Empowerment

Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In

March 14, 2013

Since 2011 Matrix Winner Sheryl Sandberg launched her new book, "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead" this Monday, people have received it with both praise and criticism. Sandberg's somewhat feministic manifesto on women in the workplace examines the relationship women have with their professional life, focusing how they can grow their career and lives by taking ownership and "leaning in."

Sandberg attests that "we hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in," and because of this, "men still run the world." To summarize her position: though there are still deep gender biases in the workplace, excuses and justifications aren't going to help you. Instead, believe in yourself, give it your all, speak up and get it done.

Sandberg is trying to show women how to be self-aware, to understand how they are judged more harshly than men and to not let the anticipation of children detract from their course for advancement. To have a plan for themselves-to take care of business.

It's hard to not get a Jerry Maguire mission statement feeling when you read about the "Lean In" campaign, written for her people (women), yet that is exactly one of the biggest reasons this book is drawing ire-some suggest it is written for her people-mid to high-level executives looking to scale the corporate ladder, not the everyday woman, and not a one-size-fits-all commentary on gender biases and issues women face today. Naysayers feel Sandberg misses a great population of women in her movement because her brand of gender equality is privatized; only considering the employer/employee relationship which misses a large sector of the female population.

Some also feel Sandberg puts the blame on women for their career stalemates, blaming other women for not trying hard enough, shifting the responsibility completely to them, letting corporations and the bias issue off the hook, thus putting the onus on them alone to make progress in a broader culture issue-it's our fault we are not seen as equals in the workplace.

No one can doubt Sheryl Sandberg is a savvy and incredibly intelligent woman with an intense work ethic. She has broken so far above the glass ceiling that she probably cannot see it below her. Regardless of which side one takes, her "feminist movement" keeps the discussion going about a gender issue that is still so prevalent today, yet so hard to navigate clearly.

We ask our Hot Sheet Panel:

  • What are your thoughts on "Lean In"?
  • Do you think the message is too myopic when offering advice on gender issues?
  • What advice do you have for women to advance in a top heavy male workplace?

I must confess to not having read Sandberg's book yet. I'm too busy working, leading and trying to pave the way for the next generation of professionals through NYWICI Foundation Scholarships.  In Sandberg's TV interviews, however, I have heard her say that a woman has to work harder to get as far as a man.  Well, I don't think women should work any less hard - because women are doing amazing work.  Rather, I think that there are a good number of men who should be working as hard as women.  Think of the possibilities!  As for Sandberg's "Lean in" platform specifically,  my perception is that she thinks women who don't strive to be at the top of an organization are inadequate.  I want to tell women who are number 2, number 22 or number 200 in their organizations that there is no shame in doing your job well, finding satisfaction in your work, being proud of your success at every level, and being happy.  Something I read on a friend's blog recently rings true for many: "Follow the colonels.  They always know more than the generals."  
Joan Cear
Vice President, Kellen Communications
Immediate Past President, NYWICI Foundation 

First of all, as a PR professional, my hat's off to Sandberg for generating so much visibility and conversation on the broader topic even before her book's publication.

My initial impression was mixed - perhaps influenced by Maureen Dowd's column, which painted Sandberg as elitist and self-interested. But my admiration grew as I heard more.

I agree with Sandberg that what we used to call the women's movement is stalled. And it's clear that many younger women don't find "feminism" relevant to their lives and careers, or they have a dated idea of what it means. Good for Sheryl Sandberg for restarting the conversation about women reaching our full potential in the workplace, and for being willing to "lean in" herself even amidst criticism and controversy. Best of all, she proposes to extend the book's message by creating a social movement to keep it alive through a marriage of social media and social persuasion. I think that's leadership. 

