Friday, March 28, 2014

What We've Been Reading...

We hope you have all had a wonderful week. Here is what we have been reading!

The Huffington Post, in an effort to wrap up women’s history month and celebrate Gloria Steinem’s 80th birthday, has compiled a list of things women can do today in 2014 that we could not do in 1914. Just one hundred years ago, women could not have equal access to job listings, accuse husbands of rape, or seek damages for sexual harassment. The list highlights less publicized victories for women that deserve more prominent recognition. We are thankful to all who achieved these gains for women in the face of inequality.

A recent study by the IMF has revealed that women are underutilized in the workforce. They also found that those employees who do not get paid or get underpaid are predominantly women. The study projects that if women were working in the same proportion of men, the GDPs across the globe would benefit. Increasing women’s role in the workforce throughout the world is not just a moral or philosophical cause; it is an economic necessity.

Yesterday, English actor and comedian Ricky Gervais expressed his disapproval of Hollywood’s treatment of women in film and television. He especially finds issue with women in comedies. Gervais commented, “Even in Hollywood, women are usually air heads or if they're ambitious they're straight away cold and need to be taught a lesson. They need to show that getting a man is more important than getting a career. Or they're just props for men to do funny things...People think that men rule the world but they don't, really.” Thanks for pointing out this type of negative messaging, Ricky!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Happy Birthday to Gloria Steinem!

The MWPC wishes a very special Happy 80th Birthday to the mother of feminism, Gloria Steinem!

In a time when women had no voice, Steinem stood up for the rights of women. She rose to national prominence as the leader and media spokeswoman for the women's liberation movement in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. She co-founded the National Women's Political Caucus, and the feminist-themed magazine Ms., among countless other accomplishments. For the last 40 years, Steinem has dedicated her life to campaigns furthering progress on a number of issues including the Equal Rights Amendment, equal marriage, and access to abortion.

She has courageously battled stereotypes so women everywhere have access to equal economic opportunities, and become powerful forces in the 21st century. Women everywhere owe a debt of gratitude to her for leading the way and most importantly, never giving up the fight. 

Back when women in the the public spotlight tended to shy away from publicly celebrating their birthday after 30, Steinem used it to her advantage. Starting at age 40, she has thrown a birthday party every 10 years that doubles as a fundraiser for various organizations around the globe. This year she’ll hold a “This is what 80 looks like” benefit for the Shalom Center in Philadelphia. 

What other plans does she have to celebrate her birthday? “First, get out of Dodge”, she tells the New York Times, “Second, ride elephants in Botswana.” After all she’s done for women around the world, she deserves it!

"The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day."
- Gloria Steinem

Friday, March 21, 2014

What We've Been Reading...

Happy Spring MWPC Friends!

Hillary Clinton is in the news once again, but this time for not being news. That’s right, according to an article posted by Politico earlier today, many analysts believe that by waiting to announce her decision to run for President in 2016 she is effectively freezing the rest of the Democratic 2016 field. As the predicted democratic frontrunner, her decision to run will likely dictate the decision of other strong contenders. If she decides withholds her decision for too long and then decides not to run, she risks leaving the party with little time to find an alternative. However, supporters of Clinton say this is not the case at all. By staying quiet, the press remains focused on Clinton, allowing other possible contenders time to prepare for the election without media speculation. The public can hope to hear a final decision from Clinton sometime after November midterm elections.

The president addressed students at Valencia College in Orlando, Florida yesterday regarding women’s economic prospects in 2014. Obama deemed 2014 “the year of action” for his administration. The Chief Executive talked up his efforts to improve women’s economic opportunities, hoping to encourage Congress to take action on the many issues affecting women today. Read what the president detailed here.

While Mr. Obama speaks about women’s issues domestically, the rest of his family begins their “Good-Will Tour” of China. Michelle Obama, along with her daughters Sasha and Malia and her mother, were hosted today by China’s “first lady” Peng Liyuan. This New York Times article outlines the First Lady’s plans for her trip, as well as the differences in culturally acceptable behavior of women in power. Even on the first day of the Obama’s trip, it is clear that their female presence will promote interesting discussion about the role of women as international diplomats between China and the US.  

All of the articles we’ve read this week were accessed online, and reached thousands of people via email and social media sources. Technology has had a tremendous impact on the virality of the feminist movement, and has helped us achieve things that were unthinkable fifty years ago when Gloria Steinem first took hold of the women’s liberation movement. Like all things, though, the growth of technology has shown itself to be a double-edged sword for feminism. While technology provides the tools for women to be more aware and empowered, it is also continually used as a means of deprecation. Women currently do not have a big enough seat at the table when it comes to technological development, and thus cannot control the way technology is used against them. Read the rest of the CNN article analyzing both sides of the argument here.

Woman of the Hour: Karen Charles Peterson

Voting in the primaries on April 1st? Not sure who to vote for? The answer is simple for State Representative for the 5th Suffolk House District. Only one woman can do the job, and the MWPC is proud to endorse her: Karen Charles Peterson.

