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Posts Tagged ‘Sex Discrimination’

“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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Take action for fair pay. Join the AAUW Action Network: http://bit.ly/TwoMinuteActivist

Take action for fair pay. Join the AAUW Action Network: http://bit.ly/TwoMinuteActivist

On the fourth anniversary of the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law, I am focused on unfinished business. We — women, families, this nation — need Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. When President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law on January 29, 2009 — the first law he signed after taking office — I never dreamed that four years later we’d still be without the Paycheck Fairness Act. I’m ready to bring back the euphoria of 2009. And we have the opportunity to do so right now.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) have reintroduced the Paycheck Fairness Act this Congress. The bill has the support of the president, and we have strong advocates in my friends at AAUW and in you. AAUW was critical to the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009 and is already working hard again to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The fair pay issue is on the nation’s radar once again, thanks to President Obama’s inaugural address. I had the great privilege of hearing him in person as he called for equal pay for equal efforts, and I was overjoyed to hear the crowd give that line the most applause. I know the president cares deeply about this issue, and I hope he will consider issuing an executive order that would ban federal contractors from retaliating against employees who ask questions about compensation. This is a critical piece of the Paycheck Fairness Act that the president can address while we wait for and urge Congress to act.

I’m looking to Congress not only for the Paycheck Fairness Act but also for the Fair Pay Act, a bill led by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). This bill addresses the gender pay gap between traditionally female-dominated occupations and male-dominated occupations, which continue to pay more despite requiring the same levels of skill and education. I want a society that values women’s and men’s work equally, and I know we can get there together.

You see, this fight for fair pay started out to right a personal wrong, but my fight is now about women nationwide and their families. The pay gap affects whether families can buy food, pay the mortgage, and stay healthy. Do we really want, as AAUW research showed, to continue to allow our female graduates to be paid 7 percent less than male graduates despite working in the same fields and with the same college majors? I won’t rest until that is no longer the case.

Here’s what I ask of you: Stand up for yourselves, stay informed, and take action with the folks at AAUW. And remember, my journey in the fight for pay equity is for you. I hope you’ll stand with me.

AAUW will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act at our 2013 National Convention in New Orleans. On the afternoon of June 10, join us for an anniversary panel featuring Lilly Ledbetter and AAUW Director of Public Policy and Government Relations Lisa Maatz. Register today so you don’t miss out!

This post was written by fair pay advocate and friend of AAUW Lilly Ledbetter.

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It’s mid-January, and the holiday season is over; children are readjusting to the new semester, and adults are back to work. The lights and trees have been taken down, and malls are back to their normal number of shoppers. As I reflect on this past holiday season, particularly the craze surrounding popular items that the children in our lives request, I am baffled.

Photo by David Shankbone, Flickr Creative CommonsEvery year the same issue arises during my holiday shopping: I stroll down the aisles in search of a doll I can purchase for my 9-year-old niece, and each year I am disappointed with the options. This year my question remained the same: Where is the diversity? To justify my feminist mentality and sometimes too-frequent overthinking of certain matters, I searched “Barbie” on Google. How surprised was I at the results? Not at all. Before my eyes was a page full of white dolls, the majority scantily clad with long legs, small waists, and perfect smiles.

I have always had these issues with doll companies that gross billions of dollars a year and stack toy store shelves for little girls across the globe. Maybe my aversion is a reaction to stories my grandmother has told me, reliving her childhood of sexism and racism. Maybe it’s because of the sense of pride I feel as I look in the mirror at my brown skin every morning. Maybe it’s because I refuse to allow my niece to be socialized to think that pretty girls are only those who are skinny with light skin; long, straight hair; and skimpy clothing — and that women are meant to be mothers and wives instead of engineers and politicians. Maybe it is because of the political, social, economic, and physical attacks that women all over the world survive every day. Maybe it’s because of the grotesque portrayal of women in movies, television, and the media as sexualized beings who deserve little to no respect. Or maybe it’s because the feminist in me would like, for once, to walk down the toy aisle and find a Mexican, Asian, or black baby doll with ease — or a doll whose abilities aren’t limited to being fashionable.

