Thursday, January 29, 2015

The State of the Union as it Relates to Women

President Obama’s State of the Union address on January 20th, 2015 was said, among many things, to be transformative and progressive. In the 2014 address, the president validated the feelings of women across the country by acknowledging the wage gap between men and women. Many felt that one of the greatest quotes from last year's address was the following, “Today, women make up about half of our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. Women deserve equal pay for equal work.” With that in mind, women were rightfully anticipating equal or greater representation in this year's SOTU. According to an article written by Emily Tess Katz from the Huffington Post, the president met these expectations. There were four key points that the president made in his 2015 SOTU address that left women across the country cheering:

1.) Mothers should have access to affordable and quality child care. While this is an issue that affects all or most parents, it has the most significant effect on mothers and specifically single mothers. 

2.) All working people should be afforded paid sick time. This arguably has the largest impact on single mothers who are left with very few options when they or their children become sick. 

3.) Over the past year, the wage gap has closed in by a mere penny. The current statistic holds that for every dollar that a man makes, a woman makes 78 cents. The president continues to stand by his position that women deserve equal pay for equal work.

4.) Women deserve paid maternity leave. The president states that it is unacceptable in a nation as advanced as ours that we do not have a mandated paid maternity leave for mothers.

While women are pleased with the president's acknowledgement of these issues, it is clear that they also intend to demand action to follow. Read the article in its entirety here:

Friday, November 21, 2014

What We've Been Reading 11/21

Ebola and Women: Chernor Bah on the Impact on Girls in Sierra Leone
This interview was published on Ebola Deeply, a website that serves as a consolidated source for any Ebola related content available on the Internet. There is a plethora of news articles, opinion pieces, and videos that serve to raise awareness about the outbreak of the disease. Earlier this month, Ebola Deeply interviewd Chernor Bah, a Sierra Leonean youth advocate, education activist, and founder of the Sierra Leone Adolescent Girls Network. In the interview, Bah discusses the impact the disease has had on women and girls and how the government in Freetown must provide for the survivors of the disease just as efforts are being made for those currently infected with Ebola. Bah mentions how the patriarchal society in Sierra Leone as left many young female survivors helpless after the death of their fathers or husbands. Also, this lack of financial support is forcing many girls to engage in risky behavior in order to support their families. Bah believes the biggest challenge is the "invisibility" of girls Sierra Leone's policies and with most NGOs focused on Ebola, the needs of women in country are being neglected. While Ebola is a primary focus on Sierra Leone's agenda, emphasis must be given to issues such as sexual exploitation and reproductive health which have been amplified due to the outbreak of the disease in the country.

India's Lethal Birth Control 
This New York Times' opinion piece discusses the flaws in India's population control strategy, which has received international attention after the death of thirteen women on November 8th due to medical complications post-surgery. Women are provided with monetary incentives to undergo sterilization procedures, which are often carried out in unsanitary conditions. While family planning is extremely important in countries like India, the women have the right to medical care that meets minimum standards. Also, tubal ligation procedures in so-called "sterilization camps" does not take into consideration the basic reproductive rights of Indian women. Providing monetary compensations is not enough; women should be educated about their birth control options instead of being forced to pick tubal ligations due to monetary compensations. Also, if a women chooses tubal ligation, the Health Ministry is responsible for providing adequate post-op medical care. While the government under Mr. Modi has ordered an investigation into the deaths of the women, many state governments are still going strong with their mass sterilization campaigns. Moreover, eleven Indian states have doubled the monetary compensation to be offered for undergoing the procedure. This is a flawed public health approach, since it leaves women with no choice as to what form of birth control they use.

