Focus on Women

Risks to Women’s Workplace Rights Extend Beyond the Issue of Contraception

July 5th, 2014 . by Cathy Standiford

While the debate continues over whether working women should have the right to employer-funded contraception in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s “Hobby Lobby” decision, let us not forget that there are other, perhaps more significant risks to working women’s rights.  A recent article by Richard Eskow points out “five signs that much more needs to be done to ensure equal workplace rights for women in the United States.”   They include the fact that women continue to do most of work at home, despite working outside the home more, and the fact that the wage gap between men and women has not improved.  The loss of public sector jobs and education cuts are also significant indicators that have disproportionately affected women, particularly teachers.

I am tired of women being the primary target for blame when they get pregnant (even though they don’t get that way all by themselves) and of misogynistic policies that support employer funding for Viagra in the name of “reproductive health,” but not contraceptives.  But the gender inequalities many working women face every day and what we can be doing about them are just as worthy of passionate discourse–even if it’s not as sexy or inflammatory to talk about them.

I can’t help but wonder how different things might be today if the July 4, 1776 Declaration of Independence had stated, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

A Salute to Military Women on Memorial Day

May 26th, 2014 . by Cathy Standiford

Memorial Day is a national holiday in the United States for remembering the men and women who died while serving their country.  There are currently more than 214,000 women serving in the U.S. armed forces, comprising approximately 14.6% of total enlisted personnel.

Although women didn’t begin serving in the armed forces until 1901, women have been on the battlefield since the American Revolution.  In fact, the first woman killed by enemy fire was Jemima Warner, who died on December 11, 1775 during the siege of Quebec.  Jemima had been travelling with her husband, a private in the Revolutionary Army to nurse him during poor health.  Sadly, her husband died on the way to Quebec, but she continued along with the battalion.

359 women died during World War I, mostly from influenza that was sweeping the world at that time.  During World War II, 543 women died in combat, 16 from enemy fire.  A total of 17 nurses were killed during the Korean War, and 8 died during the Vietnam war.  Sixteen women died during Operation Desert Storm.  And as of April 2013, more than 143 women deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait had lost their lives in the line of duty.  That number has likely increased in the last year.

For more interesting information about women in the military, visit the Women’s Memorial Foundation, or this website, dedicated to telling the history of women in combat.

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.

 

Are Today’s Leadership Lessons Getting in the Way of Your Success?

August 24th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford

For years, professional business women like me learned (sometimes the hard way), that in order to succeed we had to behave more like “the guys.”  Look at business fashion for women over the last 20 to 30 years, and you’ll see what I mean.  Remember those button-down blouses with the bow neckties (that were always coming undone)?  Remember the boxy pantsuits?  Today’s business fashion for women has changed, and fortunately, so has some of the conventional wisdom on what it takes to be a successful leader. The corporate world is beginning to recognize (albeit slowly) that some characteristics commonly demonstrated by women are actually good for business.

But there’s just one little problem.

A recent article by Dana Theus in SmartBlog on Leadership warns us that current day messages about what it takes to be an effective leader may be dangerous for us women.  Why?  Because some of them are intended “to help men overcompensate for some testosterone-induced bad habits. These bad boss habits include lack of empathy, rigidity and egotism.”

Unfortunately, those particular characteristics are typically not problem areas for women.  Discover three leadership “truths” women should ignore and why we should be “filtering out the stuff the guys need”, but we don’t.

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.

http://www.nytimes.com/video/2013/07/12/world/europe/100000002333427/girl-shot-by-taliban-addresses-the-un.html?src=me

 

Equal Pay Act — 50 Years Later

June 7th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford

I’ve written about equal pay so much lately (or more accurately, bemoaning the lack of it), that I was invited to write a guest blog posting about it on the singlemom.com website.  Needless to say, I’m humbled to have been asked.  Singlemom.com is a website that provides advice, resources and other information to help single moms succeed.  They’ve featured Soroptimist in the past, including our Women’s Opportunity Award Program.

Monday marks the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act.  Check out my guest blog posting here, and find out why advocating for equal pay for equal work remains so important today.

Let’s Not Forget Those Women Who Served

May 27th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford

As we celebrate Memorial Day with its picnics and family gatherings, it is common for us to remember and express gratitude for those who have served our country, protecting our rights and freedoms.

But I was saddened today to read that America’s fastest growing homeless population are women veterans.  The armed forces continues to be a male dominated environment–as are the institutions serving veterans.  With more and more women serving in the armed forces, not only do we need to do something about the rise in military sexual assault, we also need to do something to ensure they have access to gender-specific services when they return home.

Note:  In case the hyperlink above doesn’t work, here’s the URL of the article in Salon.com about homeless women veterans.

http://www.salon.com/2013/05/27/meet_americas_fastest_growing_homeless_population_women_veterans/

The Women’s Equality Matrix

April 29th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford

The April issue of Harvard Business Review includes several articles of interest for those concerned about women’s economic empowerment (or what appears to be getting in the way of it).  One of the most interesting pieces is this month’s “Vision Statement,”  a visual representation of the status of women by country created by Booz and Company using data from the World Bank.  You might want to look at it from two perspectives:  (1) how your own country is doing, and (2) the relationship between policies guaranteeing women and girls access to education and employment and their economic success.

Some of the countries where women are experiencing better economic success may surprise you (China)–while others, sadly, will be no surprise at all.

Equal Pay Day is April 9

April 7th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford

Tuesday, April 9 marks the day on which women will finally have earned what men earned in 2012.   Studies continue to document that full-time working women, on average, earn about 77 cents for every dollar a man earns for comparable work.  This wage gap is even wider for women of color, and affects both women without children and those who are mothers.  The National Women’s Law Center has compiled a number of useful fact sheets and other resources to help explain the short- and long-term impacts of the wage gap on women and their families.    And for those of us in the United States, they’ve got an interactive state-by-state breakdown of the issue.

I dream of a year when Equal Pay Day occurs in January, February or March, because we’ve been able to narrow the wage gap.  Or even better, a year when equal pay for equal work is celebrated because it has become a reality, and is no longer just an economic empowerment dream for women and girls.

 

Note to U.S. Corporate Boards: Women Make Better Leaders

March 29th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford

In my last post I highlighted that the number of women in CEO positions globally has increased from 9 to 14%, with much of the growth in China.  CBS Moneywatch reports that a multi-year study of leadership characteristics found that women “outscore men on leadership effectiveness.”   So why aren’t there more women running corporations?  One reason appears to be that corporate boards of directors don’t realize the qualities essential to successfully navigating the challenges of modern-day leadership are more likely to be found in women than men.  They also don’t see that many women serving as CEO’s.  And if you don’t see it, it’s harder to believe that a woman can be it.

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