At an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission hearing Wednesday in Washington, D.C., employment and legal experts said that pregnant women and caregivers face everything from harassment and hostility on the job to terminations and decreased work hours. That’s despite a law passed 30 years ago – the Pregnancy Discrimination Act – and other measures like the Family and Medical Leave Act intended to protect workers balancing job and family obligations.
One example shared by an expert panelist at the hearing: A pregnant woman was told she couldn’t alter her uniform to fit her growing belly, but then was forced to take a leave when the uniform no longer fit. There were also tales of men who were punished for asking for time off to take care of sick or elderly relatives, because such labor was considered “women’s work.”
Sadly, stereotypes about who should provide care appear to be alive and well despite the fact that women have increasing responsibilities in the workplace and men are taking larger roles in the domestic sphere.
Low-skilled, low-wage workers are especially vulnerable since jobs like waiting tables, retail sales and other service positions often have unpredictable but inflexible schedules. That makes it harder to plan time off or deal with the kinds of small and large crises – a sudden ear infection, a fall that results in a broken hip – that crop up when you’re caring for a baby or an elderly parent.
The NAACP, founded in 1909, and the National Urban League, founded in xxx are the most visible organizations, but in 1935 both the National Council of Negro Women (led by Dr. Height from 1957 to her death in 2010) and the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs were founded. Even earlier, in 1896, the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs was established. Mary Church Terrell was the organization’s first president and this group, still operating, is the oldest organization that works for the benefit of black women and families.
Until 1960, most African American women worked as maids, domestics, or private household workers. The National Domestic Workers Union was founded in 1968 by Dorothy Lee Bolden, who started working at age 12 for about $1.50 a week. The organization was dedicated to professionalize domestic work, providing training and advocating for fair working conditions. This was yet another example of African American women coming together to improve their lives and those of their families.
There is a rich history of African American sororities and fraternities. Among the sororities, Alpha Kappa Alpha was founded at Howard University in 1908. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated was also founded at Howard in 1913 by women who broke off from AKA to emphasize their commitment to scholarship, service, and sisterhood. Delta women marched in the Women’s Suffrage March in 1913, despite discouragement from white women who did not want to mix race matters with suffrage issues. (Full disclosure – I’m a Delta). Two other black women’s sororities, Zeta Phi Beta and Sigma Gamma Rho, are organizations that also focus on service. All of the black women’s sororities are committed to uplifting the community and to providing scholarship assistance to students.
I’ll admit it may seem odd that being labeled “angry” could serve any black person well. Let’s face it, leaders of the Civil Rights movement likely adopted a non-violent stance for both moral and practical reasons.
But in a recent study I conducted with Robert Livingston and Ella Washington of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, we found that black women leaders who displayed dominant behavior when interacting with subordinates got more favorable reviews than their white female or black male counterparts who behaved the same way. In fact, black women were evaluated comparably to white male leaders who displayed similarly dominant and assertive behavior.
Existing studies have shown that professional white men have been granted greater status and power when they’ve expressed anger rather than sadness. Our findings suggest that black women may benefit from such expressions, too. In other words, because assertiveness and dominance are stereotypical characteristics for black women, they may not provoke the same backlash as they would for white women and black men.
There is a crisis of representation in the media. We live in a racially and ethnically diverse nation that is 51% female, but the news media itself remains staggeringly limited to a single demographic.
The media is the single most powerful tool at our disposal; it has the power to educate, effect social change, and determine the political policies and elections that shape our lives. Our work in diversifying the media landscape is critical to the health of our culture and democracy.
Consider the Following Statistics
According to the Global Media Monitoring Project 2010, 24% of the people interviewed, heard, seen, or read about in mainstream broadcast and print news were female. Only 13% of stories focused specifically on women and 6% on issues of gender equality or inequality.
Lately, Fox has increasingly promoted its straight-news talent in the press and conducted some of the toughest interviews and debates of the Republican primary season. Just last week, it hired the openly gay liberal activist Sally Kohn as a contributor.
All along, Fox watchers warned that it risked alienating conservative true believers as it inched toward the center.
Well, consider them alienated.
“To tell you the truth, a lot of conservatives see Fox News as being somewhat skewed on certain issues,” said Patrick Brown, who runs Internet marketing for The Western Center for Journalism, a conservative nonprofit that features stories questioning the president’s eligibility for office. “We actually did a poll recently that said, ‘Is Fox News actually conservative, or has it moved left?’ And some 70 percent of our readers thought it had moved left.”
