Friday, February 27, 2015

Women In Power: The Impact of Critical Mass

A week ago, Harvard University's Institute of Politics held a JFK forum on Women in Power: The Impact of Critical Mass, moderated by TIME magazine's highly accomplished Washington correspondent Jay Newton-Small. The panelists, including Jeanne Shaheen, US Senator from New Hampshire, Fernande R.V. Duffy, Associate Justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and Amy W. Schulman, Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School, gathered to discuss the impacts of women in leadership roles across all sectors.

The discussion was framed around the topic of "critical mass," which moderator Newton-Small defined as the tipping point between male and female representation in any forum; in order to make a measurable impact on outcomes, women need at least 20% - 30% representation, and more critically, in senior positions that allow them to influence change . She noted that women do not often achieve critical mass, whether in Congress, on executive boards, in corporate meeting rooms or on supreme courts. All three panelists agreed that reaching a point of critical mass within their respective sectors is integral to enacting change on a national level.

One of the most interesting topics brought up throughout the discussion was the difference between women's roles in the private sector vs the public sector, i.e.. women's roles in the "corporate world" vs the federal government. Women currently represent 20% of Congress and 35% of federal courts, but in corporations, women have been consistently stuck at 17%. Amy Schulman speaks from a business perspective on the different dynamics of women's leadership in the corporation world:

"In the corporate world, if you are seen as the emblem of a point of view, thats actually going to hinder your ultimate chances for advancement…I think that dynamic of critical mass is what allows for authenticity because instead as being seen as that epiphenomenon, you are actually free to express your range of views that you may have and it is harder to marginalize you." 

Jeanne Shaheen also shared many of her experiences as one of 20 females in the Senate, starting with her efforts to re-open the government during its shutdown in 2013. An informal bipartisan group, primarily comprised of women, met on its own to find a compromise to the shutdown issue. This was a great example of the power of critical mass for women; what little did get done during that Congressional session was done by women.

"It was our efforts that pressured the leadership on both sides of the aisle to come to some agreement...It was that relationship that the women in the Senate had; that we trusted each other, we knew each other and we were able to say, 'we can find a way out of this, we can find a compromise.'" 

To listen to the full forum discussion and audience questions visit:“critical-mass”

Pictured below: MWPC Intern, Kaitlyn Maloney, at the JFK Forum with NH Senator Jeanne Shaheen.

Academy Awards Recap

This years Academy Awards was more than just recognition for artistic talent, it also was an opportunity to voice pressuring gender and racial issues.

As usual, the start of the Oscars included a warm welcome and a fashion show down on the red carpet. For many years prior, celebrities have decked themselves out with stylish gowns, jewelry and suits. However, Reese Witherspoon started a social media movement called #AskHerMore: a campaign that urges reporters to ask female celebrities more substantial questions rather than fashion and gossip.

The typical question a female celebrity is asked is who are you wearing tonight? unlike male celebrities, who are asked the same question but are also asked about their experiences, roles, accomplishments, or talents in the industry. The #AskHerMore was created by the Representation Project to have reporters focus less on an actressappearance and more on her accomplishments.

This campaign created arguments such as, #AskHerMore seems to me to be the celebrity version of having it all - another manifesto of the pressure on women to be everything at all times. Critics of the movement are calling it anti-feministbecause it pressures the female community to not only be pretty, but to be smart as well. Events such as the Oscars are already known to be frivolous and materialistic, so why frown upon the question who are you wearing tonight? Also, many designers and talented people were not able to be recognized by their talents because of this movement. Usually, designers get recognition through these kinds of events, yet their names were not mentioned that night.

The highlight of the night was Patricia Arquettes acceptance speech as she won Best Supporting Actress for her role in Boyhood. As she thanked the producers, cast, and the public, she ended her speech with a powerful statement. To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody elses equal rights. Its out time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.

Arquette gives light to the issue of unequal pay in the labor force. Studies have shown that on average, women get paid 73% of their males counterpart salary.

She also continued her speech at the pressroom conference where she says:

Its time for women. Equal means equal. The truth is the older women get, the less money they make. The highest percentage of children living in poverty are in female-headed households. Its inexcusable that we go around the world and we talk about equal rights for women in other countries and we dont. Its time for all the women in American, and all the meant that love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that weve all fought for to fight for us now.


