended to help women (and men) rise in the workforce."

Putting Women on the Map: Walk the streets of Columbia, SC and you'll see a city that honors its forefathers with historical monuments, markers, buildings and street names. But there seems to be a glaring omission, as SC's Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN) points out, only four percent of the city’s 145 landmarks honor women. "That is part of why Columbia City of Women was created. Former South Carolina First Lady, Rachel Hodges, introduced Rebecca Solnit’s New York City map, reimagining subway stops to be named after the metropolis’s influential women, to Historic Columbia and WREN. The organizations say that it became an easy decision to partner up and start creating a similar map for the city they call home."  Garnet & Black Magazine

Women Imparting Wisdom: Veteran congresswomen are mentoring their newly-elected freshmen counterparts, giving advice about navigating controversies, adjusting to DC life, motherhood, and tough decision-making. The advice isn’t always easy to hear, but, for the freshmen, the perspective is invaluable.  USA Today

Rhiana Gunn-Wright, one of the policy architects behind the Green New Deal, is the policy director at a think tank in Chicago called New Consensus, which developed details of the proposal. In this Essence profile, Donna M. Owens sits down with Gunn-Wright, a former intern for Michelle Obama who “entered the policy arena so she could analyze complex issues, then craft solutions designed to benefit people, communities and society.” Essence

Gender Retirement Gap: Citing data from the National Institute on Retirement Security that found women of retirement age typically have an income that is three-fourths that of men and are 80% more likely than men to be impoverished, Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) introduced a bill to address this gender retirement gap and fortify women’s financial security. The legislation would also improve security of retirement savings, increase access to savings plans, promote and enhance information about retirement tools, and benefit low-income women and survivors of domestic violence. The Herald News

Middle of the Road for Sherrill: In this Salon interview, Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) talks about her first 100 days in D.C. and her desire to “build broad coalitions” in Congress. From infrastructure to tax reform, the Naval Academy graduate and former federal prosecutor is focused on pragmatism and results. Find the transcript and full video here. Salon

Meeting For Motherhood: With more mothers of school-aged children in Congress than ever before, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) invited the twenty-five Republican and Democrat lawmakers to join the new ‘Moms in the House’ caucus. The women have a group text and regularly meet for breakfast and swap stories about working motherhood. Washington Post

Partnering on Pay Gap:  Working to close California's gender pay gap will be the first order of business for Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the wife of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA).  Newsom, who opted to be known as “first partner” instead of the typical “first lady” said on the state Capitol steps "that the new #EqualPayCA project will focus on educating employers and employees alike on what they can do to close the gap and launching an awareness campaign about how to comply with state equal pay laws." HuffPost

Living Her Story: Since her election last November, controversial freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has gone through a political “trial by fire.” The Muslim congresswoman, who is a refugee from Somalia, has become both a progressive firebrand and the target of GOP opposition. Omar knows she can’t escape the media spotlight, but says: “The best that you can do for yourself and those around you is make sure that you are living the story that you want to be written about you." MPR News

Party Chairs:  For the first time ever Michigan has two women chairing each of their state political parties. Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes and Michigan Republican Party Chair Laura Cox say "having a woman at the helm will help their parties appeal to female voters who will play a key role in choosing the country’s next president." Mlive

She Runs

Take 2: Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), recently elected to her third term in Congress, is already facing 2020 opposition. Democrat business consultant Tedra Cobb, who lost to Stefanik 42 percent to 56 percent in November, has announced she will try again to unseat the youngest Republican woman ever elected to Congress. This article dives into the pair’s history and ideological differences. Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Primary Rematch: Illinois businesswoman Marie Newman, wants a primary rematch against eight-term Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) who she almost defeated in 2018. She announced her 2020 candidacy on Twitter, saying “We deserve a representative who will vote like a real Democrat in Congress — not someone who routinely sides with (President Donald) Trump and conservative interest groups over his own constituents.” The primary will be March 17th.  Chicago Tribune

"I'm of the community.": Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) tops the list of most vulnerable incumbents in 2020  which means there is already a long line of Democrats who will vie for the chance to take him on in a general election.  One such contender is professor Stephany Rose Spaulding who comes from traditionally conservative Colorado Springs and did better than expected when she tried to defeat Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn last year.  Westword

Madame President?

