When I was in graduate school in London, one of my professors told a cute story about his daughter, born during the Thatcher era, who as a small child had asked him whether a man could be Prime Minister. The point that my professor was trying to make was that having more women in positions of power does make a difference in how women’s roles are perceived by society at large.
One need only look to the Declaration of Sentiments adopted by the women in attendance at the Seneca Falls Convention in August 1848 to begin to appreciate how far women in the United States still are from reaching equality in a host of arenas, many of which are dependent on political or legal equality. Although women were granted the franchise in 1920 after decades of struggle, it is only in the past few decades that women have become a political force – at least at the ballot box. Women not only vote more than men, but unmarried women and women of color are much more likely to vote for Democratic candidates. In fact, women were key voters in the successful elections of Presidents Clinton and Obama.
Linda Basch: From your perspective, what is the unfinished work of women’s political equality?
Tonni Brodber: In the English-speaking Caribbean women’s participation in political leadership ranges from a high of 13% in Jamaica to a low of 0% in Belize, with many countries like St. Kitts and Nevis and St Lucia hovering at 6.7% and at 5.6% respectively. In the face of such paltry numbers, it almost pains me to say that it is my belief that the unfuinished work of women’s political equality is the lack of quality and diversity.
May 27, 2009 posted by Linda Basch After nearly a month of anticipation, President Obama has finally announced his nomination for Supreme Court justice—and what a nomination! The President tapped Sonia Sotomayor, a New York federal appeals justice born to Puerto Rican parents and raised in housing projects in the South Bronx. In a world where most Latinas are far less likely to go on to college than any other group of women, only 2.9 % of Latina Women hold advanced graduate degrees, 10% of all Latina women are unemployed, and the number of female Hispanic Federal Court Judges can be counted on one hand, Sotomayor has risen above those odds to become the first ever Hispanic woman to be nominated to the Supreme Court. Her ascent from humble beginnings mirrors President Obama’s personal narrative; both overcame incredible obstacles to become role models for generations. For those in the Hispanic Community, her appointment is a glimmer of hope that the often silenced voice of the Hispanic, female minority has a better chance of being represented in public debates and decision-making.
As the granddaughter of a woman engineer (and also someone who struggles to assemble her Ikea furniture but loves her new toolkit anyway), it was an honor to be surrounded by tradeswomen at the Institute for Women and Work’s panel last Thursday night up at Cornell. We were gathered to discuss how the economic crisis and recovery efforts in New York impact women, particularly tradeswomen. For me, though, it was an education in a history I didn’t even know existed: the history of tradeswomen in the U.S. and their fight for recognition and rights. After 30 years of activism, women still only comprise 3% of the construction labor force. As one panelist said, “do we really believe that men have 97% of the answers?” I think not. Although frustration with this slow-moving progress was evident in the room, the Cornell event was more celebratory than anything else. Susan Eisenberg shared slides from her multi-media installation, On Equal Terms. The theme of the installation: Women in construction—30 years and still organizing. The most provocative exhibit was the bathroom shack, literally a 6 foot by 6 foot plywood replica of a typical bathroom tradeswoman encounter on the job, complete with documented misogynistic and explicitly sexual graffiti.
This past year has been a whirlwind for women and politics! The campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin demonstrated that sexism in the media is far from dead. A number of powerful women are playing vital roles in the new administration. And Obama’s first 100 days proved to be very woman-friendly. Of course, our work is far from done.
One of the many dynamic panels to be featured at our upcoming annual conference , Igniting Change: Activating Alliances for Social Justice, will feature top scholars and activists taking apart the challenges of building pipelines of leadership for young girls and boys. At the end of the session, we hope to offer new strategies for collaborating with youth as we discover new definitions of leadership and feminism.
March 11, 2009 posted by adminThis just in: by executive order President Obama has created a White House Council on Women and Girls. As NOW stated in their press release, "We asked for a Cabinet-level office to work on women's issues, and we got the entire cabinet." The Council will headed by Valerie Jarrett and include every Cabinet secretary and head of every Cabinet-level agency. This is obviously a huge step. What do you think the first
March 3, 2009 posted by Deborah Siegel I’m sitting in a very crowded auditorium at 3 World Financial Center, home of American Express, and the sun is pouring in on one of the coldest days of the year. We’re about to be warmed by the annual panel that takes place the afternoon of the National Council for Research on Women’s evening-time gala, the Making a Difference for Women Awards. This year’s panel, “An Immodest Proposal: Advancing a New Era of Social Justice” (kudos on the title, NCRW!) features Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center Marcia Greenberger, Chancellor and President of Syracuse University Nancy Cantor, Accenture / Microsoft / PepsiCo Director Dina Dublon, and Columbia University law professor and Nation columnist Patricia Williams. The Takeaway co-host Adaora Udoji, whose voice I wake up to each morning, will be moderating. There is nothing modest about this crowd of female movers and shakers from corporate, academic, and nonprofit spheres. The NCRW staff—of which I used to be part—has clearly done an excellent job spreading word. It’s a dazzling lineup. Let the conversation begin! Adaora: First question is for Nancy. What can you tell us about advancing a new era of social justice in education? Nancy: The idea of the ivory tower as a monastic place is breaking down. What that means is we have no understanding of the groups we’re leaving behind. How do we level the playing field of education? If we don’t find ways to strengthen our connections to our communities, cities, rural areas, and bring in the population, we’re going to be stagnant. Adaora: Are we seeing that 50% female leadership in education yet? Nancy: No, not at all. What we are seeing at all levels is girls falling off the map as we go up. Adaora: Why is that?