Monday, July 27, 2015

Women in STEM: The Women of The New Horizons Mission!

On Friday, NASA released the first color close-up photo of Pluto!  In honor of this momentous occasion, and because we love space, we wanted to highlight the women involved in making this glorious human feat a reality.

Women make up approximately 25 percent of the New Horizons flyby team. The female team members were photographed at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory on July 11, 2015, just three days before the spacecraft’s closest approach to Pluto. Kneeling from left to right: Amy Shira Teitel, Cindy Conrad, Sarah Hamilton, Allisa Earle, Leslie Young, Melissa Jones, Katie Bechtold, Becca Sepan, Kelsi Singer, Amanda Zangari, Coralie Jackman, Helen Hart. Standing, from left to right: Fran Bagenal, Ann Harch, Jillian Redfern, Tiffany Finley, Heather Elliot, Nicole Martin, Yanping Guo, Cathy Olkin, Valerie Mallder, Rayna Tedford, Silvia Protopapa, Martha Kusterer, Kim Ennico, Ann Verbiscer, Bonnie Buratti, Sarah Bucior, Veronica Bray, Emma Birath, Carly Howett, Alice Bowman. Not pictured: Priya Dharmavaram, Sarah Flanigan, Debi Rose, Sheila Zurvalec, Adriana Ocampo, Jo-Anne Kierzkowsk Sheila Zurvaleci.
Credits: SwRI/JHUAPL

NASA describes The New Horizons Mission as “[a] mission [to] help us understand worlds at the edge of our solar system by making the first reconnaissance of the dwarf planet Pluto and by venturing deeper into the distant, mysterious Kuiper Belt – a relic of solar system formation.”  Fingers crossed that one day we will find a habitable planet where we can settle an intersectional feminist utopia!  I guess I won’t pack my bags just yet. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

What Makes a Strong Leader?

What Makes A Strong Leader?
The Art of Listening

“Among all the ferryman’s virtues this was one of the greatest: he understood how to listen as very few did.  Vasudeva spoke not a word himself, and yet the speaker sensed how he allowed the speaker’s words to enter him, with tranquility, openly, waiting, how he lost not one, waiting without impatience, without praise or blame, simply listening.  Siddhartha felt what a joy it is to tell everything, to sink one’s life, one’s own seeking, one’s own suffering into such a listener’s heart”—Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha

Have you ever emptied your soul to someone, and you knew that as you spoke, they were not only listening to you, but also hearing you? Did you feel lighter? Less cluttered? Empathic listening is one of the greatest and most productive skills an individual can develop in his or her lifetime, and yet it is seldom prioritized or even practiced.  In fact, during our time spent within the highly individualized meritocracy that is our formal education system, we are rarely encouraged to develop skills for the sake of benefiting others instead of ourselves.  This is a grave mistake. 

With our eyes fixed to our cellphones, tablets, and laptops, we are constantly updating profiles, Tweeting, posting pictures, etc., for no one in particular.  As we “+share” into the indeterminable void of cyberspace, in small ways, we dole out pseudo-validations—“likes”, “favorites”, “retweets”.  But as this practice becomes commonplace, the craft of listening and hearing is lost.  This not only does a disservice to ourselves and each other, but also the world.  The ability to listen and to hear one another is how bonds of friendship are formed, bridges of understanding are built, and progress is made—between people, between communities, and between nations. 

Strong leadership comes in all shapes, sizes, and personalities, but a leader cannot make meaningful progress without listening to her constituents.  An empathic listener removes the clutter—she makes your objectives clear.  She makes your concerns and ideas feel heard.  I am hardly the first to note a dearth in this type of social-emotional learning, but I hope that as more research on the benefits and importance of this skill is published, it, and similar leadership tools, are adopted more formally into school curricula.  We all have so much to learn from each other, if we could only slow down and connect. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