Here are ten reasons why Karen Charles Peterson is our candidate

  1. She is committed to public safety and decreasing crime in the district.
  2. Karen understands the importance of education in producing the future leaders of the community, and pledges to do all she can to turn around schools in the 5th Suffolk District if elected.
  3. We can depend on her to reform the Department for Children and Families.
  4. She wants to work with others to improve the economic vitality of the Dudley Street corridor, Uphams Corner, and Fields Corner.
  5. She doesn’t make empty promises.
  6. Karen is a lifelong resident of the 5th Suffolk District and understands the concerns of the residents.
  7. Years of government experience as a city council aide, and as chief of staff in a number of state agencies.
  8. She has been endorsed by former Nelson Merced, former Representative for the 5th Suffolk District.
  9. Building higher levels of civic engagement is a top priority on her agenda.
  10. She has an AWESOME campaign song -

Monday, March 17, 2014

Dorcena Forry Kicks Off St. Patrick's Day in South Boston

Despite the controversy surrounding this year’s festivities, Senator Linda Dorcena Forry made history as the first Haitan-American woman to host the 70-yr-old South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast. Although the breakfast is traditionally a political roast, Dorcena Forry acknowledged the importance of her role as emcee by joking with the audience.

“For those of you watching at home, do not adjust your television set,” she said to a delighted audience. “There is nothing wrong with the picture on your TV. That’s right, everyone. That’s right. I’m a woman!”

For a city that has long been seen as a “parochial town of old ethnic allegiances,” the breakfast was a great symbol of the change Boston has experienced. Power no longer belongs solely to those in the “old boys club” and diversity is something to be shared and celebrated. Many of Dorcena Forry’s jokes played on this new switch-up.

Governor Deval Patrick joined her on stage, calling out to the crowd as he put his arm around her. “This is what a Forry and a Patrick looks like these days!”

One of Dorcena Forry’s goals for the morning was to lift the profile of the breakfast, and attract a broader audience than the usual attendees. By utilizing new media and taking the advice of former South Boston politician, William M. Bulger, to “keep ‘em laughing,” and “keep ‘em smiling,” Dorcena Forry did just that. Throughout the breakfast, multiple different videos were shown featuring prominent Boston politicians, including a comedic Rocky-themed bit in which Dorcena Forry is taught the ways of South Boston life.

The aforementioned controversy stemmed from the decision to exclude LGBTQ groups from the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in South Boston. The decision was made by parade organizers, who did not want the parade to “turn into a demonstration for a particular group.”

Many Bostonians showed their solidarity with the LGBTQ community by boycotting this year’s parade, including Mayor Marty Walsh. Walsh said the St. Patrick's Day celebrations, “honor Irish history that has been shaped by the fight against oppression,” but this year’s parade plans contradict that history as they, “prevent all Boston residents from participating fully.”

-Erin Kingan

Friday, March 14, 2014

MWPC PAC Endorses Karen Charles Peterson for the 5th Suffolk House Seat

Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus PAC Endorses Karen Charles Peterson for 5th Suffolk House Seat

BOSTON- The Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus Political Action Committee today announced the endorsement of Karen Charles Peterson for State Representative for the 5th Suffolk District, which is comprised of the Uphams Corner, Bowdoin Geneva, and Fields Corner neighborhoods of Dorchester and the Grove Hall area of Roxbury. The primary election will be held on Tuesday, April 1st.

“We are proud to endorse Karen Charles Peterson for State Representative,” says MWPC Acting Executive Director Samantha Washburn-Baronie. “As a lifelong resident of this diverse district and an active member of her ward committee, Karen knows the issues that impact this district. Her experience in government as a city council aide, and as chief of staff in a number of state agencies enhance her abilities as a problem solver committed to public service. We agree with Karen that the residents of the 5th Suffolk District deserve the best.  With Karen as state representative we believe she will deliver the best.”

"I am honored to receive the endorsement of the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus because of its long and well respected commitment to supporting and empowering women,” stated Peterson. "The MWPC endorsement is an important one that often makes the winning difference for women in electoral politics."

A lifelong resident of Dorchester, Peterson began her 20 years of public service and volunteering after graduating from Suffolk University. She worked as an aide to the late City Councillor Bruce Boilling, then went on to work in state government.  Governor Deval Patrick appointed Peterson to his administration as chief of staff at the Registry of Motor Vehicles and the Executive Office of Transportation and acting chief of staff at the MBTA. She is currently the chief of staff for the State Department of Telecommunications and Cable.

About the MWPC PAC
The Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus Political Action Committee is a multi-partisan organization that works to increase the number of women elected and appointed to public office and public policy positions and to increase the involvement of women of all ages in the political process. Please visit to learn more about out Political Action Committee.
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What We've Been Reading...