“Left” is, of course, a relative term.
A casual Fox viewer might barely notice the changes since the network remains critical of the Obama administration and reliably conservative opinion voices, like Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, still anchor key spots in the Fox firmament. But the changes are there.
A complex matrix of factors, such as low literacy, early sexual initiation, and limited economic opportunities, increases the vulnerability of women to HIV infection in Mozambique. The Women First program addresses the role that poverty and lack of access to health information play in the spread of HIV through legal rights and income-generating activities.
This case study was prepared by the AIDSTAR-One project. As an AIDSTAR-One partner organization, ICRW provided technical oversight on this publication. The full case studies series and findings are available at AIDSTAR-One.
Saranga Jain, Margaret Greene, Zayid Douglas, Myra Betron, Katherine Fritz 2011
“Women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military’s mission,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a statement heralding the change, which was detailed at a briefing Thursday. “We will continue to open as many positions as possible to women so that anyone qualified to serve can have the opportunity to do so.”
But the move still bans them from key infantry, armor and special operations units, leaving many advocates unimpressed.
Responding to an order from Congress, the Pentagon said it was tweaking the 1994 rules on the issue:
– Women will no longer be barred from jobs simply because those jobs require those holding them to be located with ground-combat units. That means women will be able to serve as tank mechanics, radio operators and in other support billets, opening up more than 13,000 jobs to women.
– Women will be permitted to serve in 800-troop combat battalions, a smaller unit – closer to the front — than the higher-level 4,000-strong brigades where they had been limited to serving in support roles further from the action. More than a thousand jobs will be open to women under this change, although many already have been serving in those jobs as temporary “attachments.”
Some 86% of Fortune 500 firms now ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, up from 61% in 2002. Around 50% also ban discrimination against transsexuals, compared with 3% in 2002. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), an American pressure group, measures corporate policies towards sexual minorities in its annual “equality index”. Of the 636 companies that responded to its survey this year, 64% offer the same medical benefits for same-sex partners as for heterosexual spouses. Some 30% scored a fabulous 100% on the group’s index.
Progress has taken place in a wide range of industries. The 100% club predictably contains plenty of talent-driven outfits such as banks and consultancies (including Mitt Romney’s old employer, Bain & Company). But it also includes industrial giants such as Alcoa, Dow Chemical, Ford, Owens Corning and Raytheon. Lord Browne, the boss of BP who resigned after his sex life made headlines in 2007, said he always remained in the closet because “it was obvious to me that it was simply unacceptable to be gay in business, and most definitely the oil business.” Today Chevron, one of BP’s toughest competitors, has a 100% rating.
Companies are competing with each other to produce the most imaginative gay-friendly policies. American Express has an internal “pride network” with more than 1,000 members. Cisco gives gay workers a bonus to make up for an anomaly in the American tax code. (If you are married, the cost of various insurance premiums is deducted from your pre-tax income, but if you are merely a partner it is deducted from your post-tax income.) Some companies vocally support gay marriage. In the past fortnight Lloyd Blankfein, the boss of Goldman Sachs, has accepted an invitation from HRC to become its first corporate spokesman for gay nuptials, and seven big companies, including Microsoft and Nike, have written to Congress to support the idea.
What caused this corporate revolution? Pressure groups such as HRC and Britain’s Stonewall can take some of the credit. But mostly it happened because changing attitudes in society at large have reduced the cost of being gay-friendly, and raised the rewards. A generation ago in the West, creating a gay-friendly workplace might have upset heterosexual staff. Now it probably won’t. But failing to treat gays equally is very likely to drive them to seek employment elsewhere. Since they are perhaps 5-10% of the global talent pool, bigotry makes a firm less competitive.
Being fair to gays is arguably simpler than being fair to women. Women really do differ from men in the amount of time, on average, that they take off to raise children. And there is no obvious answer to questions such as: “how much paid maternity leave should a small firm offer?” From an employer’s perspective, gays do not differ from straights in any way that matters.
As the first university graduates to emerge from Communism to a newly developing China in the 1980s and 90s, those women didn't hesitate to dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to their careers. But according to data from the Center for Talent Innovation (formerly the Center for Work-Life Policy), today's younger generation is different. "The mindset has really changed," notes an HR manager for a major multinational corporation. "Women now talk about facials and traveling and all the things that the older generation didn't think about until they were more established."