Thursday, December 5, 2013

World Aids Day

Monday, December 1 was World Aids Day.  The attention AIDS has gotten in the past week has been impressive. While it is important that HIV and AIDS is getting the attention that it needs and deserves, it is imperative to remember that in the United States, the proportion of AIDS diagnoses among women have more than tripled since 1985.

In Massachusetts, 175 out of every 100,000 women are living with HIV. That means that Massachusetts women are more likely to contract HIV than they are to die in a fire accident, and yet almost everybody has a smoke alarm in their home.  Although women are twice as likely to contract HIV from men during sex than the other way around, one in six people living with HIV are unaware that they have it; women are often not diagnosed until later stages of the infection, and thus are more susceptible to infections.  World wide, women constitute more than half of those affected by HIV and from ages 15-24 the prevalence of HIV is twice that of women than it is among men.

In a political climate where healthcare is always up for debate, keep in mind that access to care is equally as important as knowledge of the infection. even states "Women often must be stronger advocates for themselves and their treatment when engaged in HIV care.  Many times women face multiple barriers to care."

Moral of the story?  Get tested.  Be responsible.  Help shine the global spotlight, but don't forget that it happens here too, and women in your backyard might be struggling with access to the treatment they need for HIV/AIDS.

At the MWPC, we would like to applaud the politicians fighting for sex education and reasonable healthcare, and more politically involved women can only help.

Stats from:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

And the Award Goes to...

On Wednesday, November 20, 2013, renowned women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barrack Obama. 

This medal is the highest honor the United States can award an individual who is not a member of the U.S. military. The medal is “presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors”.  

President Obama praised Steinen for promoting “lasting political and social change in America and abroad” and, among other things, for “inspiring us all to take up the cause of reaching for a more just tomorrow.”  

Steinen is a feminist, journalist, and social and political activist.  She has been a leader in the pro-choice movement for more than forty years, and is one of America’s foremost feminists. She is the co-founder of the feminist-themed magazine Ms., and has actively campaigned for the Equal Rights Amendment, access to abortion, equal marriage, as well as many other politically charged causes and organizations.

Upon accepting the award, Steinem said, “I’d be crazy if I didn’t understand that this was a medal for the entire women’s movement.”

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Pioneer for Women’s Equality

In a touching short essay, Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) memorializes how the inspirational former Representative, Patsy Mink, affected her life as a woman aspiring to create change through politics. Senator Hirono was struck not only by Mink’s enduring sense of commitment and determination, but also her unabashed opinions on progressive change. 

Former Representative Mink co-authored the well-known Title IX legislation, which prohibited academic institutions from rejecting women and girls due to gender discrimination and protected them against sexual harassment. Both Hirono and Mink have incredible stories of coming from humble beginnings, facing adversity, and overcoming all odds to become successful politicians. Hirono talks about the personal sense of connection she shared with Patsy Mink, as they had shared visions for women’s equality and were trailblazers for entering Congress as Asian-American women. 

The legacy of Patsy Mink will never become obsolete in Hawaiian Senator Hirono’s heart, and neither for us. The essay is part of a series called “Women Rule,” an effort by POLITICO, Google, and The Tory Burch Foundation to raise awareness of women spearheading changes in politics, policy, and their communities. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Happy Weekend - What We're Reading Right Now

Happy Friday MWPC Friends!

To celebrate the weekend, we thought we would share with you what we’re reading right now. It’s been a good week for women to make the political news, so here are a few of our top picks.

The Bay State Banner wrote a great article about the top finishes for Ayanna Pressley and Michelle Wu, both endorsed by the MWPC, in the Boston City Council At-Large election just a couple of weeks ago. Not only is it great to have two women topping the ticket in a race that started with 19 candidates, but also to have two women of color is a sign of the changing landscape of the city.

The wants and needs of voters are changing and Michelle Wu worked hard to address those changes along the campaign trail. According to MWPC Executive Director Priti Rao, “We need to encourage more women to run. The success Michelle had with her campaign is a sign to other women it can be done.” Check out the whole article here.

The Dorchester Reporter wrote another great article about the top finishes of Ayanna Pressley and Michelle Wu, but also of the fifth place finish of another MWPC endorsed candidate, Annissa Essaibi-George. While fifth place is not good enough to earn a spot on the Council right now, it does qualify her for a seat should any sitting At-Large Councilor not be able to finish his or her term.