It seems to me that her main message is that even though employers and government bear responsibility for creating and protecting opportunities for women, we need to take advantage of the opportunities we have now. And in a nutshell, you need to push yourself to reach your full potential. That's a message and a movement that almost anyone - rich or poor, young or old, educated or not - can benefit from.
Dorothy Crenshaw
CEO/Creative Director, Crenshaw Communications
NYWICI Foundation Board of Directors

Years ago I learned how to "lean in" without knowing the name of that concept. I broke ground in TV news at ABC in the 60's when I became their second woman correspondent. This was after learning the ropes in local news in the mid 50's - the early start of TV news. No one told me how to do it. I was ambitious and confident and figured it out. And I supported the feminist movement in broadcasting in the 70's. My career lasted 35 years... ABC was followed by CBS News, then ch. 13, then work for HBO. I now encourage young women to "go for it" in my Advanced TV Reporting class at NYU. 
Marlene Sanders
Adjunct Prof. of Journalism, New York University
New York Women in Communications President, 1973-1974

I've been an activist for women for decades, so I'm thrilled that a top female corporate leader has declared her intention to energize a new wave of women's advancement. But the inevitable backlash is a troubling diversion. For one thing, why is this a women's discussion? Who ever judged a man for not being home to cook his child's dinner or wipe her nose? Or opting not to take paternity leave? Why this incessant drumbeat about women and the work/life choices they make?
Gloria Feldt
Co-Founder/President, Take the Lead and Author of  "No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power"
Read more about Gloria Feldt's opinion in her CNN article:  Why Women Must Seize This Moment. 


What are your thoughts on “Lean In”? Sheryl Sandberg and her book Lean In are reinvigorating the conversation about women’s equality in the workplace. And, any conversation that centers on women’s success can be productive and valuable. 

Do you think the message is too myopic when offering advice on gender issues? Sandberg isn’t single handedly responsible for leading this conversion.

Just a few of the other voices involved: Ms. Magazine celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, the on-going PBS MAKERS series aims to commend women’s history, Tavi Gevinson’s Rookie magazine addresses a generation of young women who claim feminism as their own in adolescence, and MORE magazine reaches women in mid-life with a balanced discussion about the culture we live in and ways we can reinvent ourselves and that space. These media present the voices, opinions, and wisdom of hundreds of accomplished women. 

Nonetheless, notice that “with such a dearth of women at the tippy-top, we want to—no, we insist that we—own them. We assume their every move and utterance symbolizes the advancement (or denigration) of our own cause….[and] are horrified when they don’t behave exactly as we would wish them to,” wrote Lesley Jane Seymour in her latest opinion piece on More.com.

Sandberg is not speaking for me or you, per se. She’s being who she is, speaking from what she knows (from her lived experience), and taking an active part in the conversation and movement to advance the role of women. 

Women’s success takes many forms. And Sandberg, rather than advocating for a common denominator or singular identity among women, is using her role to express and foster one perfectly valid form of professional women’s achievement.  

What advice do you have for women to advance in a top heavy male workplace? With a degree in Automotive Technology, my professional life began in a “male workplace.” The motto I adhered to then and offer now, regardless of who’s in leadership: Use your unique talents and attributes to stand out in authentic and valuable ways. Choose to be outstanding in your field.
Deanna Utroske
Content Producer, Digital Book World.
NYWICI Integrated Marketing Communications Committee Member, Aloud Blog Co-Editor

First Woman and First African American Neurosurgeon: Alexa Irene Canady, M.D.

March 5, 2013

This blog is a re-post of one of my favorite Women's History Month profiles.  

March is Women’s History Month. Today we celebrate the achievements of Dr. Alexa Irene Canady, the first woman and first African-American neurosurgeon in the U.S.  

The only daughter of Hortense and Clinton Canady, Jr., Alexa Irene Canady had great professional role models at home. Her mother wasan education administrator and her father was a respected dentist. Born in 1950, she also came of age at an ideal time for breaking barriers. By the late 1960s, the civil rights movement finally had the power of law behind it and feminists were beginning to open doors for women.

But it was Alexa Canady’s own determination and perseverance that helped her become a National Achievement Scholar in 1967. In 1971, she earned a B.S. in zoology at the University of Michigan and then entered the University’s School of Medicine, where she developed her interest in the neurosciences. Dr. Canady received her M.D. cum laude at U-M in 1975.

