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Archive for the ‘girls’ Category

Engaging More Than One Million Girls and Young Women in STEM Education and Careers

Posted by YWM on January 23, 2014

BPWFoundationlogocolorBusiness and Professional Women’s (BPW) Foundation is partnering with the “Million Women Mentors” (MWM) initiative.  Launched in January during National Mentoring Month, the initiative will support the engagement of one million science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) mentors – male and female – to increase the interest and confidence of girls and young women to pursue and succeed in STEM degrees and careers.

Supporting women in non-traditional fields has long been part of BPW Foundation’s mission. Since 1969, BPW’s career advancement scholarships have provided financial assistance to financially disadvantaged women 25 years of age or older seeking to further their education, advance their careers or re-enter the workforce. BPW Foundation solicits prospective scholarship candidates from its state and local Legacy members.  Most of last year’s scholarship recipients are pursing degrees in STEM or related fields.

BPW Foundation’s goal is to share information about Million Women Mentors among its legacy chapters across the country, to engage STEM mentors and to encourage young girls and women interested in STEM fields to pursue their goals with the help of a mentor.  One aspect of BPW Foundation’s commitment to mentoring young women is the BPW Young Careerist program conducted by BPW local and state organizations which recognizes and assists young women as they start their careers.  In addition, BPW members provide career enhancement tools to women of all ages through locally conducted Individual Development programs.  joining this initiative is a natural fit with our ongoing work.

“With our legacy of ‘working women helping women work®’ BPW Foundation is proud to partner with Million Women Mentors to support women across their STEM career spectrum, from young careerists to mid and upper-level professionals, to those transitioning out of the military,” said BPW Foundation CEO Deborah Frett.

BPW Foundation also seeks to leverage this partnership to promote access to STEM career opportunities among women veterans, military spouses and women who have lost a loved one serving in the Armed Forces. “Many women veterans leave the militarywith a wealth of technical training and experience, but they don’t know how to translate those skills into meaningful careers,” said Leslie Wilkins , member of the BPW Foundation Board of Trustees and Founder and Director, MEDB’s Women in Technology Project.  “Having access to STEM professionals through Million Women Mentors will help these skilled women, who unselfishly served our country, leverage their skills and tap into careers in STEM. Million Women Mentor’s work can also support the talented pool of unemployed and underemployed military spouses and surviving family members and bridge the gap (often due to multiple moves or the loss of a loved one) to a successful career in STEM.”

In the past 10 years, growth in STEM jobs has been three times greater than that of non-STEM jobs. Today 80% of the fastest growing occupations in the United States depend on mastery of mathematics and knowledge and skills in hard sciences. While women comprise 48% of the U.S. workforce, just 24% are in STEM fields, a statistic that has held constant for nearly the last decade. While 75% of all college students are women and students of color, they represent only 45% of STEM degrees earned each year. Too many of these young women begin in STEM but leave those degree paths despite their good academic standing, often citing uncomfortable classroom experiences and disconcerting climate. Even when women earn a STEM degree, they are less likely than their male counterparts to work in a STEM field even though STEM jobs pay more and have a lower wage gap: 92 cents on a dollar versus 75 cents in other fields.

“Clearly the need for women in STEM is there,” said Frett.  “By tapping into current pools of talent among our women veteran and military spouse community, and contributing to tomorrow’s STEM professionals among our young careerists, BPW Foundation continues its vision to partner to create successful workplaces for women, their families and employers.”

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Posted in girls, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Mentoring, STEM, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

What My Father(s) Taught Me About Success

Posted by knbarrett on June 18, 2011

It was 1992 and I was at Kidsville, a playground in Duncanville, TX. I twirled around in the tire swing and watched parents catch their children at the foot of the slide, assist them across the monkey bars, and play chase around the park. The playground was full of mothers; fathers were in shorter supply. It was the fathers and daughters that caught my attention. There was something special about the interactions between father and daughter – the smiles and laughs were somehow different from that of a mother and daughter.  I distinctly remember feeling sorry for mothers; they would never share the same type of bond with their daughters. At nine, I sensed the importance of the father-daughter relationship.

Research supports my childhood observations. According to Nielsen’s research “Fathers generally have as much or more influence than mothers on many aspects of their daughters’ lives . . . well-fathered daughters are usually more self-confident, more self-reliant, and more successful in school and in their careers than poorly-fathered daughters.” Fathers help daughters develop a sense of place in this world.