Happy Friday everyone! Here is what we have been reading this week:
The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women convened in New York on Monday to begin a two-week review of the development of women in relationship to the Millennium Development Goals and discuss how women's empowerment can be accelerated after 2015.  The Guardian’s Liz Ford also reported that many have described this year's CSW as crucial to the ongoing post 2015 debate, offering the chance to put calls for women's empowerment and gender equality at the forefront of future discussions of global issues. Click here to read more. For more information about the summit, be sure to follow UN News Centre.
In other news, only a few days after the Senate blocked the Military Justice Improvement Act, it unanimously approved a bill that proposes several different reforms to combat sexual assault in the military. The bipartisan bill was spearheaded by Sen. McCaskill, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE). This bill will eliminate the “good soldier” defense, meaning that accused soldiers cannot use evidence of good military character and performance to question an accusation unless it is directly relevant to the crime. It will also allow victims to challenge their discharge from the military. The bill now moves on to the House. Read our blog post about it here.
Moving a little closer to home, students and women’s advocacy groups are demanding that Dartmouth College strengthen its sexual assault policies, citing the fact that a freshman was assaulted on campus after her name appeared in a “rape guide” published on a student-run website. Nearly 50,000 people have signed onto a petition started by the women’s advocacy group UltraViolet asking the prestigious school to take serious action to prevent something like from happening again in the future.  Student groups have also asked the school to list expulsion as the punishment for rape in the student handbook and to block access to the ‘rape guide’ website on campus. The school has yet to take any of these measures.  Dartmouth is also currently under federal investigation for potential violations of Title IX, the federal gender equity law that requires universities to ensure a safe learning environment for students. Read more about this here.
Our last news story for this week further demonstrates the importance of involving women in politics in Massachusetts.  This week, The Feminist Majority Foundation has endorsed Maura Healey, candidate for Attorney General.  The foundation applauded Healey’s experience in fighting for women's rights, civil rights, human rights, health care access, education, and consumer protection.  Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, called Healey a trailblazer and an impressive advocate for equality.  Feminist Majority also endorsed  Marisa DeFranco for US House of Representatives from Massachusetts’ 6th District. Smeal stated: "She is a tireless worker and leader on a wide range of issues that advance women's equality. Marisa is a leader that we need in Congress to advance women's pay equity, as well as immigration reform, LGBT rights, and social justice issues such as ending sex trafficking."

Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend!

Revolutionary Reforms for Military Sexual Assault

       Senator Gillibrand's Military Justice Improvement Act was shot down last week in favor of a less extensive bill proposed by Senator Claire McCaskill. Still considered progressive, McCaskill's bill will ensure that all cases in which commanders or prosecutors do not want to proceed, judge advocates will review the case. It also addresses the outdated and controversial “Good Soldier” clause by allowing all sexual violence cases which occur off-base or at a military academy to be tried in either a civilian or military court at the victim's discretion.

       Taking a different approach, Gillibrand's bill sought to completely remove adjudication from the chain of command. Gillibrand sheds light on the fact that out of the 26,000 cases of sexual assault that happened in the military last year, 1 in 4 of the perpetrators were within the victim's chain of command. In the case of commanders who are not guilty of sexual violence, they still may be less inclined to prosecute in fear of a bad image and repudiation from their own higher-ups, leaving them in an inherently biased position. Because of a victim's fear of retaliation and lack of faith in receiving a fair trial, more than 80% of victims do not report their cases.

       McCaskill argues that removing a commander from cases will have little effect given that countries that have enacted identical laws have experienced no increase in reporting. It's important to take note that other countries’ military justice systems are vastly different from ours, making it hard to compare without considering the vast number of other factors that could be at work. With that said, military sexual assaults were estimated to have increased by over 30% this year. Time is of the essence and we can only hope that these reforms make the necessary impact victims and advocates alike have so desperately longed for.

Read more here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Governor Patrick Committed to Elevating Women in Business

Governor Patrick has gained a notable reputation within his administration for ensuring women are being placed into top level executive positions as exhibited by over half of his executive and senior managers being female. The administration is again reinforcing their commitment in helping women gain access to more executive level jobs in government and private organizations through the introduction of a new graduate fellowship initiative for women. The fellowship program will be lead by Rachel Kaprielian, Massachusetts Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development, with the help of Bentley University’s Center for Women in Business. The program aims to place its female fellows into full-salary, high level jobs where they will be set up with a mentor dedicated to providing them with the necessary advice for leadership and success in the male-dominated world of business and government. Many of the logistical aspects of the program are still being discussed, but it is estimated to cost about $1 million dollars for its first year. With that said, the program hopes to start accepting applications by the end of April.

Despite the Governor Patrick’s great strides for advancing women in his own administration, the state of Massachusetts still falls behind many states in terms of women occupying leadership positions. More than half of the state’s top public trading companies do not have female executives, and overall, Massachusetts is ranked 10th out of 18 states surveyed as far as women achieving managerial leadership posts. Similar initiatives and programs have developed out of concern for this disparity; one of them being, the Boston Club which is a non-profit organization that supports the advancement of women by fostering mentoring relationships between qualified women and prominent, successful women in business and private organizations. Furthermore, MassGAP, a program which MWPC is a lead sponsor, has been working since 2002 to increase the number of women appointed by the governor to senior cabinet positions. The Patrick administration’s new initiative, the Boston Club, and MASSGap, all provide hope and avenues for change, yet their existence also remains a testament of the work that still needs to be done to address the evident gender imbalance in business and government.

Read more here: Boston Globe.