Why Women Are Paying $1,300 More A Year For The Same Exact Products As Men
This article in Huffington Post discusses how firms sell "women's" versions of products at a higher price than the male alternative. Experts believe this is done because women are more likely to purchase the cheaper product marketed towards men than vice versa. In order to maintain profits, firms charge a higher price for the feminine version of product. With women making seventy-seven cents a male's dollar, it just equates to women spending a more significant percentage of their income for products such as deodorant, soap, and razors.
Also read: "The Woman Tax: The Surprising Reason Why Women Pay More Than $1,300 a Year"

Women in Leadership
Adam Bryant’s column in the New York Time’s Corner Office was intended to discuss issues of leadership with the top business executives. He previously didn’t give much thought to specific women executives and specific issues that pertain to that title. To him, they would be executives who just happened to be women.  He has however noted that there are copious issues that accompany being a woman in a leadership position that need to be discussed. In his article “Four Executives on Succeeding in Business as a Woman” from the fall of last year, Bryant revisits the topic and re-interviews four women. This time he interviews them about the particularities of being a female executive.
The four executives featured in this article are Amy Schulman, the executive vice president of Pfizer, Lisa Price, the founder and president of Carol’s Daughter, Doreen Lorenzo, the president of Quirky and Marjorie Kaplan, the group president of the Animal Planet, Science and Velocity Networks. In regards to female leadership, Schulman states very profoundly that “there are clearly implicit biases and assumptions that follow you by virtue of your gender and your race. Workplaces need to be aware of those and do something to counterbalance those as institutions.” She warns if this does not occur we lose the diversity of voices that are crucial in running an organization.  Price continues in this thread when commenting about women crying in the workplace and how it shouldn’t be done because it enforces the stereotypes or clearly implicit biases, as Schulman puts it.  Lorenzo however highlights the advantages of stereotypes about women in the workplace. She explains that “women are better at team dynamics,” then goes on to discuss soft skills such as intuition and instincts.  Lorenzo recalls schooling and argues “girls are taught to be cooperative more than boys,” contributing to the power dynamic in offices.  Kaplan also speaks about her experiences with the issue of stereotypes and leadership. “It’s easy for women to be read as too nice, too kind.” She then continues that “Niceness and kindness are not the opposite of ambition and drive.”
The perspectives given by these four women are very eye opening into women how women fare in the corporate world. Their advice, though slightly clashing, give insight on the diversity of views about women’s ascent into power and how they wish to be viewed as equals. Bryant’s change of heart in featuring women’s issues in his column comes at a great time because it’s very important to portray these differing views.

See the whole article here:

Happy Birthday Abigail Adams!

Happy Birthday to Abigail Adams, a self-educated, fierce advocate for women’s equality!
Tomorrow, November 22nd is Abigail's 270th Birthday.  

Adams famously wrote in a letter to her husband, John Adams: “If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or representation.”

This message holds true today as we continue to strive for greater representation for women in government across the Commonwealth.


Friday, November 14, 2014

What We've Been Reading 11/14

“Codeathon Winner Makes Safety Alert System for Jawbone Health Tracker”
This article in the Boston Business Journal recaps the events of the Clinton Foundation’s Women’s Health Codeathon series. These events not only serve to emphasize women’s health issues, it also provides a platform for female programmers in a male-dominated field. The winning program is called, which uses the fitness tracker Jawbone to send out alerts to emergency contacts. While the purpose to program this app was the prevalence of sexual violence across college campuses, its aim is to increase bystander intervention. While the programmers have only created a prototype, the app is definitely taking a modern approach to persisting societal issues. 

“Pregnant, and No Civil Rights”

This opinion piece in the New York Times argues how the abortion debate has resulted in the loss of fundamental rights for many pregnant women. The author cites anti-abortion laws that are being used as a basis to arrest women and prevent them from making choices about how they will give birth. For instance, women have been arrested in Iowa, Utah, and Louisiana for “attempted fetal homicide.” In one instance, a pregnant woman had fallen down the stairs, and after seeking medical help, she was arrested by the police. Other women have undergone forced caesarians, some of which have resulted in the deaths of both the mother and child. This is an alarming phenomenon especially due to the rise of laws suppressing abortion rights. For this reason, the argues that we need to start focusing on the loss of women’s civil and human rights as an issue rather than abortion.