Who I am and how I view the world has been profoundly shaped by my Papa and the men who have played father-like roles in my life (Great-Grandpa Kenyon, Gramps, Uncle John, Uncle Chris, Uncle Scott and Uncle Jeremy). They have influenced not only my professional pursuits but also how I perceive success in the workplace.  A few weeks ago, I wrote about the need for new definitions of career success because societal definitions of success impact workplace policies and practices. Through my father figures I’ve learned three important lessons for becoming a successful woman.

Lesson 1: Action not Accolades

My Nana once told me that Gramps sometimes refers to me as “The Empress of the Western Hemisphere.” Knowing that my Gramps, even in jest, pictures me as a ruler fills me with great delight. Within the confines of my family, I have never felt that my gender was a hindrance for leadership positions. While I often struggle with equating success with positions of authority, the men in my life have often encouraged me to see past a person’s title and look at their actions.

At six, my Uncle Jeremy and I had a serious talk about the presidency. I wanted to know two things: what I had to do to become the President of the United State and what earnings I could expect as President of the United States. My uncle patiently discussed the presidential office. He never discouraged me from seeking office, but I remember him encouraging me to think beyond the title and paycheck – what would I do as President?

There is this illusive draw to being at the top. It signals that we as women have arrived. In my mind it says “Take that” to every ignorant man who ever made a sexist joke about how I was destined for a life of domesticity. Yet, in my short career tenure, I’ve learned and re-learned through my father figures that I want my career to be measured by impacts (how my actions affected people and causes) instead of outputs (# of reports written) or outcomes (awards and titles of distinction). It’s about using whatever sphere of influence I have in whatever position I hold and harnessing it toward good.

Lesson 2: Sacrifice over Self-Indulgence

In a recent New York Times op-ed column, David Brooks wrote about how adulthood isn’t about finding one’s passion or charting one’s own path. He argues instead that “A successful adult makes sacred commitments to a spouse, a community and calling.” My father figures have showed me that a successful life is marked by sacrifice.

I’ve watched the men in my life make career sacrifices for their families. I’ve learned from them that men and women alike are responsible for the health and well-being of their families. There is this perception that only women make tough choices when it comes to balancing career, family and community responsibilities. But, I’m not sure that’s true. My own husband has passed up opportunities offering greater pay and prestige because he is committed to playing an active role in our daughter’s life. And, a recent study by Boston College Center for Work & Family on fathers and work “presents a portrait of fathers who strive for professional growth as they also strive for equality in their home life.”

Putting others before career ambition is not something that women alone face. Watching men make these sacrifices has made it a little easier for me to accept the trade-offs involved in having a career and family. Knowing that these men experience the tension and conflict of living a life that includes family, work and community responsibilities makes me feel less alone. It also makes me all the more passionate about my research on workplace policies and practices that fit the realities of today’s workforce.

Lesson 3: Daily Choices Matter Most

Papa asks my sisters and me one question whenever we talk: “Are you winning the day?” It is a question that we roll our eyes at and mock from time to time. But, it’s a useful question. It helps me refocus my time and energy. The question helps me take a deep breath when I feel anxious about not reaching my full potential or leaving accomplishments unchecked. As someone who likes to develop five year plans, it’s easy to get so distracted by the pursuit of success that I forget about the importance of “winning the day” – being a dedicated mother, dependable friend and diligent worker.

The question reminds me that my own life has been shaped by men who have included me in their days- challenging my thinking and exposing me to new ideas (thank you, Uncle Jeremy and Uncle Scott); bailing me out when my car broke down and I was out of money (thank you, Uncle John); taking a day to drive down and spend time with me (thank you, Uncle Chris); sharing life lessons and experiences (thank you, Gramps);  walking through the tough times (thank you, Papa); being my best friend (thank you, Peter).

Success is not so much an end destination but the byproduct of our daily choices and decisions. In the words of Mumford & Sons, “In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die/Where you invest your love, you invest your life.” Thank you Papa, Gramps, Uncles and Peter for the love you have invested in my life.

Posted in Career Advancement, Families, Feminism, Gen Y, Gen Yner, girls, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Ambition: The Key to Closing the Gender Gap (Really?)

Posted by knbarrett on June 3, 2011

“We will never close the achievement gap until we close the ambition gap,” said Sheryl Sandberg in her commencement address at Barnard College.  Sandberg highlighted the gender segmentation across leadership categories.  From heads of state to the board room – women are under-represented in positions of leadership. In her speech, Sandberg called on young women to “think big” and take up leadership positions because, “leadership belongs to those who take it.” She argued that far too many women make career decisions based on future family responsibilities – e.g. medical student who chooses a less demanding specialization. Instead of “leaning back” from a career before it’s even started, Sandberg urged to women to “lean in” to their careers – full speed ahead. She concluded by telling the graduates of her hope that they would all leave with aspirations of running the world because, “Women all around the world are counting on you.”