The 167th Anniversary of Seneca Falls

     167 years ago yesterday, a women’s rights convention, the first of its kind in American history, convened inside the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York. Organized by abolitionists Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, with nearly 200 women in attendance, the gathering sought to spark vital discourse surrounding “the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of women.” It was this convention that acted as one of the primary catalysts for what would be known in the United States as the first wave of women’s rights movement.
     The Convention opened with the “Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances” which functioned as a treatise fashioned after the Declaration of Independence that detailed the injustices American women faced. The declaration called upon women to band together to petition for a proper redress of such injuries. The wording of the document’s preamble paralleled its famous predecessor, reading “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”
     On the second day of the Convention, with 40 men in attendance, including African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, the Declaration was signed and ratified by the assembly. In addition, the assembly passed 12 resolutions, 11 of which had unanimous majority, all of which had specified certain rights to be afforded to women. The only resolution which met contention was the ninth one, which stated that “it is the duty of women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise.” The notion of suffrage was incredibly controversial and even some of the most fervent of women’s rights advocates at the time had difficulty supporting such an endeavor. Despite the controversy triggered by the ninth resolution, Seneca Falls brought much needed focus to the rising suffrage movement and paved the way for the adoption of the 19th Amendment in 1920.
The Seneca Falls Convention marks one of the first times in which women were able to affect meaningful change in the political arena. Their efforts made possible the election of important women leaders, landmark Supreme Court decisions, and the passing of legislature which in aggregate have greatly improved the lives of women in the United States. In hindsight, it is incredible how far we’ve come, yet, when we look ahead, we see how far we still have left to go. We are far from achieving a Congressional parity that models the actual gender demography of the United States; women still receive less pay than their male counterparts for equal work, many states continue to encroach upon a woman’s right to choose, and a slew of other obstacles that unfortunately persist in the 21st century. While it is important to see how far we have come and remember those who before us who worked tirelessly for the rights we enjoy now, it is equally important to know how far we have left to go and to continue working to achieve that which the women in Seneca Falls had dreamed of.

Friday, July 17, 2015

What We're Reading This Week

Caitlyn Jenner's Award Speech...
Caitlyn Jenner made an emotional and heartfelt speech when she accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPY’s. The ceremony was held July 15 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. In her speech, she made a plea for “accepting people for who they are.” She also described the adversities and struggles of her transition, and asserted that trans people deserve our respect. Jenner’s children were at the ceremony to support her.  Caitlyn Jenner proclaimed trans people have come a long way, but there is still more work to be done. Her speech acknowledged the fact that the award is not about just one person; it is about the younger generation of trans people struggling to show the world their true selves.

Twitter Town Hall #flipthescript...
As we are sure many of you know, especially if you have been checking out our hashtag recommendations, twitter is a great tool for spreading ideas. The use of hashtags allows anyone to share ideas an open a dialogue. This week there was a twitter town hall on gender bias in media coverage of political campaigns. Using #flipthescript people across the country and organizations devoted to supporting elected women officials participated in a large scale Q&A session.
A highlight from the conversation was an example one woman gave of sexism in the media with this article, which tells the story of a news reporter who used the same suite for a year without anyone noticing…
If you’d like to read more, we recommend checking out #flipthescript and…
If you are looking for some new people to follow on twitter here are some recommendations:


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Wal-Mart sued in a same-sex discrimination lawsuit

Jacqueline Cote tried to enroll her spouse in Wal-Mart’s corporate health plan, but was rejected because her spouse is a female. Jacqueline and her wife Diana Smithson married in 2004 after Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage. Three years later, Smithson quit her job to take care of her ill mother. The following year, Cote tried to enroll Smithson on her healthcare plan, but was unsuccessful. Smithson was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012, and Cote was still unable to enroll her.
In 2014, Wal-Mart finally changed its medical policy to extend health benefits to same-sex couples, but by this time Smithson’s medical costs had reached over $150,000.  Neither Cote nor Smithson has the money to pay for these bills.
Cote and Smithson filed their suit in the US District Court in Boston. Prior to the lawsuit, Cote had filed a formal complaint against Wal-Mart with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC determined that the company’s refusal to cover Smithson “constituted discrimination.” The efforts to resolve the case out of court were unsuccessful.
Although the US Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in June, gay and lesbian couples still face discrimination in the workplace.