Dr. Canady’s next stop was Yale University-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, where she was the first female and first African-American to pursue a residency in neurology. A specialization in neurosurgery was not considered women’s work in the ’70s, and many people tried to discourage Dr. Canady. The most serious opposition came from her university’s Chairman of Neurosurgery, who did not want to accept her into the residency program despite the fact that she was an honor student. “He [the chairman] made me come for a second interview on Christmas Eve,” Dr. Canady said. “People advised me that a supportive chairman was the most important factor in completing your residency so I ranked his program way down my list.”

It was during this residency that Dr. Canady was referred to as “the new equal-opportunity package.” This did not discourage her — her excellent grades and academic distinctions proved otherwise. She even met mild resistance from her parents, “who thought I would be disappointed and not get in.”

Dr. Canady also had to overcome personal doubts. In a recent email interview she said, “The greatest challenge I faced in becoming a neurosurgeon was believing it was possible.” Despite the opposition and doubts she excelled.

Dr. Canady completed her neurosurgery training in 1981, when she became the first woman and first African-American to complete a neurosurgery residency in the state of Minnesota. She made history on May 11, 1984 when she became the first African-American woman certified as a diplomate by the American Board of Neurological Surgery. “I did not expect to be the first” woman neurologist, she said. “There was a woman at the University of Chicago ahead of me but she dropped out.”

She became Chief of Neurosurgery at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan in 1987 and remained in that position until she retired in 2001. “My areas of expertise are congenital spinal abnormalities, hydrocephalus, trauma and brain tumors,” Dr. Canady said. She chose pediatric neurosurgery because so many children fall victim to neurological illness.

Dr. Canady, now living in Pensacola, Fla., came out of retirement and reinstated her medical privileges in 2004, when she discovered she was “the only pediatric neurosurgeon in the Panhandle of Florida.” She is now a consultant and part-time surgeon with Sacred Heart Medical Group.

When asked what effect she has had on the lives of women — especially African-American women interested in pursuing careers in neurosurgery — Dr. Canady said, “The impact of my presence is that the world of neurosurgery is no longer ‘theirs’ [men’s] and when I was a professor, for some of the students who want to be neurosurgeons, their gateway is me.”

Dr. Canady is a member of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, the American Society of Pediatric Neurosurgery, the American College of Surgeons, the Society of Neurological Surgeons and the Neurosurgical Society of America. As a result of her many accomplishments, she was elected to the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993.

Her counsel for all women interested in pursuing a career as a neurosurgeon is, “Challenge yourself with the hardest courses and material you can find. At a certain point in your schooling, everyone is smart and the one who does the best works the hardest.”

“Pediatric neurosurgery is relatively specialized,” she said, “and because of the high percentage of Medicaid, relatively poorly reimbursed. So the pay is less and pediatric neurosurgery is having trouble filling its training program when other branches of neurosurgery work less hard and make two or three times as much money.”

Posted by: 
Rodeena Stephens

The Privilege of the Right to Vote

November 6, 2012

In high school, a friend told me her mother, a young homemaker married to a successful businessman, questioned the 19th Amendment: “Why do women need the right to vote?” she asked. “They’re just going to vote the same way their husbands did.” My friend and I were incensed. How could anyone in this day and age think that? Even as teenagers we understood it was a privilege to have the right to vote.

My mother was (and still is!) a feminist, and I’ve never been quite sure that she and my father voted for the same candidates every year. One day many years ago, I asked my father if he was a Republican or a Democrat. “Neither,” he said, “I like to decide based on the candidate.” You could say he was unabashedly independent. I am still influenced by his words today when it’s time to vote for a candidate.

When I turned 18, I was excited to register to vote. Every time I have moved, I have registered in order to be able to vote. The only exception was the 2000 election, when I happened to be living in England and voted by absentee ballot. I followed the furor around “hanging chads” and miscounted votes in Florida and my disillusionment with the political machinery hardened. But sometimes a candidate can still inspire me.

Hillary Clinton was my choice early on in the 2008 election. When Barack Obama won the party’s nomination I was crushed. I’m not sure I ever believed his idealistic platform would succeed (and I wasn’t surprised when it didn’t.) But a funny thing happened: by the time Mr. Obama was elected, I was starting to change my mind about him. And over the last four years I have been interested to read about his ambivalence about having to work within the political structure to successfully accomplish his goals. 

