Focus on Women

Dream It * Build It — New Soroptimist Program for Girls Launched!

July 25th, 2014 . by Cathy Standiford

This morning Soroptimist launched DREAM IT * BE IT: Career Support for Girls, a new program to provide secondary school girls with education and role models to help empower them to pursue their career goals and reach their full potential.  Soroptimist clubs will be conducting  community assessments to identify challenges girls face and ways to help girls overcome those challenges.  They will be forming partnerships with girls in their communities to ensure DREAM IT * BUILD IT reflects their unique needs and  interests.    We have a wonderful opportunity to be role models and advisors to help girls get an education and live their dreams.   I can’t wait to work with my club to get started!!!

How We Encourage Miley Cyrus to Behave So Inappropriately

August 28th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford

I turned on the MTV Video Music Awards the other night because I wanted to see Lady Gaga perform.  And I was not disappointed.  But then there came Miley Cyrus.  After watching her performance, which shocked, saddened and appalled me, I turned the TV off.

John S. Dickerson’s opinion piece in USA Today this morning gets it right.  We own some responsibility (and blame and shame) for encouraging such inappropriate public behavior by young women.  We encourage it through our viewing and purchasing habits, which tell young girls like Miley Cyrus that they will be loved, valued, popular, if they “get as naked as possible and behave the way sex slaves are forced to in countries where women are chained to beds and beaten.”

My biggest fear is that the post VMA chat about Cyrus will encourage her to behave this way even more.  And that other young girls will be encouraged to follow in her footsteps.  When we choose to watch programs that value girls and young women for something other than their bodies, only then will the kind of public display we witnessed stop being valued by our society.


Malala Speaks at the U.N. (The World Should Listen)

July 13th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford

On her 16th birthday, Malala Yousafzai addressed the U.N. Youth Assembly, continuing her advocacy efforts to ensure that girls around the world have access to education.  Her speech is riveting, inspiring, and a call to action for all of us.  It is traditional to give gifts to someone on their birthday.  Today, Malala gives us a gift of inspiration instead.


Our Access to Education Movement Has a Girl’s Face

October 14th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford

Thursday, October 11 marked the first International Day of the Girl Child, an effort by the United Nations and civil society to raise awareness about the importance of educating girls as an effective strategy for addressing many of our world’s problems.  Sadly, October 11 also was the day when 14-year old Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban for wanting to go to school.  That’s the bad news.

The good news is that the incident has prompted many individuals and organizations to rally behind the cause for female education.  Soroptimist has recognized the importance of improving access to education for women and girls for decades.  It’s nice to know we are at the forefront of a global movement to help women and girls live their dreams, take control of their own lives and live according to their own values.  Read more about how Malala’s attack has helped advance our mission to improve female access to education here.

A Resource for Traffickers — Your Local School

August 14th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford

I once read that the average age that a girl is lured into prostitution in the United States is 11 years old.  When I share that fact with people in an effort to raise awareness about human trafficking–yes, it is happening throughout our country, and no, the victims are not necessarily women and girls from outside the US–I am usually met with stares of disbelief.  “Really?” they say.  “How is that possible?”

Here’s how that is possible.  An 19-year old woman has been accused of recruiting minor girls from her own school to be prostitutes for her pimp so they could make “huge sums of money” for various things they wanted to buy.

The 19-year old “lead prostitute” is likely a victim herself, forced to recruit by her pimp gang member.  Although it’s sure hard to see her that way right now, as a victim, the reality is that she was once an innocent little girl herself.   She is someone’s daughter, perhaps someone’s sister.

All of this is one more reason that we have to work harder to debunk the myth of prostitution as a “noble profession,” with the glamor of “Pretty Woman,” and the high salaries of corporate America.  This prostitution ring started in a school in Riverside County, California.  But it just as easily could be happening in a school in your town.  Perhaps it’s time to have a conversation with school leaders about how to ensure our schools are safe from traffickers, just as we want them to be safe from other forms of violence.

Toys and the Gender Gap

May 20th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford

Today I came across a little video of a little girl named Riley expressing frustration that “all the girls have to buy pink stuff.”  She doesn’t understand why girl toys tend to be pink when there are so many other wonderful colors available.  Of course, the reason is that we learn at a very young age through the media (and sometimes our own parents) that pink is for girls and blue is for boys. The video was part of a blog that looked at the history of the gender gap as manifested by the evolution and gender-based marketing of LEGO toys.  Initially LEGO bricks were marketed as toys for both boys and girls.  But beginning in the 1970′s LEGO produced its first female themed set, entitled “Homemaker.”  In addition to the LEGO story, the blog gives some great references for learning about the gender gap in other aspects of society, and actions you can take to tell companies to stop marketing based on gender.


Girl Power that Would Make Violet Richardson Proud!

May 3rd, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford

Julia Bluhm is 14.  But already, she is making a difference in raising awareness of how the media negatively impacts girls’ perceptions of their bodies and consequently their own beauty.  How did she do this?  Julia started an online petition asking Seventeen magazine to publish at least a few photos per month in the magazine that are not modified with Photoshop.  Yesterday, she hand delivered 25,000 signatures to the editor of Seventeen, demonstrating that she’s not alone in thinking the media should show what women and girls really look like, instead of using altered images that distort our perceptions of what constitutes “beauty.”

Violet Richardson Ward, Soroptimist’s first club president (circa 1921) probably would be horrified at the media images girls are exposed to these days.  But I know she’d be proud of Julia’s passion for awareness, advocacy and action.

The Cause and Effect of Media on Girls

March 21st, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford

Love/Social and have produced a wonderful and powerful video about the impact of media on girls.  Must see viewing for all girls–and their parents, too.

And I am absolutely thrilled that Jennifer Siebel Newsom (the Director of the film “MissRepresentation” is going to be a keynote speaker at the SIA Convention in Hawaii–and that we’ll get a chance to watch a screening of MissRepresentation as one of the Convention workshops!!!

For more information about the SIA Convention and other workshops, visit



Celebrating Women’s History Month

February 28th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford

Women’s History Month will begin on Thursday., an inspiring website featuring stories about extraordinary women from various careers, provides some excellent suggestions for celebrating it.  One of them is to talk to teachers at your local school to find out whether there are any lesson plans for Women’s History Month, and if not, to offer to do a program in partnership with the school.

Sadly, “most girls grow up knowing very little about the Women’s Suffrage movement, and what a long hard battle those women fought so we could simply step in a voting booth,” according to the site.  The good news is that we can do something about it.  After all, how can we expect children to celebrate Women’s History Month (and International Women’s Day on March 8), if we don’t celebrate it ourselves?

For more suggestions to raise awareness of the contributions of women this coming month, visit:

You go, girls!


Poverty, Greed, Taxes and the Throwaways

January 28th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford

Essays and stories about teenage foster girls always catch my eye.  This one is a powerful story–about a girl who was born poor, was raped (along with her mother), was ultimately placed in the foster care system, and has managed to educate and make something of herself in spite of it all.  It’s long–and sometimes the language is a little rough.  But it’s worth reading every word to get to one very powerful point at the very end.

I don’t know about you, but after reading this, the Occupy Movement is starting to make more sense to me.

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