Posts Tagged ‘economic security’

“Women don’t negotiate because they’re not idiots.”

That’s the provocative title and main thrust of a recent Huffington Post piece in which Joan Williams argues that negotiating can leave women “worse off than if they’d kept their mouths shut.” Williams appropriately notes the 2006 Babcock study on the backlash directed at women who negotiate. The study demonstrates that there is sexism in the workplace. But does that surprise us? Does that mean that as women we should just sit back and accept that we have to ensure in every situation that we are “well-liked” rather than ask for what we deserve — to be paid fairly?

Williams questioned how $tart $mart salary negotiation workshops (co-run by AAUW and the WAGE Project and featured in a recent New York Times article) address any backlash that women may face in negotiation. What AAUW and $tart $mart make clear is that responsibility for the wage gap doesn’t lie solely with women as individuals. The workshops do demonstrate some of the key stereotypes that women face in the workplace. And AAUW’s own research on women’s earnings just one year out of college points to the variety of other factors related to the current gap.

I couldn’t agree more with Williams’ ask for a “new system for setting starting salaries.” She suggests that employers provide new hires with information about salary ranges and potential stereotypes about women in the workplace. This idea connects to recent research that shows that women are much more likely to negotiate if the position noted explicitly that the salary was “negotiable.” Plainly put, women seek permission for what men automatically assume they are entitled to.

There are many things we — policymakers, business owners, hiring managers, and individuals — can do to fight the wage gap. But, of all the things we can do, telling women to give in to the realities of sexism and give up negotiating shouldn’t be one of them.

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Image courtesy of Nina GodiwallaThe National Conference for College Women Student Leaders is proud to announce Nina Godiwalla as one of our keynote speakers for the 2013 conference! Nina Godiwalla is a second-generation Indian American and Texan who has definitely left her mark on the business world. She is the best-selling author of Suits: A Woman on Wall Street, an insider’s perspective on working for Fortune 500 company Morgan Stanley. Her book has been described as the Devil Wears Prada of investment banking. Godiwalla is also the CEO and founder of MindWorks, a company that provides leadership and stress management training to corporations and other professional organizations.

What inspires me most about Godiwalla is her ability to realize that the sky’s the limit. In her Persian-Indian community, many of her peers growing up were satisfied by pursuing what made their parents happy. Godiwalla, on the other hand, was driven to follow her own path: She made her way from Houston to New York City to indulge in the fast-paced, challenging, and competitive world of banking.

As an African American woman, I am truly inspired by stories of minority women stepping outside of boundaries and barriers that would stop us and achieving in the way that our passion drives us, not just in the way that will satisfy our parents. Looking at all that Godiwalla has done makes me feel more confident in pursuing my dreams. In addition, coming from a community much like Godiwalla’s, I hope that I can fulfill not only my parents’ dreams but leave someone else inspired the way Godiwalla has done for me.

We look forward to hearing more of Godiwalla’s story at NCCWSL and learning tips that we can all use about leadership and valuing diversity. What would you like to ask her about her leadership story?

This post was written by AAUW Leadership Programs Intern Nzinga Shury.

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FMLA-01The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is a shining example of what AAUW lobbying efforts can help accomplish. Passed after seven years of hard work by AAUW staff and the AAUW Action Fund Capitol Hill Lobby Corps, the legislation continues to be held up 20 years later as a lobbying success story.

“Often when I am telling folks about Lobby Corps I use FMLA as an example of our tenacity,” said Lobby Corps member Kitty Richardson. “It was definitely a case of here today, here tomorrow. We’re not going away, and we are supporting [the legislation] for the long term.”

The act, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on February 5, 1993, allows qualified employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year to care for a new baby or recently adopted child, tend to a seriously ill family member, or overcome their own serious health problems. About 62 percent of workers qualify for FMLA.

AAUW’s work on FMLA began in 1986 with an official endorsement of national family and medical leave legislation. AAUW delegates then adopted family and medical leave as an action priority at our 1987 National Convention. An AAUW brief from April 1998, Family Leave: A Solution to Work and Family Conflicts, told the story of a Delaware woman who lost her job because she needed time off to care for her ill son. The article said, “Women who have no parental leave face especially heavy income losses.”

