Focus on Women

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.

Women May Be Doing Better In the Corporate World

March 16th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford

An article in Forbes magazine reports that globally, the number of women in CEO positions has risen from 9% to 14%.  “And businesses in China are leading the way,” according to the report, where 51% of senior positions are held by women.  What factors are making this advancement possible?   Flexible working arrangements (i.e., flexible work hours to accommodate child care schedules) and talent-management programs, where women are mentored to prepare for upper level positions.

In North America, only 21% of CEO positions are held by women.  Clearly, we could be doing better.



Happy (Belated) International Women’s Day!

March 9th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford

In honor of International Women’s Day yesterday, UN Women released a new song to celebrate women around the world, and to raise awareness that what affects one of us, affects all of us.    Access this inspiring song here.  Then take action to improve gender equality and advocate for women’s rights.

Gender Equality in the U.S. Has Stalled — Here’s Why

February 17th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford

In 1963, Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique.  This monumental book challenged the traditional notion that a woman’s place is in the home (and only the home), and is credited with fostering the women’s movement of the 1960′s.  This well-researched article by Stephanie Coontz describes gender equality’s gains and stalls over the last 50 years.  It suggests that one significant reason for lack of recent progress in our country is that there has been no legislation to improve work-family reconciliation since the Family Medical Leave Act was passed in 1993.  (OMG–that was 20 years ago!)  As a result, “when the United States’ work-family policies are compared with those of countries at similar levels of economic and political development, the United States comes in dead last,” according to a report on workplace flexibility published by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Learn more about why gender equality has stalled, and then start asking your elected officials to do more to ensure that  life-work balance and gender equality are possible to attain–for both men and women.

Gender Equality = A More Peaceful, Prosperous World

February 3rd, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford

As she left her position as the United States Secretary of State on February 1, Hillary Clinton gave thanks to her staff, and reminded them of the correlation between gender equality and economic and social prosperity, as well as peace.  The following is an excerpt from her remarks.

Then there’s human rights and our support for democracy and the rule of law, levers of power and values we cannot afford to ignore. In the last century, the United States led the world in recognizing that universal rights exist and that governments are obligated to protect them. It’s not a coincidence that virtually every country that threatens regional and global peace is a place where human rights are in peril or the rule of law is weak.

More specifically, places where women and girls are treated as second-class, marginal human beings. Just ask young Malala from Pakistan. Ask the women of northern Mali who live in fear and can no longer go to school. Ask the women of the Eastern Congo who endure rape as a weapon of war.

And that is the final lever that I want to highlight briefly. Because the jury is in, the evidence is absolutely indisputable: If women and girls everywhere were treated as equal to men in rights, dignity, and opportunity, we would see political and economic progress everywhere. So this is not only a moral issue, which, of course, it is. It is an economic issue and a security issue, and it is the unfinished business of the 21st century. It therefore must be central to U.S. foreign policy.

One of the first things I did as Secretary was to elevate the Office of Global Women’s Issues under the first Ambassador-at-Large, Melanne Verveer. And I’m very pleased that yesterday, the President signed a memorandum making that office permanent.

In the past four years, we’ve made we’ve made a major push at the United Nations to integrate women in peace and security-building worldwide, and we’ve seen successes in places like Liberia. We’ve urged leaders in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya to recognize women as equal citizens with important contributions to make. We are supporting women entrepreneurs around the world who are creating jobs and driving growth.

So technology, development, human rights, women. Now, I know that a lot of pundits hear that list and they say: Isn’t that all a bit soft? What about the hard stuff? Well, that is a false choice. We need both, and no one should think otherwise.

Will 2013 Be Better for Women and Girls?

January 8th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford

The news in recent weeks has been better for women and girls.  Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager shot by the Taliban, has left the hospital to be with her family while waiting for more reconstructive surgery.  Malala remains an inspiring reminder of the importance of providing girls’ access to education as a basic human right.  South Korea has its first female President, and the US Senate has a record-high 20 women who were sworn into office last week, joining 82 representatives in Congress.  We are seeing progress in some notable ways.

But there is so much more to do.  Wage inequities, violence against women, bus rapes in India–for every positive story about advances in women’s rights, there seem to be many others documenting how far women and girls still have left to go before achieving gender equality.

With the start of every new year, I ask myself what I could be doing to make the world better for women and girls.  Participating in Soroptimist programs and projects is one way to do that–whether it’s through a local Soroptimist club in your community, or by taking advantage of advocacy and other opportunities offered by

Want to take action this week?  Friday, January 11, Soroptimists throughout the United States will be taking action to raise awareness of human trafficking in their communities.  They will advocate for better laws against traffickers, more services for victims of trafficking, and enhanced efforts to educate both girls and boys about what a healthy relationship is–and isn’t.  You can do something to help combat human trafficking.  Visit  to find out how.




A Woman Making A Difference

January 6th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford

Claudia Paz y Paz is 46.  A former human rights lawyer, she now holds what could be one of the most dangerous jobs in Latin America, “confronting the most feared and powerful men of the Guatamalen present: gang leaders, dirty public officials, shot-callers in the Mexican drug cartels who have bled in from the north.”  She is Guatemala’s Attorney General.  Her willingness to tackle crimes and human rights violations is truly inspiring.  Read more about it here.

The Growing Number of Widows in Foreclosure

December 4th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford

The New York Times reports that the incidence of women over 50 experiencing foreclosure is on the rise.  And it’s due to an outdated financial practice–listing only the husband’s name on the mortgage certificate, not the wife.

In the latest chapter of the foreclosure crisis, homeowners over 50 are falling into foreclosure at the fastest pace of any age group, according to nationwide data, in part because women are outliving their spouses and are unable to cope with cuts in their pensions, ballooning medical costs — and the fine print on their mortgages.

One would think that this situation would be easy to fix, but apparently it’s not.  Seems like a potential advocacy opportunity to me.

Read more here.



Stereotypes and Single Mothers

December 2nd, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford

A column by Sandy Banks in Saturday’s Los Angeles Times reminds us of the challenges that single mothers face.  Not only do they struggle to raise their kids on their own, they also must bear the judgement and stereotypical criticism that our society tends to place on them.  Regardless of their actual circumstances, the immediate assumption is that single mothers are careless, irresponsible or at fault for their situation, i.e., for raising children as a solo parent.  (Unless, of course, they are a widow, in which case they get a pass.)  But the simple truth is that single mothers need our support, not our judgement.  According to Banks:

One-quarter of this country’s children are being raised by single women. And what those 18 million children need most is support for their mothers: better education, quality child care, a fair workplace with equal pay, more access to job training.

The December 15 application deadline for the Soroptimist Women’s Opportunity Award is fast approaching.  This signature Soroptimist program provides financial support to women heads of household who are trying to improve their economic status through education or vocational training.  Most of them are single women.  It’s one way that Soroptimist members try to be a light of opportunity for them, instead of  a judge.

Read Banks’ column here.




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