“The real reason America has never had a female president...”: So far, polling and fundraising numbers suggest a lack of excitement about the female presidential candidates, even though a majority of Americans say they would be “very comfortable” with a woman in the White House. So why can’t the half-dozen women in the race get more traction? The reason, according to this piece: “a perfect storm of media bros, internalized misogyny, and ‘risk-averseness’ is keeping voters from opening their wallets and minds to female candidates.” Refinery29

“Now the floodgates of women’s upper bounds of ambition are open”: The six women in the 2020 presidential race all have something in common: they aren’t alone. Without the presence of Hillary Clinton, political scientist Kathleen Dolan of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee says that other women feel more free to run. While it remains to be seen if one of them will capture the presidency, women’s willingness to enter the race is an important step forward. New Republic

Where Are the Women?: In this opinion piece, Lauren Leader, co-founder and CEO of All In Together, argues that the women candidates for president are “qualified, talented, charismatic, hardworking—and nearly invisible.” In part, Leader blames the imbalance in coverage on the lack of diversity in media and proposes that major media outlets should work to ensure 50/50 gender representation and “make a serious effort to call for and actively solicit voices that are underrepresented.” The Hill

Kirsten Gillibrand


Across the Aisle, Kirstens Stick Together: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) completed her fourth campaign swing through Iowa this week. In what her campaign called a “listening tour,” Gillibrand met with caucus-goers in several communities on Thursday. Yesterday, Gillibrand hosted “Conversations with Kirsten” in Denison, Carroll, and Harlan.

During the trip, Gillibrand also picked up an endorsement from Kirsten Anderson, a former Iowa Senate Republican staffer. The “two Kirstens,” who met after Anderson won a sexual harassment lawsuit against the state of Iowa in 2017, spoke together in Des Moines on Wednesday. Anderson said of Gillibrand, “I have extreme respect and have been following what she’s been doing.”  An arm wrestling match in Des Moines was also on the agenda. Des Moines Register

News & Analysis:

  • The Politics Of Troy And The Stalled Campaign Of Kirsten Gillibrand The New Yorker
  • Gillibrand Raises $3M In First Quarter For 2020 Race Associated Press
  • Kirsten Gillibrand Is Endorsing “Actionable” Steps To Close the Racial Wealth Gap BuzzFeed
  • Election Analyst Says Gillibrand Doesn't Have 'Horsepower To Go The Full Distance' The Hill

Kamala Harris

Working Hard in SC: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) received an endorsement this week from former Rep. Bakari Sellers (D-SC). Sellers said, “Kamala has dedicated her life to fighting for everyday Americans, and I believe she will do the same for working-class families in South Carolina.” So far, Harris also raised more money in South Carolina than any other candidate.

Harris is campaigning in the state this weekend, holding two town halls focused on education. The first was last night at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, while the second will take place this afternoon at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg. Also on today’s calendar: a meet-and-greet with community leaders and an Orangeburg County Democratic Party fundraiser.

Also on tap yesterday - a return trip to the great city of New Orleans to speak to her fellow Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sisters attending their South Central Regional Conference. Times Picayune

News & Analysis:

  • Kamala Harris Takes Her Shot The Atlantic
  • After a Chat with Trevor Noah, Harris has Fences to Mend in New Hampshire LA Times
  • Kamala Harris Releases 15 Years Of Tax Returns Vox
  • Sen. Kamala D. Harris Expresses ‘Regret’ Over Her California Truancy Policy Washington Post
  • Kamala Harris Takes Early Lead In The Big-Money Race POLITICO
  • Presidential Hopeful Kamala Harris Symbolizes Indian Americans’ Growing Political Power USA Today
Amy Klobuchar

Branching Out: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) has “has focused mostly on the Midwest” since her February campaign launch, but she headed south this week. Klobuchar visited Florida on Tuesday, meeting with the Florida House Democratic Caucus and holding a health care discussion in Miami. On Wednesday, Klobuchar spoke in Nashville, emphasizing “bread and butter” issues and her history of bipartisanship. She returned to the Midwest on Thursday, visiting the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines to meet with Democratic lawmakers.

Yesterday, she returned to New Hampshire to hold a discussion with Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig.

On May 8th in Milwaukee, Klobuchar will be the second Democratic contender to appear at a town hall hosted by Fox News.

News & Analysis:

Elizabeth Warren

Excited About Elizabeth: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) had a busy week on the campaign trail, making stops in South Carolina, Colorado, and Utah. In her first visit to South Carolina’s Lowcountry, Warren addressed voters’ concerns about climate change, touting her newly-announced policy to protect public lands. On Tuesday, she headed west, where she rallied a crowd of supporters in Aurora, Colorado, calling for an end to government corruption. Warren’s speech prompted one attendee to say, “I’ve never been excited about a primary candidate before but I’m very, very excited about Elizabeth Warren.” Warren finished out her swing on Wednesday night at a concert hall in Salt Lake City, Utah. She told the crowd of over a thousand, “We need big, systemic change in this country. And I got a plan.”