Four years ago, we as a nation elected our first African American president. Yesterday, we made history again by choosing him for his second term. As President Obama states in his acceptance speech, our choice was not unanimous:

"…Whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you. I have learned from you. And you’ve made me a better president. And with your stories and your struggles, I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead." 

In his concession speech, Mr. Romney stated his intent to work with President Obama: 

"The nation, as you know, is at a critical point. At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work. And we citizens also have to rise to the occasion." 

Only time will tell whether President Obama will be able to overcome the Republican opposition that has blocked him at every turn.

I am eternally grateful to Alice Paul, Susan B. Anthony and their fellow suffragettes and abolitionists who fought for the citizenship and voting rights of women and people of color. Their unwavering courage made it possible for me and every American to have a say in who will run our country every four years. While it’s tough not to be cynical about the political establishment, I hope to continue to be inspired by the ideas and hard work of future candidates, no matter their political affiliation.

 

Further Reading

Video and transcript of President Obama's acceptance speech

Transcript of Mitt Romney concession speech

Obama’s Top 50 Accomplishments 

Women and Politics—2012 and beyond

 

Alice Stokes Paul

Voting Rights History

The 19th Amendment 

The 15th Amendment

One Hundred Years toward Suffrage: An Overview 
 

Posted by: 
Giuliana Lonigro

Women: Vote! You Can Make A Difference

October 22, 2012

Since the 1980s women have played a major role in determining the outcomes of presidential elections. In the 2008 presidential election, approximately 9 million more women voted than men. For more than two decades, women have voted more consistently and frequently than their male counterparts. There is no doubt that in this 2012 presidential election, the women's vote is extremely important and might possibly determine who becomes the next President of the United States of America.

In the past several months, President Obama has held the lead with women voters; however, according to a USA Today/Gallup Poll of 12 crucial swing states conducted October 5 through 11, that lead has diminished from an 18-point advantage to a mere one-point advantage. With such a narrow gap, it is safe to say that President Obama and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney will do their best to pursuade women why they are the best presidential candidate. 

On October 9, New York Women in Communications held a panel discussion at the offices of the New York Times titled Women & Politics – 2012 & Beyond. At that time, President Obama was leading among women by 18%. According to New York Times national political correspondent Karen Tumulty, the Democratic party is "going into the campaign knowing they will lose the male vote" and the president "must win the female vote by at least 53%." Women's issues are critical especially in the swing states. According to the latest Gallup poll, abortion is the single most important issue for women in this election. The second most important issue for women is jobs, followed by healthcare and the economy. A smaller percentage of women suggest equal rights, pay or opportunity are just as important.  

Both President Obama and Mitt Romney understand the role women play in this 2012 election. In the second presidential debate, the candidates passionately expressed their concerns on some of the issues pertaining to women. One of the most memorable statements was the one made by Mitt Romney regarding "binders full of women." During a question regarding equal pay for women, Governor Romney said during his time in office Massachusetts, he made a "concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet.” Says Romney, "I went to a number of women's groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks,’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.” (It was later revealed that the Massachusetts women's political coalition MassGAP had delivered the binders as part of their efforts to lobby the government to hire more women.)

An attempt by Romney to articulate his support for equality in the workplace did not have the outcome he'd hoped for. The "whole binders full of women" comment immediately went viral and possibly gave President Obama an opportunity to regain the lead with women voters. A recent CNN article reports that the comment "has landed the GOP presidential hopeful in verbal quicksand with some female voters."

With the presidential election in just a few short weeks, neither candidate should feel as if they've "won" the women vote. As a registered voter who will definitely vote on Nov. 6, I'm one of many women who would love to hear both candidates clearly articulate how they plan to address equality in the workforce. While President Obama and Mitt Romney both touched on the issue during the second presidential debate – the Internet and media frenzy behind the binders comment seemed to take this very serious issue on equality for women off-course.

In these remaining three weeks of the presidential election, the candidates are pursuing women – and rightfully so. Women outnumber men on college campuses, women account for half of America's workforce and 25% of America's households are now headed by women. Women voters are key to winning elections. As women, let us pay close attention to what each candidate has to say and understand how their strategy as commander-in-chief might impact our daily lives. We can make a difference, our voice can be heard and our vote does count.