In 1989, AAUW and other national women’s groups presented President George H.W. Bush and leaders of the 101st Congress with a “women’s agenda” focused on family, workplace, and health issues. The women’s agenda called for a family and medical leave act establishing a national policy of leave to enable working women and men to fulfill their family responsibilities without sacrificing job security.

AAUW Lobby Corps member Marcy Leverenz lobbied for AAUW on FMLA in the late 1980s. She said that when they started they had to make legislators understand the big picture — that people all over the United States needed the ability to take time off for caregiving.

“Through our lobbying efforts, this need became more of an empirical message rather than an anecdotal message,” Leverenz said. “It initially wasn’t looked on as a problem to be solved.”

Also in 1989, AAUW delegates again adopted family and medical leave as an action priority with thousands of AAUW members visiting the offices of nearly every senator and representative that June. And the results proved positive: The Outlook issue published after the lobby day said that the “coalition of national groups working for family leave … credited AAUW with greatly advancing the issue in Congress.”

The issue stayed at the top of AAUW’s policy agenda throughout the early 1990s. A February 1991 briefing said that AAUW “is fully committed to the establishment of a national family policy that helps American families balance work and family responsibilities.” When FMLA finally became law in 1993, Lobby Corps members said they reacted with joy — and relief.

“I really feel like without us out there nagging, it wouldn’t have gotten through,” said Lobby Corps member Nancy MacKenzie.

Part of the reason Lobby Corps had success was because they could provide personal stories to get legislators on board.

“We are effective because we aren’t paid to lobby,” MacKenzie said. “Therefore we only lobby on things that we personally believe in. It’s not a job to us. It’s something we care about.”

Since FMLA passed in 1993, AAUW has worked to expand the legislation to cover more of the nation’s workforce. Although those lobbying efforts have been unsuccessful overall, some Lobby Corps members have had the thrill of seeing their own families benefit from FMLA. “One thing that touched me was that at the time we started lobbying this bill, my son was rather young,” MacKenzie said. “In the meantime, he got married and had children and made use of FMLA when his wife was pregnant. And I thought, you know, I’m one of the ones who got it passed. And I let him know it, too.”

This post was written by AAUW Political Media Coordinator Elizabeth Owens.

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When we talk about mentoring, I think we have a tendency to assume that mentors are for people who are young and new to their careers; we make the mistake of thinking that eventually you “outgrow” the need for a mentor. But one thing I’ve learned from my time in Washington, D.C., is that the people I look up to have mentors of their own — and political leaders are no exception.


Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) frequently talks about outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whom Gillibrand replaced as New York’s junior senator, as one of her mentors (Gillibrand made the relationship Twitter-official on Clinton’s most recent birthday). Gillibrand is now one of 20 female U.S. senators — a record number. And on both sides of the political aisle, they all clearly value mentoring. When the women senators sat down for a group interview with Diane Sawyer earlier this month, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) talked about how retired Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) volunteered to be Klobuchar’s “Republican mentor” when she first came to the Senate. Now Klobuchar is returning the favor by mentoring newly elected Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE).

At a time when bipartisanship seems rare, what strikes me is that women legislators in both parties acknowledge the need for mentors throughout their careers and encourage other women to become mentors as they advance. The same is true in the House of Representatives. In Secrets of Powerful Women: Leading Change for a New Generation, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) is clear on this point: “Be a mentor. Find a mentor. Get out there and make a difference,” she declares. Later in the same book, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) defines a mentor as “somebody who commits to walk with you and help you become the very best person you can be. … Someone does this for you, and you do it for the next person.”

We also see this theme of passing the torch among female legislators at the state level. At a recent event celebrating New Hampshire’s all-female congressional delegation, Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who previously served as New Hampshire’s first female governor, talked about one of her mentors, a female Republican state senator — now Shaheen mentors the woman’s daughter, newly elected Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH).

At AAUW, I am fortunate to work for one of my own mentors, AAUW Director of Public Policy and Government Relations Lisa Maatz, who also shares her story in Secrets of Powerful Women. And I am proud that through Elect Her–Campus Women Win, AAUW and Running Start connect college women who are thinking about running for student government with role models in their communities, whether they are women who have run for local office, communications experts, or current members of the college student government. As National Mentoring Month wraps up, I encourage you to take inspiration from this proud tradition of women mentoring women in politics and think about the ways you can find and become a mentor. If members of Congress can do it, so can we!