The speech left me feeling oddly disturbed instead of inspired. There was something troubling about pinning women’s under-representation in leadership roles to their collective lack of ambition.  Not only is the argument uncritical of the external factors that shape women’s economic outcomes, but it is also uncritical of current definitions surrounding success and ambition.

First, Sandberg’s speech contains overtones of Girl Power. Just believe in yourself – the sky is the limit. Embrace your awesomeness. The problem with the message of Girl Power is that women’s outcomes are linked to their individual ambition and choices.  Social norms, practices and institutions that shape the economic opportunities available to men and women are overlooked. By focusing on the self, gender discrimination becomes a personal obstacle to overcome rather than a societal issue rooted in structural inequalities that must be removed. It’s far easier when it’s an individual issue, right? It means that we no longer need feminism.  We no longer need to belong to a movement that works to identify and address gender-based constraints in the workplace. We no longer need to care about how workplace policies and practices affect men and women differently. Girl Power suggests that all I need to do is show the world that I am a strong, strong woman.

Second, Sandberg’s admonitions are uncritical of current definitions of success and ambition. She seems to define both words using masculine norms – reaching the top. Could it be that we, as a society, need to rethink how we define success? In David Brooks’ recent  op-ed “ It’s Not About You” he argues that the expressions of individualism found in so many commencement speeches – find your passion, chart your own path – do a disservice to graduates. Adulthood isn’t about finding yourself or finding your passion. Instead, “A successful adult makes sacred commitments to a spouse, a community and calling.” The current workplace, however, continues to idealize a worker who is solely devoted to the job.

As a good friend posited, “Could it be that women have it right? They often make intentional choices to live a life that includes work, family and community responsibilities.” As a society, shouldn’t we be more concerned about men’s unchecked ambition? Should men really get a pass on family and community responsibilities because they were pursuing their dreams?  Our country has the most family-hostile public policy in the developed world. These policies are not just women’s issues. They are workforce issues. Masculine norms that lead to discriminating and inflexible work environments are disadvantageous to men as well as women. Addressing differential workplace outcomes for men and women requires a larger social push to examine and redefine the notion of success in the workplace.

The percentage of leadership positions held by women is a key index used to measure gender equality. If we are really concerned about closing the gender achievement gap, we will have to do more than address the ambition gap.

We want to know your thoughts on ambition, success and the workplace. If you are Generation Y woman (born 1978-1994), please consider participating in our national survey on workplace issues. Each participant who completes the survey will be entered to win a $75 gift card.

Posted in Career Advancement, Education, Feminism, Gen Y, Gen Yner, girls, Lifestyle | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

International Women’s Day: Its Our Day

Posted by weeksm on March 6, 2011

 March 8, 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day (IWD), a global day of recognition.  Thousands of events are being held around the world to celebrate women’s achievements, discuss issues and inspire women. This year’s theme for IWD is “Equal access to education, training and science and technology:  Pathway to decent work for women.”

In 1910, Clara Zetkin, leader of the “Women’s Office” for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, proposed the idea of an International Women’s Day at the 2nd International Conference of Working Women.  The conference attendees, more than 100 women from 17 countries, unanimously approved the suggestion.  The very first IWD was launched the following year on March 19th in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.  More than one million women and men attended rallies supporting women’s rights.  In 1913, IWD was moved to March 8th, which has remained the global date ever since.

In 1975, during International Women’s Year, the United Nations began celebrating March 8th as IWD. The General Assembly cited two reasons for adopting its IWD resolution:

  • To recognize the fact that securing peace and social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms requires the active participation, equality and development of women; and
  • To acknowledge the contribution of women to the strengthening of international peace and security.

The day has traditionally been marked with a message from the U.N. Secretary-General.

While women around the world have made great strides since the first IWD, women still do not receive equal pay to that of their male counterparts, they are underrepresented in business and politics, women’s education and health are worse than men’s, and rates of violence against them are higher.  BPW Foundation continues to work to transform workplaces in the United States by strengthening the capacity of organizations and businesses to create work environments that are inclusive and that value the skills and contributions of working women.

So in March, as we begin celebrations for Women’s History Month in the United States, let’s think globally.  There are 154 IWD events across America from Alaska to Florida listed on the IWD website at www.internationalwomensday.com. Be a part of the global sisterhood!