Our very own NYWICI member, Tekla Szymanski has written an in-depth article that summarizes the October 9, Women and Politics - 2012 and Beyond panel discussion. Read about the powerful journalists who participated in this discussion and shared insight on why they believe the upcoming presidential election will be decided by women voters. For further information regarding the upcoming election, review NYWICI's election resources page.

Posted by: 
Rodeena Stephens

Women, Power and Politics

October 2, 2012

This really is The Year of the Woman. 

The role women will play in the 2012 election has made them a major focal point, as a potential threat or opportunity to make or break each candidate’s campaign.  According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, 66% of women are on voter registration rolls, making them key in this election, and both parties cannot ignore the significant impact of their vote. 

Candidates do understand they need to appeal to women. Recently, Barack and Michelle Obama appeared on “The View.” A perfect landing spot, appealing to the target—the viewer demographic are middle class females. The Republicans are working the talk show circuit as well. Mitt Romney, who was overheard calling the women of The View, “sharp-tongued and not conservative,” is slated to appear next month. Ann Romney recently appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, focusing attention on family and how it connects to Romney in the White House. 

Social media is of course another way they are putting muscle behind getting the female vote. Considering women dominate the social media landscape with 58% of its users, it is not lost on the presidential candidates to target women this way. It’s a powerful tool to harness, especially in this election. This August, President Obama gave a 15 minute speech via live feed to more than 5,000 women to open the annual BlogHer conference. These bloggers are major influencers, and not simply on fashion, small business or food photography, but influencers because they are women.

This is the year of the woman, and it will be a remarkable thing to watch this November.

To hear more about the impact women have in politics, New York Women in Communications will host a special panel discussion, “Women and Politics” addressing the 2012 Presidential Election and the role and influence women are playing in it, on Tuesday, October 9th.  Details can be found here. The panel discussion will address why women are such a powerful voting block for politicians, how politicians communicate to women, what role social media plays in influencing the political views of women, how the media treats women politicians and when we can expect a woman president of the United States. And for more about the 2012 election, join us for a Twitter Chat on Tuesday, October 16 on "How Social Media Will Impact the Upcoming Election."

We ask the Hot Sheet Panel:

  • Why are women major influencers in elections?
  • What other mediums do you think candidates should use to reach the female voter?

 

 

Women are still a minority in politics and in Washington. But it has been shown that growing the positive presence on women's issues and outreach has been a priority by several different parties. 66% of women are registered to vote. That is a huge potential demographic to hold if your messaging is focused on issues facing that community. In NYC, targeting women to go to the polls is still done primarily through traditional media. Direct mail, broadcast spots and events are all cultivated to focus on women's issues. 

As a digital and social media strategy, all online media has been a key factor in getting the attention of women as well. Targeted online ads - whether that be Google Ads, Facebook, Twitter and everything in between - can work if a plan with a purpose is executed for the women's vote or any other minority group. 
Eunic Ortiz
Political Communications Strategist
Senior Account Executive, Digital and Social Media, Fleishman-Hillard

 

Posted by: 
Eunic Ortiz

Rise of the Female Entrepreneur

July 1, 2012

Rise of the Female Entrepreneur

Rodeena Stephens is communications director for The Greater Allen Cathedral of New York and a marketing and social media consultant. She organizes and facilitates NYWICI's Twitter Chats at #nywicichat (every other Tuesday from 8 to 9 p.m.). Rodeena is also one of Aloud's new co-editors; this is her second post in that role.

Since the 1990s, women have had an increasing impact on U.S. business. According to the 2012 State of Women-Owned Businesses report commissioned by American Express OPEN, an estimated 8.3 million businesses in the U.S. today are women-owned. That’s a 54 percent increase in women-owned businesses since 1997 and amounts to 30 percent of all businesses in the U.S. – a number that continues to grow.
 
According to the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), self-motivation, innovation, drive and willingness to take responsibility are four qualities of a successful entrepreneur.
 