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mentor word cloudTo professional women, the term “mentoring” can be as ubiquitous a buzzword as “networking.” We hear it all the time. Who doesn’t get e-mails about how important mentoring can be to your career? But what does it actually mean? If you occasionally get coffee with some director of communications, do you have a mentor? Are we all walking around like newborn baby birds asking, Are you my mentor?

Seeing as January is the fourth annual National Mentoring Month, now is a good time to figure it out. And who better to guide us than Katy Dickinson, the creator of several highly successful mentoring programs and vice president of MentorCloud?

1. What is mentoring? Better yet, what is good mentoring?

Dickinson says there are three ways to approach the concept of mentoring: sponsorship, coaching, and, well, mentoring.

A sponsor is someone who takes on a certain amount of responsibility for your professional success. Dickinson advises against assuming a mentor is a sponsor. A mentor is not in charge of your career; you are.

If you search “mentor” on YouTube, most of the hits are actually what Dickinson calls coaching, which focuses on building a particular skill. A coach might teach you about public speaking or accent reduction. Mentoring can involve aspects of sponsorship and coaching. But the main goal is to change how the mentee approaches personal and professional challenges by giving her a relationship with a seasoned professional.

Dickinson says the best way to get this relationship is through formal mentoring, in which a program connects mentors and mentees and guides the relationship within a defined structure. The relationship has start and end dates, which helps both parties feel comfortable about their commitment and the attached expectations. It also prevents any lopsided enthusiasm, since both people have voluntarily joined the program.

2. Why is mentoring successful?

It’s no secret that one of the best ways to learn something is by watching someone else do it first. That, in a nutshell, is how mentoring works. The mentor demonstrates how she processes and solves problems in ways the mentee hasn’t thought of. This works on a broader level as well. A mentee can gain the confidence to pursue particular goals because she’s already seen her mentor do it.

Mentoring is also successful because it helps shy people get answers, too. Many of us may not feel comfortable picking up the phone and bothering that communications director about getting coffee. But a mentoring relationship, especially one arranged through a networking service, doesn’t rely on you putting yourself out there for a higher-up’s rejection.

3. How do I choose a mentor?

Dickinson recommends asking yourself two questions: Whom do you admire? And who is walking ahead of you on your professional path?

Pick the right match for you, regardless of location. Dickinson’s research indicates that distance has no bearing on whether or not your mentoring relationship will work. Besides, technology is making it easier every day to communicate with people around the world. You can Facetime with your mentor in New York or New Delhi.

Shoot for the stars, seniority-wise. The higher you go, the more likely your mentor will have additional resources to help the relationship. Like an assistant who can arrange her schedule or a travel budget to come visit you. A gap in the totem pole may also help the mentor. Dickinson says that high-level executives often have staff who hide problems from them (as a nonexecutive, I’ll take her word on this). Through a mentoring relationship, the executive can stay in touch with things at the lower levels.

Lastly, don’t feel pressured to find a mentor who works in your exact industry. Just because your mentor isn’t in your field doesn’t mean she won’t know plenty of people who are. You can still ask for those introductions (one of the most valuable things you can get from a mentor). And you can definitely still learn soft skills like how to run meetings or gain the respect of higher-ups in your company.

BONUS: Five ways to be a good mentee

Your role as a mentee is very important. Here’s how to not mess it up:

  1. Do your homework. Come to meetings with your mentor prepared. Make sure you’ve done any readings she has assigned you. If your mentor makes a professional recommendation, do it — no matter how awkward it may seem.
  2. Ask questions. You want to learn how your mentor thinks and makes decisions — so ask her!
  3. Be respectfully persistent. Dickinson says relationships often fall apart because the mentee didn’t follow up. Don’t worry about hounding your mentor; you already have her permission to bug her.
  4. Be committed. Remember that research about how distance doesn’t necessarily hurt a mentoring relationship? Dickinson explains that because it can be harder to connect at a distance, the mentor and mentee are often inspired to work harder. The effort you put into this relationship will directly affect the results, so make the time needed for the relationship.
  5. Be patient. Often, the mentor learns more in the short term than the mentee will. During your meetings, the mentor may get a concrete understanding of the problems in the profession. The mentee, on the other hand, takes longer to process what she’s learning. Dickinson says it can take up to a few years for the mentee to fully understand the lessons learned from the relationship.