Posted in Diversity, Equal Pay, Feminism, girls, Global, Pay Equity, Successful Workplaces, Women's History Month | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

From the First Lady of San Francisco

Posted by gansie on January 12, 2011

“At this rate, women will not achieve parity for another 500 years.”

Miss Representation by Jennifer Siebel Newsom

Posted in Feminism, girls, Media, Politics | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

News to Chew On: Link Love for Lunch

Posted by sherrysaunders on January 7, 2011

To dress well women should shop like a man [Wall Street Journal]

Scalia doesn’t think constitution protects women or gays.  [Washington Post and New York Times]

Scalia makes the case for ERA enactment.  [Womensenews]

Where are women at VA health centers? [The Examiner]

Any surprise a woman led the most productive House session? [Ms Magazine]  

Keeping women in science on a Tenure track [New York Times]

Obama picks woman as new nominee for Legal Counsel’s office [NPR]

Senior woman runner keeps on going [New York Times]  

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg discusses why there are so few women at the top [Wall Street Journal]

6 things working women should ask for in 2011 [Forbes]

A milestone for Mikulski: “Dean” of Senate Women [Washington Post]

Major Law firms hiring fewer women and minorities [Louisiana Weekly]

US lags in “leading” women [Philadelphia Inquirer

American Legion to launch women veterans’ survey [Sunherald]

Valerie Jarrett talks gender parity [Huffington Post]

Politics Daily’s women to watch (and watch out for) in 2011 [Politics Daily]

Longevity can improve women’s work life balance [Stanford Education Blog]

More women are falling into poverty [Post Gazette]

Whether mom works or not the kids are ok [MarketWatch]

Not a great year for diversity [Newsweek]

Department of Labor takes comments on nursing mother’s law [Workingmoms]

Movie Heroines of 2010: Tweens saved the day [Washington Post]

Posted in Feminism, girls, Link Love, Women Veterans | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Minnie, Say It Ain’t So!

Posted by joyinhome on November 10, 2010

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Teen girls in Virginia commit robbery wearing a Minnie Mouse mask.

Posted in girls, Rant | Leave a Comment »

Morning Rush Hour

Posted by joyinhome on October 20, 2010

Six am…I have no in-person meetings today so I can throw on sweats. image

Mornings in my house are never routine. Luckily, I don’t have a set time to begin my work day because I would have to wake at least an hour earlier, to handle the surprises.

Lunch was packed the night before, thank God. I have to get my toddler dressed and fight with him to brush his teeth. There is no time to fix breakfast for his lunchbox. Factor in 11 minutes to go to McDonalds’ drive-thru to get some “pon-cakes.”

My 13 year-old knows that she has PE twice a week; the days don’t change, yet we are waiting for the dryer to buzz producing a clean PE uniform before we leave. I also need her to be sure she has her student ID so she doesn’t accumulate yet ANOTHER detention. All this, however, every hair is in place on her head.

imageAttention, Little Man: There will never be fruit snacks for breakfast! He is unhappy and not cooperating to get out of the house.

I just remember, the tank is on E. I have to stop to get gas…

Posted in Families, girls, Rant, Worklife Balance | Leave a Comment »

Battle of the Hemlines

Posted by joyinhome on October 8, 2010

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So once a month my ninth-grade daughter has “law Day” which entails a half day trip to a law firm that is a community partner of her school. Law Day allows them to interact with lawyers at the firm for informal mentoring and sheduled law-related exercises. These days are designated as professional dress to prepare these young men and women for future workplace expectations.

Last night my daughter laid out her dress and shoes. This morning I yelled up to her that we had to leave and she better not be wearing bangles: “it’s PROFESSIONAL dress!”

“I know Ma.”

She came downstairs and I smiled. She had on pearl studs and a dainty silver bracelet and ring. Her dress was cream at the top and a gray, black and white houndstooth pattern from her natural waist down (I am kicking myself for forgetting to snap a picture). The dress hit about an inch above her knee, but due to the material and her newly curvy figure, it rose when she sat down or walked about another inch. I told her to make sure she was concious about the dress and to gently smooth it when she stood up.

Fast forward about 30 minutes. I am en route to drop of my son to daycare and get a call; it is the school’s number and I have a feeling it’s about the dress. She has to go home to change into something more appropriate.

Now, I respect the school wanting to uphold appropriate attire for the students (esp. on a non-uniform day), but I think this was overdoing it. She was not permitted to attend class and was marked absent, but was able to turn in her homework after I made the request.