On Tuesday, June 26, I had the opportunity to moderate NYWICI’s bi-monthly Twitter chat. Our topic was “Rise of the Female Entrepreneur” and the chat was co-hosted by WPO. And while most if not all of the entrepreneurs who participated admitted to the ongoing challenges of owning a business, all agreed that the benefits of entrepreneurship are extremely rewarding.
 
From my own observation, many women entrepreneurs are making a difference in the lives of others. New York Women in Communications’ membership includes a diverse group of women entrepreneurs. The successful women who come across my path are empowered and seeking to effect change in all aspects of business — public relations, finance, television, technology and more.
 
Women are no longer settling for 14-hour days at the office. They are making the decision to leave their 9-to-5 jobs to launch their own businesses. One might ask why would anyone trade in a steady paycheck to start a business in such an unstable economy, but many women who have worked in corporations much of their careers now realize “they might be able to do it better on their own,” says Kirsten Wynn, the communications director for WPO. Women are taking control of their futures and leaving professions that make them unhappy and unfulfilled.
 
My own personal experience has taught me that most entrepreneurs are willing to share their secrets to success. During our Twitter chat, the entrepreneurs stressed the ability to focus.
 
“It is so easy to get distracted by opportunities; we can’t do them all,” offered one entrepreneur. Many women, by nature, want to help others and take on multiple responsibilities. However, this can often work against the female entrepreneur. Time management is critical to having a successful business, especially for the “mompreneur.” When asked why some women decide to launch a business, Kirsten said entrepreneurial careers “generally give them more control over their time, more power, more influence and they make more.”
 
For the established and aspiring female entrepreneur, below are a few tips offered by the Women Presidents’ Organization to help you launch or maintain your business:
  • Understand that developing contacts is a way of life. Be willing to speak up.
  • Develop your financial knowledge.
  • Take advantage of your communication skills. If used effectively, this can create opportunities.
  • Be steady with your business.
  • Recognize your accomplishments
  • Don’t mistake taking responsibility for blaming ourselves.
Successful women entrepreneurs have also recognized the benefits of having a mentor such as WPO to help guide them through the process of developing their businesses. Online resources are also useful. She Takes on the World is a great resource for women entrepreneurs; it's one of Forbes' Top 10 Entrepreneurial Websites for Women.
 
Women are taking innovative steps to create opportunities that will lead to entrepreneurship. Whether you’re a college student, working in an entry-level position or a senior level executive, believing in yourself, making a commitment to succeed and keeping a positive attitude will help you reach your professional goals.
 
Today, women-owned firms contribute $3 trillion to our economy; according to the Center for Women’s Business Research, this creates 23 million jobs. Statistics over the past 15 years clearly show that women-owned businesses are on the rise.  At this rate, in another five years, there will be more than 10 million women-owned businesses in the United States. This is an exciting time for women and aspiring female entrepreneurs.
 
Here are a few resources that every entrepreneur should have:
 
 
Posted by: 
Rodeena Stephens

Women's History Month: Bella Abzug

March 27, 2012

As the War on Women rages all around us, with attacks lobbed at everything from our reputations to our reproductive systems, I often find myself wishing Bella Abzug were here to rally women to the barricades with her big, bold voice. 

I especially wish Bella were here to galvanize younger women. The young feminist activist Shelby Knox says her generation was taught that gender equality was a fait accompli; as a result, when they run into gender barriers, they think it’s their own fault. Bella would have had none of that.

Bella Savitsky Abzug (1920 – 1998) was an attorney, three-term Congressional Representative for New York City, social justice activist and outspoken leader of the women’s movement. 

As The New York Times noted in her obituary, “She brought with her a belligerent, exuberant politics that made her a national character. Often called just Bella, she was recognizable everywhere by her big hats and a voice that Norman Mailer said ‘could boil the fat off a taxicab driver's neck’.”

Or as she put it: “Women have been trained to speak softly and carry a lipstick. Those days are over.”

Bella was fearless, and her fearlessness was contagious. When she spoke from the podium or walked boldly at the front of a march, women felt unstoppable. 