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I did not graduate into a quarter-life crisis. Being handed my diploma and finally moving out of a dorm did not bring on attacks of panic or the specter of moving back in with my parents. I had a focus and a goal. This calm, it turns out, is increasingly rare among my 20-something peers. What I still lack, though, is a mentor.

January is National Mentoring Month, and all the talk of inspiring words of wisdom, thoughtful counseling, and meaningful mentor-mentee relationships is making me think: Who counts as a mentor? And do I really need one? Where do I find one? I have yet to identify an inspirational, advice-giving teacher as a mentor. In fact, I must admit that my only real reference for the term is the highly dysfunctional relationship between fictional characters Jack Donaghy and Liz Lemon of 30 Rock — not exactly what I’m looking for.

I’ve made it this far without a clearly defined mentor. But I’m in graduate school now, which seems like prime mentoring time. There are theses to be written, internships to be lined up, and jobs to be found. How do I find someone willing to invest time in me? Professors and professionals are all extremely busy, overcommitted people as it is. I worry I would be asking a lot of a mentor without giving back much in return.

It turns out that many women are happy, even itching, to meet a mentee. When we in the AAUW Fellowships and Grants Department asked alumnae to share their thoughts on mentoring, we got some interesting responses. Koritha Mitchell, a 2009–10 American Fellow, wrote, “People LOVE to help. [They] may not offer answers but often [are] delighted to share when asked.” Jessica Ghilani, another 2009–10 alumna, acknowledged the challenges of finding a mentor: “It can be hard to ask for help, but if you don’t, you might not get what you need!” But what is it exactly that I need that only a mentor can provide?

Kristina Halona (whose mentor was an astronaut) explained it best when I spoke with her about her own experience:

A mentor is someone you can talk about your professional aspirations with. They understand the struggles or situations you are experiencing because they have been there or [are] about to be there. You have a shared experience. Not everyone in your life will understand your struggles, even though someone like a friend or family member may care about you deeply. It is important to have someone in your field who understands.

Most AAUW alumnae say that mentorship had a fundamental impact on their career paths. These women certainly did something right, and perhaps having that extra guidance and assurance from a mentor really was as crucial as people say. In a recent Huffington Post article, Julie Fasone Holder wrote, “What stands at the center of ensuring that more women reach the highest echelons of leadership in the workplace is one simple act: mentorship.” This month, that mantra is being echoed around the country and right here at AAUW. Women in all fields are eager to give back to new students and young professionals because of the crucial mentorship they received.

For women who want to mentor, your openness and approachability is appreciated by mentees. I for one have come to recognize the importance of mentorship not as a means to the end of a dream job but for all the lessons and opportunities for growth it offers. I need to take the advice of Esther Ngumbi, 2007–08 International Fellow: “Do not be afraid to fail. Be passionate, and pave the way for others behind you!” Then, someday, I can return the favor.

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily McGranachan.

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The Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 3220) is a commonsense bill that would deter wage discrimination by closing loopholes in current law. The bill takes meaningful steps to create incentives for employers to follow the law, empower women to negotiate for equal pay, and strengthen federal outreach and enforcement efforts. It would also bar retaliation against employees who disclose their own wages. Without this bill, employers can penalize and even fire workers for talking about their salaries. This egregious practice leaves employees in the dark and prevents them from finding out about pay discrimination in the workplace.

AAUW and fair-pay advocate Lilly Ledbetter, the author of Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond, have been working hard to get the word out on Capitol Hill. Ledbetter even gave AAUW and Lisa Maatz, our director of public policy and government relations, a shout-out during her appearance on the Rachel Maddow Show on Monday night.

Watch the clip below, read about last week’s House vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, and stay tuned to find out more about how the Senate vote turns out.

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Usually when you get a call from a grandchild, it’s a good thing, right? In recent weeks, however, a new twist on an old scam has seen grandparents across the country wiring money to someone else’s grandkids!

As one AAUW member saw on the news last week, the scam starts with a simple phone call. A man calls the home of an elderly person after getting names from obituaries or wedding announcements and claims to be a grandson. The caller says something like, “Hello, this is your favorite grandson,” to which the grandparent usually responds with a name, and the caller claims to be that person.