So as I stared at my niece’s Christmas list this year, I skipped over the request for a doll. I challenge all parents and gift-givers to be cautious and aware of what toys you purchase for your children. Are you encouraging your children to follow certain paths in their lives by buying the boys construction toys and the girls toys that reinforce their stereotypical roles as caregivers? Are little girls being socialized to strive for an unobtainable physical ideal represented through popular culture? The answer is yes! From television advertisements to technology to the toys children play with, ideals are being reinforced in our children’s minds. It is time to take a stance and teach children that diversity is beautiful. Each person is unique, and that is what’s normal.

This post was written by National Student Advisory Council member Benita Robinson.

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I found that I could say things with colors and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way … things I had no words for.” — Georgia O’Keeffe

It’s that time of year again! The fifth annual AAUW Art Contest is upon us. During this time of year, I look forward to coming into work every morning and immediately looking at the Art Contest gallery page to see what new entries have come in. I’m always impressed by the level of artistic talent displayed by the AAUW members who enter, and I’m amazed at the variety of styles and mediums.

It’s inevitable when looking at this artwork, the majority of which is created by female artists, that I think about the lack of women’s representation in art history and museums. In fact, only 5 percent of the art currently on display in U.S. museums is made by women artists. This statistic was actually the catalyst for the art collection that eventually became the National Museum of Women in the Arts, founded in Washington, D.C., by Wilhelmina Cole Holladay and Wallace Holladay. NMWA is “the only major museum in the world solely dedicated to recognizing women’s creative contributions.”

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Thanks to the strong relationship between AAUW and NMWA we are happy to say that this year, Wilhelmina Holladay and NMWA Director Susan Fisher Sterling will select a distinction award winner from the six winners of this year’s contest! The six winning entries will be featured on a set of notecards sent to tens of thousands of AAUW members throughout the country this spring. The notecard featuring the museum’s selection will have a special recognition printed on the back. Additionally, a copy of Wilhelmina Holladay and Sterling’s selection will also be hung in the AAUW national headquarters to be admired by staff and visitors for years to come. So please show off your artistic abilities by entering the AAUW Art Contest today!

Entries will be accepted until February 4, 2013. Then, we invite all members to vote on their favorites between February 8 and March 8. For more information, to submit your artwork, and to see this year’s art gallery, please visit the AAUW Art Contest page.

I hope I see your work as I look through the new submissions every morning!

This post was written by AAUW Stewardship Associate Sarah Spencer.

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In 1962, the prospect of working at NASA as the United States entered the space race would have been pure excitement for any young research scientist. Imagine the challenge of discovering the secrets of space travel!

For Charlotte George Smith, a job at NASA held the promise of fulfilling her childhood dream. Thanks to her undergraduate and graduate work in biological sciences at the University of Illinois, Smith was fascinated by the physiology of humans in space and eagerly anticipated the research projects awaiting her.

Cramming her belongings and her wheelchair into the family car, she set off toward Houston, unaware that she would have to wage tremendous battles against rampant sex and physical disability discrimination during her 26 years at NASA.

Stricken with polio at age 10, Smith was always tenacious and inquisitive, responding to challenges like a daredevil. She was unstoppable, even as she navigated herself around and over physical barriers. Supported in her intellectual pursuits by her family, she completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in record time, developing a strong interest in the aerospace medical field and contributing to two papers on heat acclimation.

Always independent and resourceful, Smith settled into life in Houston, driving herself and her wheelchair in her hand-controlled car. She discovered early on that very few provisions were made for wheelchair accessibility in the NASA buildings, and despite repeated requests, the agency was persistently slow with accommodations. At one point, Smith resorted to hiking herself up and down stairs on her rear end to get to her office.

But the indignity that stung most was watching male colleagues being assigned scientific projects and then being promoted ahead of her. Meanwhile, she was given trivial and condescending tasks like typing, filing, logging mail, ordering library books, and answering the phone. She was the only woman seated in the secretarial pool who had a master’s degree in physiology.

Hired as a General Schedule 7 (GS refers to the pay scale for government employees), Smith was promoted to GS-9 then reduced to GS-5 due to “a reduction in force.” Male employees with identical qualifications were never reduced in classification — indeed, several had risen to GS-13. In 1971, Smith filed a complaint of sex and physical handicap discrimination before the Civil Service Commission but received no judgment impacting salary or job ranking. In 1975, a federal district court judge ruled that Smith had been denied opportunities for advancement due to her sex and handicap and ordered retroactive promotion with back pay. This decision was upheld in the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1977, and Smith took pride in pioneering the Americans with Disabilities Act a decade later.