"The test for whether or not you can hold a job should not be the arrangement of your chromosomes."
– Bella Abzug

Those were the days when men in power told feminist women we should be patient and ladylike. We were supposed to wait while they decided what we were entitled to and when they would give it to us. Bella quickly and loudly set them straight. She knew she was making some enemies along the way, but as the Times wrote, she “saw that as a consequence of a refusal to compromise, as well as a matter of sport.”

Along with Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Shirley Chisolm and other feminist leaders, Bella was a founder the National Women’s Political Caucus. She was the first Jewish woman to be elected to Congress and stayed for three terms. Her winning 1970 campaign slogan: “The woman’s place is in the House – the House of Representatives.”

"Our struggle today is not to have a female Einstein get appointed as an assistant professor. It is for a woman schlemiel to get as quickly promoted as a male schlemiel." 
– Bella Abzug

Bella also served as chairwoman of President Carter’s National Women’s Advisory Council and presided over the first National Conference on Women in 1977. The Celebrate Women’s History Month website has an extraordinary photo of Bella with a dazzling array of powerful women at that conference — Rosalynn Carter, Betty Ford, Lady Bird Johnson, Linda Johnson Robb, Maya Angelou and Coretta Scott King.

Feminism was not Bella’s only cause. She fought for union rights; she was a founder of Women Strike for Peace in the Vietnam era; and she supported legislation for gay rights. As Wikipedia notes: “She was one of the first members of Congress to support gay rights, introducing the first federal gay rights bill, known as the Equality Act of 1974, with fellow Democratic New York City Representative Ed Koch.” (At left, Ed Koch and Bella with President Carter.)

 "I prefer the word 'homemaker' because 'housewife' always implies that there may be a wife someplace else."
– Bella Abzug

In her private life, Bella was happily married to Martin Abzug for 42 years until his death in 1986. They had two daughters, Eve and Liz. Liz Abzug went on to found the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute, which is dedicated to mentoring and training high school and college age women to become “effective, dynamic and visionary leaders as well as active and creative participants in civic, political, corporate and community life."

Learn more about Bella Abzug:

Posted by: 
Michele Hush

Science? That's for girls!

July 13, 2011

Here's a happy sign of changing times: When Google announced the winners of the inaugural Google Science Fair on July 12, the top prizes in all three age groups went to young women!

According to the story on the Google Blog, the winners and their impressive experiments were:

  • "Lauren Hodge in the 13-14 age group. Lauren studied the effect of different marinades on the level of potentially harmful carcinogens in grilled chicken.
  • "Naomi Shah in the 15-16 age group. Naomi endeavored to prove that making changes to indoor environments that improve indoor air quality can reduce people’s reliance on asthma medications.
  • "Shree Bose in the 17-18 age group. Shree discovered a way to improve ovarian cancer treatment for patients when they have built up a resistance to certain chemotherapy drugs."

The Science Fair was sponsored by CERN, LEGO and National Geographic, as well as Google. For more information...

You go, science girls — change the world!

 

Posted by: 
Michele Hush

The war on women: Barefoot and pregnant are back on the agenda

June 12, 2011

Note: This is my opinion and not necessarily the position of New York Women in Communications.

On February 18, the GOP-led House of Representatives voted to end funding for Planned Parenthood. Although the measure was voted down in the Senate, there was no mistaking its anti-woman intent. The endgame appeared to be a rollback of 1970s landmark Title X Family Planning program.

The opening paragraph of the February 25 New York Times editorial "The War on Women" captured the problem about as plainly as possible: "Republicans in the House of Representatives are mounting an assault on women’s health and freedom that would deny millions of women access to affordable contraception and life-saving cancer screenings and cut nutritional support for millions of newborn babies in struggling families. And this is just the beginning."

As if making it harder for women — especially poor women — to prevent pregnancy, end pregnancy or feed babies were not enough, the Times added this: "One of the bills, offered by Representative Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, has a provision that would allow hospitals receiving federal funds to refuse to terminate a pregnancy even when necessary to save a woman’s life." In other words, fetus first.