Although she gave light to a pressuring issue in the United States, Arquette received a lot of critiques from the LGBT community and the people of color. Her statement suggested that the gay community and the people of color achieved equality while women have not. Criticism such as Feminism being a movement for white womens rights, not all womens rights aroused, which made LGBT community and the people of color hesitant to join the movement fearing exclusion.

Nevertheless, we should not focus so much on how the message was delivered, but that it WAS delivered. Women in the labor force do not get the same pay as men. Women and men are still not treated equally in the workforce and, despite numerous advances, women face different, and unequal working conditions. The message that Arquette tries to deliver is that all women do not have the same level of treatment and recognition for the same work in the same profession. It is harder for a woman to get hired at high level positions, it is harder for women to get hired and get maternity leave, and it is harder for women to secure a job in the future once she starts a family

All in all, the Oscars is one the most popular awards ceremony that is watched on a global level. Every year, millions of people gather around to watch as their favorite celebrities and movies get the recognition they deserve. It is great to know that these kinds of high profile events are giving attention to pressuring social issues, such as gender equality.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Congratulations, Ayanna Pressley!

We are excited to share that former MWPC board member and MWPC endorsed candidate, Ayanna Pressley has been awarded this year's "EMILY's list Rising Star Award"! The Rising Star Award recognizes exceptional women in state or local office with a commitment to community, women and families. As Boston City Councilwoman At-Large, Ayanna Pressley has shown her dedication to improving the lives of women and girls in our community. She will be sworn in on March 3rd at the EMILY's list 30th anniversary gala. Former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, will also be awarded at the gala with the organization's "We Are EMILY" award. Congratulations, Ayanna and thank you for the work that you do in our community!

Here are some interesting facts to know about Ayanna:
  • She is the first woman of color to be elected into the council in it's 100 year history.
  • After her election, Pressley formed a new committee, the Committee on Women & Healthy Communities.
  • Out of 15 candidates in the 2009 election, she was the only female candidate. She was elected with nearly 42,000 votes.
  • Before running for election, she served as John Kerry's Political Director after having worked on his campaign as a senior aide for years.
  • She is a "Big Sister" with the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston.

To learn more about Ayanna, read her biography on the official website of the city of Boston:

Leaders Talk Strategy: Our Top 5 Favorite Quotes

The World Economic Forum currently predicts that it will take another 80 years to achieve true leadership parity between males and females. That's certainly not soon enough for co-founders Gloria Feldt and Amy Litzenberger of the women's non-profit, Take the Lead. The two women started this organization with the mission of "preparing, developing, inspiring and propelling women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025." Take the Lead has been promoting its #25not95 campaign to meet this goal of reaching leadership parity 70 years sooner than predicted. What's not to love about that?

They asked both men and women leaders across all sectors:
What is one thing we can do now that will help us reach leadership parity by 2025? 
Here are our top 5 favorite responses:

1. We can involve men. If men understand the importance of modern leadership skills like humility, collaboration, empathy, and compassion (as detailed in my book, The Athena Doctrine), they can see how having more women leaders is a business imperative.
2. In the United States, we can pass the Equal Rights Amendment and elect a woman president; and everywhere, we can give girls and young women laptops brimming with math and science software.   - CAROL JENKINS, WRITER, FOUNDING PRESIDENT of THE WOMEN’S MEDIA CENTER
3. We can disrupt the status quo by making women visible and powerful in media and thereby more visible and powerful in society.
4. One thing you can do is recognize the need for, and value of, voices and experiences that are entirely different from yours as the way to find true success.


5. We can do what women do best—collaborate across organizations so that we can reach the critical mass necessary to change the world.


To see all of the quotes, visit: 

Friday, February 13, 2015

After 50 Years, Supreme Court Justice Pushes Forward in the Fight for Women's Rights

At the age of 81, current Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has devoted over half a century of her life to the fight for women's rights, and she is not about to quit. Ginsburg is the second female justice in US history, appointed after Sandra Day O'Connor, and the only justice with previous experience in women's rights advocacy. Now, the only remaining female justice, since O'Connor's retirement in 2006, Justice Ginsburg is even more dedicated to breaking down "arbitrary barriers…in women's way" and changing the country's negative "unconscious bias" toward women.