Throughout all these years, Smith had traveled globally on her own for pleasure and professional development and became the first paraplegic woman to earn her small-engine pilot’s license.

After retiring from NASA in 1988, Smith moved to Maui, Hawaii, where she has served on the county Commission on Persons with Disabilities and the Statewide Independent Living Council of Hawaii. I met her at the AAUW Hawaii 2012 state convention and purchased a copy of her memoir, Race the Sun! Quietly confident and unassuming, Smith continues to seek new outlets for her adventurous mind.

This post was written by AAUW Vice President Patricia Fae Ho.

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The first step in any social change is awareness. The documentary Miss Representation inspires awareness about the persistent stereotypes women face in media. The film discusses the ways women are shown in television and movies and how that has led to underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence.

If you are an AAUW college/university partner member, you have the opportunity to spread awareness to your campus about the numerous ways women are represented as bad leaders. Here are four reasons you should host a screening of this documentary on your campus:

1)      AAUW C/U partner members can show the film at a discounted price of $200 (normally $295)! To get this deal, the film must be ordered by the end of November, but you can show the movie at any point during the school year.

2)      Once your students are aware of this often-overlooked inequality, they’ll be more likely to view the media with critical thinking and do something to change it in their future careers.

3)      Since the movie touches on the way women politicians are represented, it brings up timely issues to think about with the 2012 presidential election.

4)      It’s a great opportunity to tell students about AAUW and our work to promote women in leadership through programs such as the Elect Her initiative, the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders, and $tart $mart salary negotiation workshops, not to mention our free e-student affiliate memberships for all students at partner member schools!

Please e-mail coll-univ@aauw.org to receive the C/U discount code to host a screening of Miss Representation and to start raising awareness on your campus today!

And remember, AAUW branches can host a screening for free if they split the proceeds with MissRepresentation.org. Check out the Program in a Box for more details.

This post was written by AAUW College and University Relationships Intern Vanessa Wolbrink.

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Last week, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a “Dear Colleague” letter to the nation’s schools, colleges, and universities clarifying that sexual harassment of students, including acts of sexual violence, are prohibited under Title IX. Although commonly associated with athletics, Title IX forbids all sex discrimination in educational programs or activities that are operated by recipients of federal financial assistance. In explaining its decision, OCR said that “the sexual harassment of students, including sexual violence, interferes with students’ right to receive an education free from discrimination and, in the case of sexual violence, is a crime.”

The chilling statistics on student sexual violence underscore OCR’s desire to address this important issue. One report found that one in five college women are victims of completed or attempted sexual assault and that, in 2009, college campuses reported nearly 3,300 forcible sex offenses.

In its letter, OCR provides reminders and advice to schools about how they can comply with Title IX and protect students from sexual harassment and violence:

  • Every school that receives federal funding must do three things: place a public notice of nondiscrimination in its facilities, designate at least one employee as the school’s Title IX compliance coordinator, and adopt and publish grievance procedures that provide for a prompt and equitable settlement of complaints.
  • Title IX protects students in connection with all the academic, educational, extracurricular, athletic, and other programs at a school, whether they take place in the school itself or at an event sponsored by the school. If a school knows or reasonably should know about harassment in these venues, Title IX requires immediate action to stop the harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects.
  • Schools should provide training on identifying and reporting harassment to any employee who is likely to witness it, including teachers, school administrators, counselors, and health personnel.
  • Title IX does not require schools to adopt policies specifically prohibiting sexual harassment. However, a school’s anti-sex-discrimination policy violates Title IX if, because of a lack of a specific policy, students are unaware of what kind of behavior constitutes prohibited sexual harassment.
  • Even if the student or school reports the harassment to law enforcement, the school is not relieved of its obligation to conduct an independent Title IX investigation. All Title IX complaints must receive a “prompt, thorough, and impartial” investigation by the school.

The AAUW website offers excellent tools for students, administrators, parents, or anyone interested in making campuses safer for women:

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