Following the release of the redacted Mueller report, Warren became the first 2020 candidate to call for Congress to pursue impeachment of President Trump, tweeting "The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty. That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States." New York Times  She explained her decision last night during an in-depth interview with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC

On Tuesday, Warren will return to South Carolina to speak at Allen University, an HBCU in Columbia.

News & Analysis:

  • In The Race For Grassroots Donations, It’s A Battle Between Elizabeth Warren And Bernie Sanders Vox
  • Elizabeth Warren Has The Biggest 2020 Presidential Campaign — And It's Only Growing BuzzFeed News
  • An Analysis Of Senator Warren’s ‘Real Corporate Profits Tax’ Tax Foundation
  • Warren Says Wealth Tax Will Create Two Trillion More To Spend On Social Programs NHPR

Opinion & Columns

  • Ryan Cooper: Elizabeth Warren Is Everything Hillary Clinton Pretended To Be The Week
  • Helaine Olen: Elizabeth Warren Was Once A Republican. She Shouldn’t Hide It Washington Post
  • Jon Hartley: What Elizabeth Warren Doesn’t Get About Taxes National Review
  • Julian Zelizer:
Tulsi Gabbard

Foreign Policy in Focus: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) visited Iowa this week making campaign stops in Muscatine and Iowa City on Tuesday. Speaking to veterans in Iowa City, she “defended meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2016 and promoted a platform of Medicare for all and criminal justice reform.” On Wednesday, she visited communities in eastern Iowa.  Yesterday, she visited a New Hampshire recovery center to talk about the drug crisis. 

Gabbard will speak at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island on Monday. She will deliver an address titled “Build, Don’t Bomb: A New American Foreign Policy.”
  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Hammers Trump For Turning U.S. Into 'Prostitute Of Saudi Arabia' Washington Times
  • Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Raises $1.9 Million In Bid For White House Honolulu City Beat

Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson went on a three-day swing through New Hampshire, where she visited college campuses hoping to gain support among younger voters. Williamson said, “I want college to be free at public universities and colleges, and I want the cancellation of these college loans or, at the very least, radical renegotiation.”

Williamson participated in a CNN town hall on Sunday night, where she addressed reparations, ‘Capitalism with a conscience,” and her qualifications to be president. Find highlights from the evening here.

  • Marianne Williamson Wants To Make Democrats The Party Of Faith Vice
  • 2020 Candidate Conversation: Marianne Williamson NHPR
Women to Watch (or Listen to)

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made an appearance on CBS’s “60 Minutes.” Pelosi spoke with host Lesley Stahl about what she thinks of the Mueller report, how she interacts with President Trump, and the current state of the Democratic Party. Read the transcript or watch the video here. CBS News

Listen to this episode of Crooked Media’s “Pod Save America” with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), hosted by Jon Favreau. Harris talks about “her record as a District Attorney and California Attorney General, how she’d get her priorities through Congress, what drives her crazy about the Democratic Party, and her views on immigration, health care, Israel, and more.” Crooked

The Vital Voices podcast this week features a conversation with the first woman Prime Minister of Peru, Beatriz Merino.  She talks to Vital Voices CEO Alyse Nelson about the next generation of female leaders.  Itunes

Hillary Clinton sat down with Fareed Zakaria to discuss the “mess” the country is in right now and and speculate about 2020, with a cheering audience throughout. At the end of the conversation, Zakaria asked “Do you think the world would be different if it were led by women?” Clinton replied, “Of course!” Women in the World

CNN is hosting five back-to-back town halls on Monday, April 22. Participants include Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), live from New Hampshire. The production will take place on Saint Anselm College’s campus and coincide with the release of a new national poll of young voters done by the Institute of Politics at Harvard's Kennedy School. CNN

Research Hub

“We still have a long way to go”: An analysis from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce finds that while women have made great strides in politics in recent years, gender bias is still a major problem. The report, which uses data from the 2018 General Social Survey, found that 13% of survey respondents (both men and women) said they agreed with the statement, “Men are better suited emotionally for politics than most women.” That figure has fallen steadily from about 50% in 1975. The study also contains breakdowns by age, race, family income, political affiliation, and education level, providing a detailed picture of how Americans’ opinions on women’s emotional suitability for politics have changed over time. All demographic groups appear to be trending toward greater acceptance of women in the political sphere, but as the report concludes, “Women can win in politics, but the playing field still isn’t level.” Read the full report here. Chicago Tribune, Fortune

Women and Politics Classes Get Short Shrift: In this article, Lori Cox Han (Chapman University) and Caroline Heldman (Occidental College) assert that “the study of women and U.S. politics, as well as the role that gender plays in the broader political context, represents a significant contribution to the disciplines of political science.” In light of the importance of the subject, Cox Han and Heldman examine trends, pedagogical approaches, and challenges in teaching undergraduate political science courses related to gender and politics. They find that institutional support for offering and teaching these courses is often weak and faculty frequently face “pushback” from students, suggesting that they “dismiss the importance of studying gender as a variable in political science.” PS: Political Science & Politics                          

A #MeToo Divide?: A new analysis of public opinion polling on sexual harassment issues finds that the partisan gap in support for the #MeToo movement—and in public perception of sexual harassment generally—has grown over the past two years. Using 2016 and 2018 data from The Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, FiveThirtyEight finds that “on the whole, since 2016, Republicans have grown more skeptical of women who report harassment and the motivation behind their claims.” However, there is some bipartisan agreement on the issue: respondents from both parties were more like to say that “sexual harassment of women in the workplace is a problem in the US” in 2018 than they were in 2016, suggesting a greater public awareness of the problem overall, likely related to the #MeToo campaign. FiveThirtyEight

Gender Differences Widen: In recent years, gender differences in opinion about the size and role of government have widened. A recent survey from Pew Research finds that 58% of women say they prefer a “bigger government providing more services,” compared with 36% who favor a smaller government and fewer services. For men, these figures are essentially reversed: 59% of men want a smaller government, while 37% prefer bigger government. Gender differences in presidential approval are also longstanding, but the gender gap in approval is larger for President Trump than other recent presidents. Over his first two years in office, Trump has averaged a 44% approval rating among men, and only 31% among women. That 13-point gap is larger than any in the past three decades. Pew Research
In Case You Missed It

A First for Slovakia: Last month, Slovakia elected its first woman president. Zuzana Caputova, a political newcomer, won 58 percent of the vote in a runoff election, campaigning on a platform of transparency and institutional reform. Caputova will take office in June. Council on Foreign Relations

“A here-they-go-again example of men in power failing to listen to women who dare to speak their minds”: In the aftermath of a scandal which led to the resignation of Canada’s first Indigenous female attorney general, the country is questioning what it means to have a “feminist government.” Some women in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Cabinet, which is gender-balanced by design, have complained of “covert but classical” sexism in the government. New York Times

The Aftermath of #MeToo: There is a new legal battleground on the horizon in the #MeToo movement: blacklisting. Multiple women who have settled high-profile sexual harassment lawsuits have struggled to maintain their careers in media afterward. One woman says, “You are forever pegged as a whistleblower and a troublemaker.” Vanity Fair

“These are the sort of women you want your daughters to become”: The Philadelphia Sixers basketball team employs “a number of thoughtful, smart, and confident women in high-profile positions,” making them “perhaps the most progressive team in the NBA.” Columnist Marcus Hayes says there is a gender revolution underway in basketball, and he profiles nine of the women who are helping the Sixers lead the charge. Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News

“We were not seeing any kind of real work being done to understand what women really want”: The first lady of Afghanistan, Rula Ghani, “has emerged as a powerful voice” advocating for women in peace talks between the United States and the Taliban. Although her husband’s government has been excluded from the talks so far, Ghani is fighting to give women a seat at the table. Washington Post

She Writes: Ten young women who worked as staffers in the Obama White House co-authored a best-selling new book, Yes She Can.   Included in the group were AU alumna Vivian Graubard, Kogod/BS ’10 and Jenna Brayton, now an adjunct instructor with the School of Public Affairs. “We wanted to inspire young women to pursue careers in public service, by hearing our stories and identifying with them,” says Graubard.  Recently, six of the authors joined WPI Executive Director Betsy Fischer Martin on American University's campus to discuss the book.  American University

She Said...

“Women being around the table changes the conversation.  If your elected body does not represent the same mix as the state, then you are not exactly hitting the mark of representational government.”

State Sen. Kerry Donovan (D-CO)
April 12, 2019



Contributing writers:  Jessica Francis, My-lien Le, Emily Martin, Julie Russell and Alexis Simmons

About Us: 
The nonpartisan Women & Politics Institute at American University provides academic training to young women that encourages them to become involved in the political process and facilitates research by faculty and students that enhances our understanding of the challenges and opportunities women face in the political arena.

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