The article also highlighted the work of re-elected Councilor Ayanna Pressley who has worked tirelessly throughout her past two terms to reduce trauma for women and girls. It’s an issue that clearly resonated with the voters; they elected Councilor Pressley to her third term on the City Council. Councilor Pressley also mentioned the fact that having a record to run on is extremely important in a race like this and she is very proud of her record so far on the Council. Check out the whole article here.

Our last pick of the day comes from The Boston Globe’s report on the UMass Boston Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy event “Opening Doors: Women's Political Leadership in Boston.” The event focused on the mayoral run of former candidate, Charlotte Golar-Richie. This was the first time she had spoke publically about the campaign since Election Day and said there were three things she needed in order to make it into the general election in November; time, money and opportunity.

At the end of the day, these aspects of her campaign did not come together in time and she placed third in the preliminary election, jus shy of a top two finish to carry her into the general election. While her election to the top spot in City Hall would have made history as the first female mayor as well as the first mayor of color, her run made it possible for other women to do the same in the future. Check out the whole article here.

Happy reading and happy weekend from the MWPC!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Are We Saying Goodbye To The Glass Ceiling?

Last week, Hillary Clinton unveiled a new initiative designed to accelerate the participation of women and girls around the world in economic, cultural, political, and social aspects of life. Hillary’s, “No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project” was introduced at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women. 
At the conference Hillary stated, “[I] believe that women everywhere can be and are agents of change, drivers of progress, makers of peace – all we need is a fighting chance to show what we can do in every part of life.” (Clinton Foundation, 2013).  Hillary is pushing to give so many women and girls the chance they have been dreaming of, the chance of a lifetime to fully participate in all aspects of society. If the initiative were to catch on, we could expect to see full and equal participation of women in political, civil, and economic life.  This is the kind of movement that we at MWPC have been working so hard for.  We look forward to seeing some change!

So many women have felt the pressures of the glass ceiling pushing them down.  This idea of the glass ceiling keeps women from climbing the corporate ladder regardless of their qualifications.  This initiative can start to change that. Women will be able to take their rightful seat in the Senate, in the House, and even in the Oval Office.

Thank you Hillary for continuing the fight for women around the world.

Find out more about the initiative here:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Women, Congress, and the Shutdown

This week, the New York Times reported on the role of women’s efforts in the ongoing budget problems. The concessions and deals that form the backbone of today’s bipartisan bill, which if passed, would reopen the federal government, were agreed on by a group of women from both parties. Most notably, three out of the four Republican women in Congress came together with Democrats to strike a deal. Female senators head the powerful Budgets and Appropriations Committees, and have been instrumental in supporting a deal.
In a climate of party-based polarization, women senators have been known to gather and debate across party lines, even more so than their male counterparts. The Republican women involved in this deal were especially willing to risk deviating from party lines for the sake of freeing the nation from this political deadlock. As the percentage of women in Congress to continues to grow, we can hope to see more collaboration and progress in the future.

Evan Vucci/Associated Press

Read the article here:

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What Does Yellen’s Nomination Mean for Women?

Yesterday President Obama nominated Janet Yellen to replace Ben Bernanke as the Chair of the Federal Reserve. If confirmed, this would be a landmark moment for women in the USA. But it would also have reverberations around the world – she would be the first woman ever to head a major central bank.

Yellen’s distinguished and extensive career in economics began as an assistant professor at UC Berkeley in 1980, where she stayed for fourteen years and is presently a professor emerita at the Haas School of Business. In 1997 she moved from being on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve to Chairwoman of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors. Yellen became President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in 2004. After six years in that capacity she was confirmed as Vice Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, a position she holds today.

Aside from her considerable experience, Yellen is highly regarded in financial circles due to her knowledge of the economy and financial systems. She was among a small number of economists to warn about the dangers of the subprime mortgage market before the recent recession. Her nomination takes place following the withdrawal of Larry Summers from consideration. A top economic advisor to Presidents Obama and Clinton, he faced criticism about possible ties to Wall Street from both parties.

Her nomination follows an increasing trend of women taking an active role in the running of the nation’s most vital institutions. The last election cycle saw the percentage of women in Congress increase from 16.9% to a historic high of 18.3%. Under President Obama, 43% of his appointees to the administration have been women. Although this denotes significant progress, there is still a way to go before women reach their full representational potential in all levels of government.