I picked her up so that she could change. She looked so professional and was proud, so I used it as a ‘teachable moment.’ I explained to her why I was upset: I didn’t like the message and implication that it made to her and the other young lady charged with the same offense (who looked beautiful and even had on hose). As women, we have to be overly concious of our appearance, even in the 21st century.

“Why am I punished for showing a little bit of leg?… If the boys can not control themselves that is not my problem. Don’t they also have to understand what’s appropriate if I do?”

Posted in Advocacy, Career Advancement, Education, Feminism, girls, Rant, YWM | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Youth Unprepared for the Workforce

Posted by egehl on September 8, 2010

Recently a friend of mine who is a teacher at a charter school in New Orleans asked if I could help her grade one of her class assignments.  She is a biology teacher for sophomore, junior and senior students.  As the world now knows Hurricane Katrina revealed the poverty and deficiencies in New Orleans including the city’s deplorable public school system.  Since the storm, the education system has slowly but surely gotten revamped so that our city’s children, especially the poorest, have a chance in life.  While there’s still a long way to go in improving our schools, New Orleans is considered the city to watch when it comes to education reform. 

I went to my friend’s classroom to get a firsthand look at where she teaches and receive a tutorial on the assignment I would be grading.  While I was there she showed me prior assignments her 15-17 year old students had completed right when school started.  As I was looking through a stack of quizzes, I couldn’t help but notice her students writing and format of answering questions.  In fact, I was appalled.  Answers were incomplete or written very poorly for a teenager, and my friend said that was typical. 

It prompted me to think about young people’s–including those in Generation Y and afterward–readiness for the workplace and my suspicions were confirmed that many are not prepared for its challenges and rigors.

According to research conducted by Corporate Voices for Working Families, employers find that the majority of young people are unprepared to succeed at work in the 21st century.  To back up this employer data, an additional survey was distributed by Public Policy Polling to measure what the general public thinks about work readiness for young people.  It found that employers and the general public agree that young people lack both the basic and applied skills necessary to succeed in the workplace.

This is very troubling not only for the welfare of our young people but also the future of this country, and our ability to compete in a global economic market.  And it all starts with education and biology classes like the one my friend is teaching.

Specifically the general public survey reports that “fifty-six percent of those surveyed feel that more than a quarter of young people do not have the skills they need to be prepared to work, and 21 percent feel that more than half of the nation’s young people do not possess the skill sets to be work-ready.”

The welfare of our younger generations, those about to enter the workforce and the ones already working in it, must be a priority for policymakers, businesses and communities. 

New Orleans is viewed as the nation’s “Petri dish” of educational experimentation and how a failing school system can be turned around.  The city still has a long way to go but some positive developments have come out of the creation of more charter schools and recruiting dynamic, young teachers to teach in our worst schools.  However it’s yet to be determined how successful these reforms and ideas will be, and whether this city’s children will receive the education they need to create a better life than what was available to them before the storm.

When I asked my friend how many of her students will enter into a 4 year college she said 10% out of 100.  A few others will attain an associate’s or technical degree.  This has to change because as indicated in the survey and what we all know already, the readiness level of young workers is worse for those with only a high school degree compared to those with postsecondary credentials.

Interestingly enough the main skill that the general public indicated young people lack when entering the workforce is professionalism.   The next areas missing included critical thinking, problem solving, basic skills like writing and reading, communication capabilities and creativity.  Other concerns employers have about young people is regarding their sense of entitlement and unrealistic expectations about the workplace.  There is a sense that this generation wants to shape their jobs to fit their lives rather than adapt their lives to the workplace.

So who bears the responsibility of our future workforce? 

The general public and employers feel that educational institutions (both K-12 and higher education) play a key role.  It will take significant support not only from our education system, but also families, communities and nonprofits that support youth.  K-12 schools and colleges have the primary responsibility for providing the necessary basic knowledge and applied skills such as writing, reading and math.  However employers also have a responsibility to help young people develop their professionalism, critical thinking and problem solving skills.  

I have a lot of respect for teachers.  They have so much responsibility on their hands and are doing what they can to get our young people better prepared for a competitive and demanding market.  But as evidenced by the skill set I saw in my friend’s classroom, I am worried that our kids are falling father and father behind.  As a nation we must prioritize education otherwise the ripple effects in our society in the future will be paralyzing to our economy and overall well-being.

Posted in Economy, Education, Families, Gen Yner, girls, STEM, Successful Workplaces | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »