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Forum on the State of Women's Representation

August 19, 2013

Women's Representation

In 1920, American women earned suffrage rights in the Constitution. As this centennial approaches, Representation 2020 is sparking a national conversation about how women can achieve parity with men in elected office. This forum featured the release of Representation 2020's first annual report on the State of Women's Representation, a 50-state review of women's representation at all levels of government and what progress is being made in activities and rules that may affect women's representation.

FairVote's Representation 2020 team presented its findings on representation of women and developments relating to the key changes necessary to achieve gender parity in representation. With White House Project founder Marie Wilson as moderator, renowned pollster Celinda Lake and international authority Laura Liswood commented on each of the key findings as they are presented.

Watch the conversation ...

Marie Wilson

Marie Wilson

Celinda Lake

Celinda Lake

Laura A. Liswood

Laura A. Liswood



Marie Wilson

Marie Wilson is the founder and former president of the White House Project, an organization that advocated for women’s leadership positions and ultimately for the presidency, in addition to conducting significant research on women in media, politics, and business. Ms. Wilson is a co-creator of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day (started 1993), and served as the head of the Ms. Foundation for Women, a national advocacy group dedicated to fighting for women’s rights, which created the Marie C. Wilson Leadership Fund in honor of her achievements. In addition to being a renowned speaker, writer, and leader in the women’s rights movement, Ms. Wilson has the distinction of being the first woman elected to the Des Moines City Council as a member at large, in 1983.




Celinda Lake

Celinda Lake is one of the Democratic Party's leading political strategists, serving as tactician and senior advisor to the national party committees, dozens of Democratic incumbents, and challengers at all levels of the electoral process. Celinda and her firm are known for cutting-edge research on issues including the economy, health care, the environment and education, and have worked for a number of institutions including the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Democratic Governor's Association (DGA), The White House Project, AFL-CIO, SEIU, CWA, IAFF, Sierra Club, NARAL, Human Rights Campaign, EMILY's List and the Kaiser Family Foundation. Her work has also taken her to advise fledgling democratic parties in several post-war Eastern European countries, including Bosnia, and South Africa. In 2008, Celinda worked as pollster for Vice President Biden.

Since its formation, Lake Research Partners has become one of the most respected Democratic polling firms in the country. The firm's work has moved the progressive agenda forward on a variety of issues. Working against the conservatives, Celinda’s research demonstrated that the phrase "religious political extremists” was much more communicative than the vernacular "religious right." In the healthcare arena, her research showed that talking about "reducing health care costs" and the 8 out of 10 working families without adequate health insurance was key. Her interviews and statistics have been quoted in the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal as well as a variety of magazines, including Newsweek, Glamour and Marie Claire, and Celinda has appeared on numerous television and radio news programs, including CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, Fox News and NPR, discussing her work and providing expert commentary.

Celinda is one of the nation's foremost experts on electing women candidates and on framing issues to women voters. American Politics calls Celinda a "super-strategist or, better yet, the Godmother," and Working Woman says she is "arguably the most influential woman in her field." She is renowned for her groundbreaking research on single women voters in conjunction with Women's Voices Women Vote and has helped elect numerous female candidates, including Barbara Mikulski, the "Dean" of Women Senators, former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, Blanche Lincoln, U.S. Senator from Arkansas, Patricia Madrid the first Hispanic woman Attorney General in New Mexico, and Carol Moseley-Braun in her historic victory to become the first African-American woman to be elected to the United States Senate. Celinda also works for Nancy Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House.

Celinda has a long record of defeating incumbents, including races for Donna Edwards who beat Albert Wynn, Jerry McNerney who beat Richard Pombo, Tim Walz who defeated Gil Gutknecht, and previously Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow and West Virginia Governor Bob Wise, both of whom beat incumbents. Recently two more incumbents fell at Celinda’s hands: Conrad Burns who lost to Jon Tester in Montana in 2006, and Ted Stevens who lost to Mark Begich in Alaska in 2008. Also in 2006, Celinda was an integral part of the successful effort to help Democrats take control of the House of Representatives.

Lake Research Partners has a long history of successful initiative campaigns. In 2008, Celinda polled in California to beat parental notification initiatives three times in a row. In 2006, Celinda helped with successful minimum wage campaigns in five states and was the pollster on the first successful effort to defeat an anti-gay marriage initiative in Arizona. During the 1992 election cycle, Celinda oversaw focus group research for the Clinton/Gore campaign and served as a general consultant throughout the campaign. Celinda is also credited with identifying key voter groups including Reagan seniors, NASCAR dads, waitress moms, the marriage gap and generation D. In 2005 she and Kellyanne Conway published What Women Really Want with the Free Press.

Prior to forming Lake Research Partners, Celinda was partner and vice president at Greenberg-Lake. Her earlier experience includes serving as Political Director of the Women's Campaign Fund, as the Research Director at the Institute for Social Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and as a Policy Analyst for the Subcommittee on Select Education.

Celinda, a native of Montana and one of the political world's most avid whitewater rafters, holds a master’s degree in political science and survey research from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and a certificate in political science from the University of Geneva, in Switzerland. Celinda received her undergraduate degree from Smith College in Massachusetts, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude and was recently awarded the Distinguished Alumna Medal by the College.

Laura A. Liswood

Laura LiswoodIn August 1996, Laura Liswood co-founded, with President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir of Iceland, the Council of Women World Leaders, located in Washington, DC. Ms. Liswood is the Secretary General of the Council, which is composed of women heads of state and government. The work of the Council expands the understanding of leadership, establishes a network of resources for high-level women leaders, and provides a forum for the group to contribute input and shape the international issues important to women and society.

In 2001, Liswood was named Managing Director, Global Leadership and Diversity for Goldman Sachs. Working on issues of globalization and workforce diversity, she is now a Senior Advisor to the firm.

In 1997, Liswood co-founded The White House Project. Her work with women presidents and prime ministers was the inspiration for the Project to change the cultural message in the United States about women as leaders.

From 1992 to 1996, as director of the Women’s Leadership Project, Liswood identified global leadership contributions by women heads of state. She interviewed 15 current and former women presidents and prime ministers, which is chronicled in her book and video documentary, Women World Leaders (1996 and 2007, Harper Collins).

Liswood’s professional experience includes CEO/President of the American Society for Training and Development, and executive-level consulting to Fortune 500 and international companies. She received the Westinghouse Award of Excellence for her contribution to women and minorities in the work place. She is also the author of a book on service quality, Serving Them Right (Harper Business).

Liswood, a nationally recognized speaker, author, and advisor, has contributed to leadership and diversity in the diversity community for many years. Former commissioner of the City of Seattle Women’s Commission, Liswood was the owner/publisher of Seattle Woman. In 2000, the Secretary of Defense appointed her to a three-year term of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS). After the events of September 11, 2001, Liswood became a reserve police officer in Washington DC and is now a sergeant.

Liswood has also held management positions in the airline industry, and was a consultant for the Boston Consulting Group. She holds an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and a B.A. from California State University, San Diego. She holds a J.D. degree from the University of California, Davis, School of Law, and is admitted to practice law in California and Massachusetts.

Her latest book, The Loudest Duck (Wiley and Sons 2010), is a business guide that uses parables and anecdotes to examine the challenges to traditional workplace diversity efforts and provides innovative strategies to create truly effective workplaces for all.

Representation 2020: A Century from Suffrage to Parity

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