In a vicious cycle where women don’t enter the heavily male-dominated field because of a lack of role models, Yellen’s nomination could prove to be a breaking factor for many and pave the way for women to shape economic and monetary policy in the US.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Angelina Grimke – An Inspiration in the 21st Century

Tonight the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus is proud to be a supporter of How Women Become Political, celebrating the 175th anniversary of Angelina Grimke’s speech to the Massachusetts State Legislature when she became the first woman to address a legislative body.
Angelina Grimke was an advocate for women and girls throughout her life. She fought for women’s rights and the rights of slaves by traveling around the Northeast, lecturing mainly about the abolition of slavery.
She came to the Massachusetts State Legislature in 1838 on behalf of 20,000 petitioners, mostly women, to address the need for Congress to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, which would be a huge step towards abolishing slavery in all states. She began her speech however, by making her case to speak. She was the first woman to ever address a legislative body in America, mainly because women could not hold office or vote, but also because it was a commonly held belief that women did not belong in the “public sphere.” Angelina Grimke, like Queen Esther of Babylon to use her own example, used her speaking position to advocate for another group of people who did not have a voice in government.
Her speech is still relevant today. Women and girls in the United States and around the world are facing backlash for wanting to enter into traditionally male dominated fields. While women can now vote and are allowed to hold office, the number of female elected officials is staggeringly low compared to their male peers. Girls are constantly told their duties as they grow up will be to raise a family and be a mom, while boys and men are encouraged to pursue the professional fields.
The MWPC works to encourage women of all political backgrounds to run for office in order to better represent the women and girls of our state. Angelina Grimke continues to inspire us and we are proud to be supporting this event in her honor!

MWPC Remembers Founding Member Polly Logan. “Grand Dame” of Republican Party Dies in New Jersey Home at Age of 88

Boston – Former Republican National Committeewoman Polly (Paula) Logan died on Monday September 30th at age 88 in New Jersey. MWPC was deeply saddened to hear of Logan’s passing, and the world will greatly miss such a strong woman who stood up for what she believed in for the greater good of her community. Logan was a founding member of the MWPC and played an active role in politics in Massachusetts and across the nation for decades.

Logan was a long time Republican who devoted her life to public service. She was known for speaking her mind, even against her own party in regard to a wide variety of disputed issues. She was an ardent supporter of reproductive health rights and the Equal Rights Amendment. For many years Logan was the Republican state committeewoman from Cohasset. Logan was also a mentor to many politicians including, Governor Deval Patrick, who noted her as one of the reasons he entered the political arena.

Logan was one of the founding members of MWPC and served on the Advisory Board for a number of years. In 1992, Logan was honored with the Abigail Adams Award from the MWPC. Logan created the Polly Logan Fund at the University of Massachusetts Boston that provides funding for research on public policy issues affecting women and allows for visiting professors in this field.

“Polly Logan was a dear friend to the MWPC, and leaves a remarkable imprint on all aspects of this organization,” MWPC Executive Director Prit Rao remarked. “Polly played an important role in ensuring women had a voice at the table. We are deeply sadenned by the news of her passing.”

Information about memorial services for Logan are not available at this time.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Girl Develop It Boston

Technology has becoming increasingly key in our society. Yet so many people,
Sara Chipps & Vanessa Hurst, Co-founders
especially women do not have access to learning materials needed in order to succeed. In 2010 Vanessa Hurst and Sara Chipps co-founded Girl Develop It, a international organization that provides affordable and accessible programming and web design classes to empower women. Not only do they provide classes but there are many online tutorials of how to learn computer programming and web design on your own. The goal is to give women from all different backgrounds a chance to achieve a reliance within themselves to further and or start their career.

Within Girl Develop It there are many different classes available to take including training in Javascript, web design, Word press, apps for phones and typography. There are many different chapters throughout the country inclusive of Austin, our very own BOSTON, Boulder, Buffalo, Burlington, Chicago, Columbus, Cincinnati, Detroit, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Raleigh/Durham, San Francisco, Seattle, also internationally Toronto and Sydney!

In Boston the focus is on web design, software developers, internet professionals, women's fitness, women entrepreneurs, web development, programming, women empowering women, web designers and developers, and women programmers. The Boston chapter was opened on February 17th 2013 and so far have had 16 meetups or classes. There is going to be an event in October so check back in with MWPC for some more updates!    