Throughout her career, she has ruled cases over topics such as pay discrimination, abortion restrictions and college admissions for women, making her an unstoppable force on the quest for gender equality that has caught the eye of many liberals and young activists. Those who are most difficult to influence, however, are her male colleagues, she said, "who haven't had the experience of growing up female." Having faced discrimination from the day after she graduated from Columbia Law School, a class of nine females amongst 500 males, she makes it a priority to teach her colleagues to appreciate the obstacles women often face throughout their lifetime.

Justice Ginsburg's voice will be heard loud and clear during the upcoming court cases on gay marriage, health-care laws and perhaps one of the most important issues for women across the country, the workplace rights of pregnant women. Hopefully, we can expect to see some legal change in the imminent future on these important social issues.

For more details about Justice Ginsberg's career, and to watch her interview with Bloomberg, visit:

Friday, February 6, 2015


The MWPC and its surrounding community is buzzing today with thousands of proud football fans outside of the office cheering on the New England Patriots in their victory parade. This year's Superbowl was the most viewed television event in U.S. history, with 112 million viewers tuning in to watch. However, even as important as the game itself are the commercials; many of which come with a hefty price. A 30 second ad during the Superbowl costs a whopping $4 million, a price that many companies are willing to pay for airtime with such a large audience. Perhaps the most exciting part is the new trend in Superbowl commercials that tug at your heart strings and even address key social issues.

One of this year's most talked about commercials was an advertisement for the feminine hygiene company, Always. The commercial brought light to the phrase, "like a girl," particularly for its common use as an insult. The commercial spoke volumes about the ways society has grown to disempower women, girls and their skills and abilities. When asked to do something "like a girl" such as run, fight or throw, teenagers and young adults responded by acting out the movements in a weak, pathetic manner. In contrast, when young girls were asked to perform the same actions "like a girl" they responded by completing the tasks with all of their strength, power and energy.

The lesson: When we use this phrase, we teach girls that they are incapable and weak; that they are not as strong or as capable as their male counterparts. Eventually, they start to believe it, especially when they hear it during their more vulnerable years (from ages 10 - 12), as they try to find themselves.

Immediately after the commercial, social media buzzed with the hashtag #LikeAGirl, serving as an outlet for women to share what makes them strong.
Here are a couple tweets that serve as great examples of the hashtag:

To read more, click here:

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Things to know about Attorney General Maura Healey!

Those at the MWPC were first introduced to Maura Healey in the beginning of 2014 shortly after she announced her campaign to run for Attorney General of Massachusetts. MWPC board member Amy Burke insisted we meet with this fantastic woman and later in the year, Amy would serve on the Healey campaign's fundraising team. After the election, the Attorney General-elect hired Amy to plan the inauguration of "The People's Lawyer" at the historic Faneuil Hall which was held this past January. Filled with long-time supporters and volunteers, as well as fellow power players in Massachusetts politics, the Globe quoted a Republican insider in an article this week stating “That, with a dollop of exasperation and a pinch of healthy regard, was the inauguration of the governor of the Democratic Party.” It was a tremendous affair marking the end of a hard won campaign and the beginning of Maura Healey's term as Attorney General, where she will tackle tough challenges such as opiate addiction and for-profit colleges.
Here are some interesting things to know about Attorney General Maura Healey:
  • Maura was Chief of the Civil Rights Division in the Attorney General's Office.
  • Maura led the nation’s first successful challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law that discriminated against same-sex married couples.
  • She also defended the Massachusetts Buffer Zone law and protected women’s access to reproductive health care.
  • Healey graduated from Harvard in 1992 and received her JD from Northeastern University.
  • Considered an underdog when she first entered the race, Healey defeated former state senator Warren Tolman in the Democratic Primary with 62.5% of the votes.
  • During her campaign she broke a fundraising record for a first time, female state-wide  candidate to raise more than 1 million dollars - she raised $1.5 million!
  • As part of her swearing in ceremony, the Attorney General also had to swear in over 200 assistant attorneys general.
  • Her swearing in ceremony, held at Faneuil Hall, was at maximum capacity of 800 guests.  In addition, nearly 200 people watching the ceremony streamed live from the Omni Parker House Hotel.