‘Blame-The-Victim’ Culture May Discourage Female Vets From Seeking Help For Trauma
This article in in the Huffington Post seeks to draw increased public attention to sexual assault in the military and hardships female vets undergo due to the prevalence of ‘blame-the-victim’ culture in the military. A survey estimated around 26,000 cases of sexual assaults with only around 4,000 being reported. Women are hesitant to seek help for trauma since they feel they do not “deserve to have help.” These are women who have valiantly served their country but are stigmatized, discouraging them from seeking help. The author argues that the military needs to create a more welcoming environment at hospitals. Currently, most Veteran Affairs hospitals are male-dominated and this may add to the discomfort the women feel.

Why so few women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics?

The number of women in science and engineering is increasing, yet men continue to outnumber women, especially at the upper levels of these professions. In elementary, middle, and high school, girls and boys take math and science courses in roughly equal numbers, and about as many girls as boys leave high school prepared to pursue science and engineering majors in college. However, fewer women than men pursue these majors. Among first-year college students, women are much less likely than men to say that they intend to major in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM). By graduation, men outnumber women in nearly every science and engineering field, and in some, such as physics, engineering, and computer science, the difference is dramatic, with women earning only 20 percent of bachelor’s degrees. Women’s representation in science and engineering declines further at the graduate level and yet again in the transition to the workplace.

Social and environmental factors contribute to the underrepresentation of women in science and engineering. The rapid increase in the number of girls achieving very high scores on mathematics tests once thought to measure innate ability suggests that cultural factors are at work. Thirty years ago there were 13 boys for every girl who scored above 700 on the SAT math exam at age 13; today that ratio has dropped to about 3:1. This increase in the number of girls identified as “mathematically gifted” suggests that education can and does make a difference at the highest levels of mathematical achievement. While biological gender differences may play a role, they clearly do not provide sufficient evidence and explanations for the gap between men and women in STEM. As mentioned before, there are numerous external factors, such as social and environmental, that impact the number of women in science and engineering. Firstly, the environment around girls shapes their achievements and interest in math and science. For example, when girls are told that by teachers and parents that their intelligence can expand with experience and learning, girls do better on math tests and are more likely to say they want to continue to study math in the future. Secondly, at colleges and universities, little changes can make a big difference in attracting and maintaining women in STEM. For instance, providing a broader overview of the field in introductory courses, can add up to big gains in female student recruitment and retention. The same goes for improving departmental culture to promote the integration of female faculty. Last but not least, bias, often unconscious, limits women’s progress in scientific and engineering fields. This bias not only affects individuals’ attitudes toward others but may also impact girls’ and women’s likelihood of cultivating their own interest in math and science.

To conclude, women can be as successful as men in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We should not hinder them from showing their skills and capabilities but rather encourage them to explore their talents in whatever area of study they wish.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thank You to Our Service Women and Men

While Veteran’s Day is a time to celebrate those who have served in our armed forces, we can also use this opportunity to look at how our veterans are faring once they return from war. Today, we have more women in the armed forces than ever, but they also face unique challenges that must be addressed. The United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported that the unemployment rate for female veterans ages 25-34 is 11.3%, which is more than twice as much as the unemployment rate for all veterans. This is part of a greater problem faced by female veterans in the US: they aren’t getting enough support once they return from war.
A report conducted by Disabled American Veterans shows how services for female veterans are still lagging behind. Female veterans face unique challenges that their male counterparts do not, such as higher rates of Military Sexual Trauma and PTSD, for example. Veteran Affairs medical centers often lack gynecological staff and there is still not enough peer support groups or counseling geared towards female veterans and their needs. As the proportion of women in the armed services increases, it is important to make sure that these women are given adequate support once their service has ended and they return home.
Unemployment is another challenge highlighted in the report. However, recent developments show that we are moving in the right direction. The Veteran Affairs Center for Women Veterans is working with the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) to give female veterans assistance in finding leadership and career opportunities. Measures such as this will help our female veterans have greater representation in the workforce.
Though women are not permitted to apply for front-line combat positions until 2016, nearly 200 women who were deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq were killed in the combat, and we wish to acknowledge and thank them and their families for the sacrifies made for their country.
The Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus wishes to express how grateful we are to all of the women and men who have served in our armed forces. Today we will join the people of the United States in honoring our veterans and celebrating the hard work they’ve put in for our country.