To learn more about Girl Develop It visit: and for local Boston information visit: 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

MWPC Celebrates and Honors the Distinguished Career of Susan Wornick

Susan Wornick has announced her retirement, but her accomplishments and undeniably remarkable influences on both her field and the countless people she touched will not be forgotten. Throughout her forty year career, Wornick has distinguished herself as a leading force in the newsroom, and a fabulous female role model for viewers. Although she didn’t study journalism or media during her undergraduate years, she quickly realized her passion and talent for the field when she started as a radio advertiser in New Hampshire. After she began covering news stories, she was hired as a correspondent at WBZ radio, and eventually joined her boss in Boston to work for WHDH-TV. Then, after discovering the world of television news, she was hired to a full time position for WCVB. Throughout her time as a newscaster, Wornick has covered such historic events as the 9/11 attacks, where she spent a week at TJX headquarters, and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, where she developed a bond with the family of Britney Gengel, a philanthropist who died during the tragic event. Her co-anchor Jim Boyd commented: “I admire her professionalism and her dedication, and I am most impressed by her compassion and caring for others.”

In addition to her impressive career, Wornick has participated in multiple charitable causes, further distinguishing herself as one of the most influential newscasters of her time. After covering the story of Britney Gengel and becoming closer with her family, she became an advisory board member for the non-profit organization Be Like Brit. Wornick also started the Kelley for Ellie fundraiser to support the Ellie Fund after her friend Kelley Tuthill was diagnosed with breast cancer. Furthermore, Wornick participated in such charities as Rosie’s Place, the MA Coalition for the Homeless, Catholic Charities, and Rodman Rides for Kids. Her commitment to philanthropy is truly inspiring. As her friend Kelley Tuthill commented, “Susan is truly one of a kind… Charitable organizations all over Boston have benefited from her skills.”

The MWPC is proud to honor Susan’s accomplishments as she moves forward into the next stage of her life. Time and again, she has proven herself through her passion for her work and her unflinching devotion to helping others. As she so nobly put it, “This business is all about the people and helping where we can. I hope to continue being a mentor and finding ways to give back.” We know that she will continue to do great things, and we wish her the best of luck as she makes her departure from newscasting.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I Am a Citizen of this Country: Reflections on the ERA in 2013

The White House released a statement on Monday regarding a recent petition on their “We the People” online petition program. The petition asked for the administration to “Vigorously support women's rights by fully engaging in efforts to ratify the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).” Much to the disappointment of advocates for the ERA, the statement was more of a nonresponse than anything else.

The petition, which currently has over 33,000 signatures, was created as an effort to force the Obama administration to commit to passing the ERA, especially focusing efforts in the states that have not yet ratified the amendment. Members of Congress have quietly reintroduced the ERA in many sessions including in March 2013. However, serious efforts to ratify the amendment have not been made by the administration, which has left supporters disappointed.

To add to their disappointment, the statement released by the White House on Monday barely acknowledged the ERA. Instead of tackling the issue head on, the White House made a statement basically summarizing President Obama’s achievements in bettering the lives of women. While it is wonderful to have a president who is committed to important issues such as fair pay and protecting women against domestic violence, it is disheartening that President Obama did not take the opportunity this petition presented him and declare his support for the current resolution to pass the ERA. The statement lists Obama’s many achievements in progress for women’s rights during his time in office and even says we completely agree that [the ERA is] an important priority,” but never comes out and says what he will do to ensure the amendment is passed.

The ERA has long been a popular amendment, but today many lawmakers shy away from endorsing it and making its passage a priority. President Obama, while advocating for women’s rights in a number of areas, has seemingly joined this group.

At the MWPC offices today, we were discussing how upsetting it is to even be in a society where we as women have to be given our rights by an amendment. I’ve always felt the fictional character Ainsley Hayes on the TV show The West Wing described this situation best when she said the following about the ERA:  

“It's humiliating! A new amendment that we vote on, declaring that I am equal under the law to a man. I am mortified to discover there's reason to believe I wasn't before. I am a citizen of this country. I am not a special subset in need of your protecting. I do not have to have my rights handed down to me by a bunch of old, white men.”

Ms. Hayes certainly has a point. As citizens under American law, why should we even need an amendment declaring that women are equal under the law? Shouldn't the Fourteenth Amendment (The Equal Protection Clause) cover us as American citizens? Despite the logic behind the character’s statement, in many cases--such as fair pay and workplace discrimination--women are not treated equally under the law as it stands now. So what IS it going to take for women be treated equally in all aspects of society?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sexual Assault in the Military

It’s no secret that sexual assault in the military is a growing problem in our country. With a Pentagon report from 2012 claiming that as many as 26,000 military members might have been victims of sexual assault last year, it is evident that something must be done.