On Science Blogs, the scientist who calls himself Mike the Mad Biologist wrote a March 7 post titled The Texas GOP Wants to Shrink Government to the Size Where It Can Fit in a Woman's Vagina (which sounds even more uncomfortable than my theory that Conservative extremists want a government small enough to fit inside our uteri.) Mad Mike’s post was prompted by a proposed Texas law that would require women who want to terminate a pregnancy to have a trans-vaginal ultrasound — an invasive, medically unnecessary procedure using an internal probe. (See his blog for a photo of the probe and an illustration of how it is used.)

If you think the rights won in 1970’s Title X Family Planning Program and 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision have little to do with you, please reconsider. Before we had access to family planning, millions of lower-income women were trapped in poverty because of a lack of contraception and thousands of other women died from botched abortions.

I hesitate to even mention the word “abortion” because it is such an incendiary issue; true anti-choice believers argue from their personal religious convictions, and you just can’t reason with that. I will say this. I’ve never met anyone who is flat-out in favor of abortion — we would all prefer planning and contraception. But when women took to the streets 40 year ago to fight for the right to choose what to do with our own bodies, the ravages of no choice were still fresh. According to the National Organization for Women (NOW):

  • Approximately 50% of all maternal deaths resulted from illegal abortions during the first half of the 20th century
  • Estimates of the annual number of illegal abortions in the 1950s and 60s range from 200,000 to 1.2 million, even though abortion procedures were unsafe and often life-threatening, in addition to being illegal
  • During the 1950s and 60s, each year an estimated 160 to 260 women died from illegal abortions, while thousands more were seriously injured

In “The Reincarnation of Pro-Life,” a May 27 piece for the New York Times, Emily Bazelon writes that since the beginning of 2011 “At least 64 new anti-abortion laws have passed, with more than 30 of them in April alone.” If you care about this issue, then contact your local lawmakers. Those opposed to choice almost certainly already have.

Twenty congresswomen — all Republicans — voted with 220 congressional men (including 10 Democrats) to defund Planned Parenthood. I would like to thank the seven Republican men and women who stood up with 178 Democrats to protect Title X — it couldn’t have been easy. They are: Charles Bass, R, NH; Judy Biggert, R, IL; Mary Bono Mack, R, CA; Charles Dent, R, PA; Bob Dold, R, IL; Rodney Frelinghuysen, R, NJ; and Richard Hanna, R, NY.

The illustrations above and at left are from “The Republican War on Women” — part of Tom Tomorrow’s brainy political strip, “This Modern World.” Click here to read the entire strip (note: it's currently only available on a Credo petition site).

 

What Would You Do if You Weren't Afraid?

June 5, 2011

On May 17 Sheryl Sandberg — 2011 Matrix Award honoree and Chief Operating Officer of Facebook — delivered a challenging and inspirational commencement address to the graduates of Barnard College. Her subject was the continuing inequality of opportunity for women in the workforce. Some excerpts:

  • "As we sit here looking at this magnificent blue-robed class, we have to admit something that’s sad but true: men run the world. Of 190 heads of state, nine are women. Of all the parliaments around the world, 13% of those seats are held by women. Corporate America top jobs, 15% are women. Numbers which have not moved at all in the past nine years. Nine years. Of full professors around the United States, only 24% are women."
  • "But what is so sad—it doesn’t just make me feel old, it makes me truly sad—is that it’s very clear that my generation is not going to change this problem. Women became 50% of the college graduates in this country in 1981, 30 years ago. Thirty years is plenty of time for those graduates to have gotten to the top of their industries, but we are nowhere close to 50% of the jobs at the top. That means that when the big decisions are made, the decisions that affect all of our worlds, we do not have an equal voice at that table.
  • "I encourage you to think big. Studies show very clearly that in our country, in the college-educated part of the population, men are more ambitious than women. They’re more ambitious the day they graduate from college; they remain more ambitious every step along their career path. We will never close the achievement gap until we close the ambition gap."
  • I hope that you — yes, you — each and every one of you have the ambition to run the world, because this world needs you to run it. Women all around the world are counting on you...So go home tonight and ask yourselves, 'What would I do if I weren’t afraid?' And then go do it."

Watch the full address below or read the transcript here

 

For more information:

Posted by: 
Michele Hush

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