Women Pols Demand Council Speaker Candidates Commit to ’21 in ’21’

Letter Sent to Every Candidate for City Council Speaker Demanding Commitment to Gender Parity on City Council in 2021

In a letter to each of the, all-male, candidates currently running for City Council speaker, Council Members Elizabeth Crowley and Margaret Chin, 2 co-founders of the 21 in ’21 initiative, and Executive Director Moira McDermott, asked that every candidate commit to making gender parity and achieving the goals of 21 in ’21 a priority.

This call for action from the next Council Speaker comes at a moment when not only is there not a single woman in the race for Speaker, but come January the NYC Council will have only 11 women out of the 51-member legislative body.

The letter calls for the candidates to work towards this goal not just in words but also in deed. All responses, or lack thereof, will be published prior to the vote for the speaker.

Recent news reports say that Manhattan Councilman Corey Johnson has enough votes to assure him of becoming the next Council Speaker. In response to that news, Moira McDermott said in a statement: “I look forward to working with Council Member Johnson as the anticipated next speaker. I trust he will stand by his commitment to empower his female colleges, promote qualified women within his staff, encourage women to run, and help create a pipeline of women for the future – all of 21 in ‘21’s goals.” McDermott added that she has had a strong working relationship with Johnson in the past and trusts that he will stand by his pledge to be an ally and partner for the 21 in ‘21 Initiative.

The 21 in ‘21 Initiative released a copy of Councilman Johnson’s to the Bronx Chronicle. In it, Johnson pledged that if elected as the next speaker of the City Council, he would make the initiative as one of his “top priorities.” He also pledged that his leadership team would be “comprised by a majority of women” and that women would be assigned to key committee chair positions. “I would also ensure that senior positions on my staff are held by women, specifically women of color,” wrote Johnson in his letter. He concluded his letter stating: “Whether or not I am elected speaker, I will work hard to help cultivate and support female candidates for City Council in 2021.” Johnson’s letter can be read in full below.

It was last summer when Council Members Crowley and Chin, McDermott, and other women leaders, in collaboration with Effective NY, created the 21 In ’21 initiative. In November, Carlina Rivera (District 2) and Diana Ayala (District 8) #21in21 endorsed candidates were elected to the City Council.

“It is our hope that the next Speaker will rally his members and use the platform afforded to him by his position to urge the county leaders to embrace the goal of electing at least 21 women to the Council by 2021 and, ultimately, achieving gender parity. Given the growing nationwide movement to elect more women to office, it may require less cajoling than one might think to get the county leaders on board. So far we have been very encouraged by the response of the county leaders to our outreach,” said Morgan Pehme, executive director at Effective NY.

Ms. McDermott says organizers hope to employ educational and training materials, along with one-on-one candidate development, to prepare women for political candidacy over the next four years.

The Five Founders: (left to right) Morgan Pehme, Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, Council Member Margaret Chin, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverto and Bill Samuels

“21 in ’21” will initially be an autonomously run branch of EffectiveNY, a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization founded and led by Bill Samuels, who has made a pledge of $25,000 to get the initiative going and will help raise more money so it can thrive.

“Men and women alike must step up if we are to right this injustice,” said Samuels at the time.

“The fact is that legislatures function better and have a broader perspective on critical issues when we have greater equity in representation, so anyone serious about good government and reform should embrace this initiative as a top priority for New York City. ‘21 in ’21’ is just the start. Our ultimate goal is to get to at least 25 or 26,” added Samuels.

The “21 in ’21” letter to Council Speaker candidates can be found below in its entirety:


Dear Council Member:

Since it appears all but certain that the next Speaker will be a man, we are very concerned that Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s focus on achieving gender parity in the Council, which led to her co-founding of our organization—the 21 in ’21 Initiative—will be a lesser priority for the next Speaker.

Given that there will be only 11 women in next class of Council Members—a mere 21.5% of the body and down from 18 members in 2009—the fight to elect more women to the Council is more critical and challenging than ever. To achieve our aim of electing at least 21 women to the City Council by 2021, the next Speaker is going to have to commit himself wholeheartedly to this goal and rally the body’s members to do the same.

If elected Speaker, do you pledge to dedicate yourself to achieving the goal of 21 in ’21, not just in words, but in actions? These actions include endorsing women candidates; raising money both to support these women directly and to fund organizations focused on electing more women to city office; promoting public awareness about the dearth of women in the Council; and creating a pipeline of women candidates by hiring more women to serve on the Council’s central staff.

We will publicize your responses—or lack thereof—prior to the Speaker vote and then hold you accountable for your answer.

Please email your response to moira@21in21.org by January 1, 2018. We appreciate you taking the time to address this letter.

Councilman Corey Johnson’s response letter in its entirety can be found below:

Dear Council Member Crowley and Council Member Chin,

Thank you for writing to me today regarding the 21 in ’21 Initative, which is undoubtedly one of
the most important efforts to launch in New York City in recent memory.

I pledge to you that if I am elected as the next speaker of the City Council, I will champion this
initiative as one of my top priorities. Especially given the attack we have seen on women coming
out of Washington, it is more important than ever to fulfill this pledge not just in words, but in

The importance of this effort cannot be overstated. New York has historically been the epicenter
of progress on issues including civil rights, labor rights, social justice, LGBT rights and women’s
rights. The fact that the Council currently has just 11 women out of 51 members stands in stark
contrast to our city’s reputation as a national leader, and must be corrected as we build to the
2021 municipal elections.

The importance of women in elected office is more than just symbolic. The issues that
disproporationately affect women, who comprise over half our population, cannot be truly
addressed without the leadership of women. Women know their issues better than anyone else
possibly can. We need them to lead on issues including reproductive and maternal health, equal
pay, sexual assault and workplace discrimination, economic justice, domestic violence and many
other issues that effect women. If women are not leading on these issues, we cannot expect to
make progress in addressing them.

If elected speaker, I pledge to assemble a leadership team that is comprised by a majority of
women, and to ensure that women are appointed to key committee chair positions. I would also
ensure that senior positions on my staff are held by women, specifically women of color, and
empower the Women’s Caucus to receive a full time staff member. I will also fund organizations
that support women and girls and help grow the the pipeline of future female leaders.

Whether or not I am elected speaker, I will work hard to help cultivate and support female
candidates for City Council in 2021. I will work to help raise awareness about the importance of
this issue, raise funds, support individual female candidates, and partner with the leaders of the
21 in ’21 Initiative to make sure you have all the support and resources you need. It is imperative
that this initiative succeeds.

Thank you for your leadership in this important effort. I know that with your leadership and
through our collective efforts, we will succeed in electing 21 female members of the City Council
in 2021, as well as making progress on the issues that affect women in the City of New York.

Corey Johnson
Council Member, 3rd

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