Enter Senator Kirsten Gillibrand,  who previously was a member of the fight to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and is the current chairwoman of the Armed Services personnel subcommittee. Sen. Gillibrand has been leading the charge for changes to be made in the way that the military handles sexual assault. She disagrees with the recent Pentagon approved policy changes advocated by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin and has instead proposed that military commanders should no longer be the ones in charge of deciding whether a case should go to trial following a reported sexual assault. Gillibrand believes that experienced military lawyers should handle these cases and that leaving commanders in charge of proceedings is a mistake. Sen. Gillibrand recently said, "The chain of command is really an impediment for solving it because it's resulting in underreporting, no transparency, no accountability. The crux of the issue is objectivity. They (victims) don't believe the commanders can be objective, that commanders either know the victim or know the perpetrator or have a reason to support the perpetrator, who is more senior, more decorated, gone on more missions than the victim."

Gillibrand has gathered the support of 44 senators from both parties and will not rest on this important issue. Her proposal was recently endorsed by the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, and she continues to gather more and more support each day. Here at the MWPC we are pleased to see a hard-working female senator advocating for sexual assault victims!

Also in the news this week is the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio which posted a flyer dealing with its response to sexual assault. Under the title “Preventing Sexual Assault is Everyone’s Responsibility! Avoid Becoming a Victim,” the posted listed tips on how to avoid getting sexually assaulted. Some of tips were “socialize with people who share your values” and “trust your gut feelings.” Not only are these “tips” foolish, they place the blame with the victim and perpetuate the shameful feelings that many victims feel following an assault. Posters like these reinforce the false idea that victims are to blame for an assault that someone else makes against them.

Jennifer Stephens, an armed forces veteran and battalion commander in the Ohio National Guard who works on the base, felt that the message conveyed in the flyer would make victims feel less open about reporting sexual assault. She wrote a letter of her own and pasted it on top of the original poster. In her letter, Stephens detailed ways that victims could seek help after a sexual assault and condemned the author of the poster for perpetuating the rape culture that exists in the military. After tweeting the photo of her letter, Stephens is becoming a hero for standing up for assault victims.

Monday, July 29, 2013

MWPC Response to NY Times' "Why Men Need Women"

Given our mission to increase the number of women working in politics, we at the MWPC inherently support arguments in favor of the importance of women in all realms of society. In particular, the function of women in the family exists as possibly the most evolved, and still debated, role, alongside their roles in the workplace. Still, the position of women in the household walks in step with their roles in the workplace as inevitably, more time spent in the office yields less time at home, and thus, the “where do we belong?” cycle continues to spin.
An opinion article in the New York Times, “Why Men Need Women” cites a recent study that shows an increase of monetary generosity from successful men whose family includes women. According to the study, chief executives in Danish companies paid on average $100 less in annual compensation per employee after having a child. Upon studying the data further, though, the economists found that this statistic fell through when the executives had a daughter. Alongside this find, there exist studies that show that American legislators tend to vote more liberally if they have daughters. Finally, a psychology study at the Free University in Amsterdam, which measured participants’ preferences by having them choose between two monetary circumstances (both of which gave one quantity to them, and another to a co-worker), found that participants with sisters were more forty percent more likely to choose the more generous option, one that gave them a smaller monetary amount in order to give the co-worker a larger amount.

The article cites the example of Bill Gates and how he was reluctant to share his Microsoft fortune with charitable foundations. It wasn't until he was about to marry his now, wife, Melinda and from continued pressure from his mother that he decided to become the great philanthropist that he is known as today.  He attributes a lot of the success of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the efforts of his wife. Gates has said that his wife “never stopped pressuring me to do more for others.” Although Melinda Gates was actively pressing her husband to be more philanthropic, the article reflects on men feeling the need to be more generous simply because of the presence of more women in their lives.

Concluding, “It’s often said that behind every great man stands a great woman. In light of the profound influence that women can have on men’s generosity, it might be more accurate to say that in front of every great man walks a great woman. If we’re wise, we’ll follow her lead.“ The article leaves one unsure whether to respond with rejoice in further establishment of the importance of women or with hesitation regarding the stereotypical connotations of being assumedly “nurturing” or innately invoking sensitivity in others. As women, and we at the MWPC, continue to fight for rights and to be taken seriously in the workforce, the article easily provokes the notion of taking a step backward, toward arguing that a woman’s place remains only as the role of homemaker or mother, if only to ensure the generosity of men. Yet, one must remember that the goal for women is not simply the CEO or the White House, but rather the right to choose, to use the word “and” instead of “or.” The importance of women as a means of helping men to think differently, both in the workplace and in the household, represents not a reiteration of a woman’s need to steer her man in the right direction, but instead reflects their ability to help make the world a better place simply by being present.