Friday, June 6, 2014

What We've Been Reading- June 6th, 2014

Happy Friday to all of our readers! Here is what we have been reading this week:

On June 5th, Lego announced that it would be releasing a new line that will feature female scientists. The figurines in the series, as told by the Research Institute, include a female astronomer, a female paleontologist, and a female chemist. This series follows many complaints and criticisms about gender stereotypes and the underrepresentation of females in Legos toys. In 2012, the company put a line called Lego Friends on the market, which depicted beauty salon stylists, bakers, and “hourglass-shaped figures,” as asserted in this Jezebel article. Though the Lego Friends series was financially successful, it perpetuated many stereotypes and assisted in furthering gender barriers. This new series critically places an emphasis on females in the field of science, and doesn’t merely relegate women to the home, salons, and bakeries like in past Lego series. This is certainly a welcome change.
A new article this week by the Washington Post shifts the conversation about women’s economic development focus away from income inequality and towards poverty and low wages, charging that these intertwined factors must be a crucial part of any conversation about women and economic growth. The article explains that over half of the people living in poverty in the United States today are women and girls. Since women comprise approximately two thirds of the minimum wage population, they would greatly benefit from an increase in minimum wage. Life expectancy for a 55-year-old woman on the lower spectrum of the income distribution was found to be 10 years lower than that of a woman of the same age on the higher end of the income distribution. The United States must seriously consider implementing a higher minimum wage to address the plight of women living in poverty. Besides raising the minimum wage, increasing education levels of women would, in turn, naturally raise wages, as the median income of women with a college degree is 23,00 thousand dollars higher than that of women with a high school diploma.

According to a recent Washington Post article, 2014 seems to not be the ‘year of the woman governor,’ as it was previously believed. 24 states have yet to elect a woman as governor, and the numbers of female governors are expected to stay essentially the same this year, perhaps with a slight increase of one to two taking the office. Surprisingly, the years of 2004 and 2007 boast the highest rates of female governors, with a record nine women being elected. An interesting trend found that across the women running for governor’s office in the US, all possess business experience as well as backgrounds in politics. Kira Sanbonmatsu, the author of a book exploring gender in state legislatures, calls the office of governor a “more challenging office” for women to achieve, and observes that “voters have been more comfortable seeing women in legislative positions than in executive offices.” Clearly, much work remains to be done in order to achieve gender parity in American politics.

This week, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton compared Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine similar to those of Hitler prior to World War II. Clinton drew the connection between Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in order to protect what he considered ethnic Germans to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in order to protect ethnic Russians, as reported by NBC. Putin’s response to Clinton's allegations have been criticized after he claimed it is better not to argue with women. He also stated that Clinton “has never been too graceful in her statements.” According to another article by NBC, Putin attributes Clinton's comments to the lack of valid arguments by the Obama administration for his actions. He then goes on to say "When people push boundaries too far, it's not because they are strong but because they are weak. But maybe weakness is not the worst quality for a woman.”

Last week news broke that a high school in Utah photoshopped the outfits of some female students in order to cover up low cut shirts, exposed shoulders and tattoos in the yearbook. There was outcry from students and the public because they were never told that their outfits were too revealing by the administration and that alterations to their photos would be made. The administration seemed to only photoshop some students while others wearing similar clothing were left untouched. Eventually they school apologized, not for altering the students pictures, but for the seemingly random way in which they did it. This week, a new article exposed the double standard that the school administration allowed in the yearbook. There are many photos in the book that show boys with their entire chest exposed, with underwear showing, and tattoos, all the things that were covered up in the photos of female students. One male student is even pictured showing his middle finger to the camera. The director of the Rape Recovery Center near the school, Holly Mullen, says that this action by the administration sends the message to young girls that they need to control themselves and the way they dress in order to prevent men from “reckless behavior.”

Sallie Krawcheck, a former Wall Street executive at Citi, Bank of America, and Smith Barney is now heading an index fund at an investment company, Pax World Management, according to a recent article. This is not just a regular index fund, as it will only choose to invest in companies that have a high ratio of women in senior management or on the board. This was sparked by recent studies that show companies with lots of diversity within their senior management perform better financially over time. Because this is an index fund, instead of a managed mutual fund, the initial investment is only $1000, making more accessible to companies of all sizes. The fund plans to invest in the 400 or so companies that make up the Pax Global Women’s Leadership Index. Having female CEO’s, a high ratio of women on their boards, and signing on the the UN’s Women’s Empowerment Principles will allow a company to come into consideration. Krawcheck says that “like everything it will be a risk, but a risk that is worthwhile.”