The caller then tells a story about something bad happening and needing money and asks the grandparent to wire it. The caller urges the grandparent not to tell his parents because he is ashamed, embarrassed, or doesn’t want to worry them. The grandparent then wires money that anyone with a fake ID can pick up.

By the time Grandma or Grandpa calls back a few days later to check on the real grandson, the money is long gone.

An AAUW member in New York was contacted two weeks ago, caught on to the scam, and quickly brought it to the attention of other members in her branch.

Has anyone in your AAUW branch or community been affected by this?  Help spread the word and make sure those you care for are aware of this potential hoax!

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Health care reform is dominating the halls of Congress. The House is expected to take up the Democrat’s package by the end of this week, with the Senate scheduled to follow in the next few weeks. Yesterday, the House GOP leaders released their own draft of a health care reform bill. While there is no shortage of proposals for how health care reform should be achieved, AAUW’s emphasis is not on pushing one proposal over another but on ensuring that the program that ultimately emerges provides access to high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

We believe that three key elements must be included in any final health care reform legislation: an end to the practice of “gender rating,” coverage of women’s reproductive health services, and access to and coverage of preventive services and care.

Gender rating, the process by which insurance companies charge men and women different premiums for individually purchased health care plans, is a discriminatory practice that can result in women’s monthly premiums ranging from 4 to 48 percent higher than men’s. Reproductive health services are a basic element of women’s overall health care, and coverage of such services should be required. Preventive care services such as screenings, immunizations, and educational material will not only improve women’s health but also help reduce the financial strain on our health care system and improve the overall economy as a result.

Health care is intrinsically tied to economic security; this is particularly true for women, who earn less than men on average and use more health care services than men do. These two factors—less income, more costs—mean that women face a high level of health care insecurity. Reform is necessary now more than ever, and it must focus on the need for access and affordability in a way that is equitable to women.

There’s no time to delay; the time to act is now. Urge your members of Congress to support legislation that provides Americans with access to high-quality, affordable health care that is equitable to women.

For more information, visit AAUW’s health care issue page and read our health care position paper.

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The road to true equality for women in the workplace is built on the work of so many. This morning I learned of the passing of one of its quiet giants, Gerald Gardner. If, like me, you were born before 1973, you recall seeing employment ads stating “Man Wanted” or “Woman Wanted.” There they were, every day, in every paper across the nation, some even broken down into sections labeled “Job Openings for Men” and “Job Openings for Women.”

Gardner, a founding member of the Pittsburgh chapter of NOW, provided some important ammunition for that group to challenge this common practice. Gardner calculated the money a woman would lose over her lifetime because she couldn’t apply for a “Man Wanted” position. This research became the basis for NOW’s groundbreaking complaint against the Pittsburgh Press. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, and, in 1973, the court ruled that the practice of specifying sex in employment ads was illegal.

Gardner would be noteworthy for this effort alone, but this man, whom his wife described as shy, gentle, and quiet, continued to work behind the scenes throughout his life. He could be found picketing in support of integrating girls at Little League games or providing additional statistical support to fuel other lawsuits such as the one filed by NOW and the Pittsburgh NAACP against the Pittsburgh police department.

What inspired this man with a master’s degree in applied mathematics from what is now Carnegie Mellon University and a doctorate from Princeton in mathematical physics to apply his skills to these issues? At AAUW, we refer to people like Gardner as “men who get it.”

In 1987, AAUW opened its ranks to allow males to become members. People often asked AAUW’s first male member, John Freeman, why he would join a predominately female organization. He replied, “Any time a group within our culture is not allowed opportunities for development, all people in the society are harmed.” John Freeman was another man who got it.

As director of corporate relationships for AAUW, I’m in frequent contact with the business community, sharing the mission of AAUW. It’s come to the point where I can hear in my contacts’ voices whether they get it and, even more importantly whether they believe it. They’re the ones who walk in their wife’s, or daughter’s, or mother’s, or sister’s shoes. They’ve seen and internalized the myriad injustices and know that it’s just not fair. Most importantly, they help where they can — some in the halls of Congress, some in the boardrooms of corporations, and others by volunteering to coach their daughter’s lacrosse team. So, here’s to Gerald Gardner and other men of conscience; we’re glad you get it.

Written by Cordy Galligan, AAUW Director of Corporate Relationships.

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