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Finally breaking the “green jacket” ceiling

Posted by egehl on August 28, 2012

Almost ten years ago, I remember well when the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) brought up the issue of the all-male Augusta National Golf Club refusing to admit women into its prestigious club.  NCWO led a push to crack the club’s longstanding policy against female membership which included a high-profile protest during the 2003 Masters tournament.

At the time, I was a young woman fresh out of graduate school and quite frankly didn’t really understand why it was such a big deal and worth the effort, especially given the many other pressing issues facing women’s rights.  So what if men wanted to have their own club?  As a member of a sorority in college, I certainly knew plenty of same sex organizations and clubs that operated without an issue, and each gender was fine with that exclusive make-up.

However, what I quickly learned was that Augusta National was different because of the stature and influence of its all-male members.  And by shutting women out it was sending a message that it was fine to keep women out of the halls of power, and away from where important business decisions were being made.

It is well known that golf is a popular way for professionals to network, share ideas, and get exposed to higher-level people that can advance their career.  Augusta National is no exception and represents a place where powerful business men come together and ultimately benefit each other’s work.  Without women part of the membership it sent a clear message that they are not significant enough to take part in the important business discussions taking place every day in the club, and on the golf course.

Last week Augusta National announced that after 80 years the club will admit its first two women, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina businesswoman Darla Moore, into the club this fall.  The unexpected announcement garnered a wide array of reaction ranging from praise for the decision to does it really matter in the context of Todd Akin’s ignorant remarks about rape.

So what is the significance of the “boys club” finally changing?  Does it will really help women in the long run? And how symbolic is this decision made by club chairman Billy Payne?

Ultimately the move to admit these accomplished women is symbolic because it shows the importance of getting women access to the business elite.  For decades women have worked hard to earn a right to be in the halls of power in companies and organizations across the country.  Therefore August National’s decision to admit women is an important step in recognizing that women deserve to be in a room filled with accomplished men, and should have access to the same networking opportunities.

While the move may seem insignificant to some in the whole scheme of advancing women in the workplace, anytime there’s a “win” in making sure that women are on an equal playing field as men is important and all part of advancing women’s rights.  When corporate leaders publicly participate in activities that keep women out, it makes a very public statement about the value of women workers and their contribution to the enterprise, no matter their position in the company.  And in today’s society with women making up half the workforce, it’s ludicrous for women leaders to not be in those activities because their experience and point of view should be a part of those discussions and networks.

As Deborah Frett, CEO of the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation, said on NPR “It was never really about golf.  It’s always been about power and keeping women out of the halls of power and away from where business decisions are made.”

Not all single sex organizations and clubs are the same, and those whose policies present barriers to women’s advancement in the workplace should integrate so that there’s a level playing field in networking, exchange of ideas, and exposure to power.  A club like August National represents power and women should not be kept out of the halls of power in the 21st century when women have ascended to roles of stature in government, business, law, medicine and many other fields.

Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore are ground breaking women and strong choices to break the Augusta National “green jacket” ceiling.  They represent the accomplishments and strides that women have made in the workplace and I have no doubt they will be able to go “toe-toe” with the Augusta members not only in discussions in the dining room, but on the golf course as well.  I hope they represent the first of many future female members wearing the green jacket.

Posted in Diversity, Feminism, Gender Discrimination, Lifestyle, Misbehavin' Notification | Tagged: , , , , | 1 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 »

White House Council on Women and Girls Releases New Report

Posted by egehl on March 2, 2011

Yesterday the White House Council on Women and Girls held a conference call to discuss a report entitled Women in America  prepared for them by the Office of Management and Budget and the Economics and Statistics Administration within the Department of Commerce. 

This comprehensive report pulls together information from across the Federal statistical agencies to compile baseline information on how women are faring in the United States today and how these trends have changed over time.  The report provides a statistical portrait showing how women’s lives are evolving in five critical areas: People, Families, and Income; Education; Employment; Health; and Crime, Violence, and Criminal Justice. 

BPW Foundation was interested in learning about all of these areas, especially how the data pertains to women veterans.

Overall the report gives mixed news for women.  It shows that young women now are more likely than young men to have a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and the numbers of women and men in the labor force are almost equal.  Yet wages and income for women remain inequitable.  At all levels of education, women earned about 75 percent of what their male counterparts earned in 2009.  Among the health findings, women still live longer than men, but the gap is closing as women are more likely to face certain health problems, such as mobility impairment, arthritis, asthma, depression and obesity.

This report gives a significant overview of women’s lives today.  The facts help paint a picture of how women are changing over time and the current challenges they are facing.  It is important that as a country we gain a better understanding of women’s social, health and economic well-being so that public policies can be reflective of these needs and changes.  Moving forward this report will be a useful tool in helping stakeholders with a vested interest in women make more sound decisions. 

To see the full report visit the White House Council on Women and Girls website

Here are some of the interesting statistics included in the report about all women, including women veterans:

  • Women are marrying later and have fewer children than in the past.
  • Although more adult women live in married-couple families than in any other living arrangement, an ever-growing number of women are raising children without a spouse. 
  • More women are remaining childless, although eight out of ten adult women have children.
  • Because women live longer, women continue to outnumber men at older ages. 
  • Women are more likely to live in poverty than are adult men.
  • Women’s gains in educational attainment have significantly outpaced those of men over the last 40 years.  Today, younger women are more likely to graduate from college than are men and are more likely to hold a graduate school degree.  Higher percentages of women than men have at least a high school education, and higher percentages of women than men participate in adult education.
  • Female students are less well represented than men in science and technology-related fields, which typically lead to higher paying occupations.
  • The participation of women in the workforce rose dramatically through the mid-1990s, but has been relatively constant since then. 
  • Despite their gains in labor market experience and in education, women still earn less than men. 
  • Because women earn less and because two-earner households have higher earnings, families headed by women have far less income than do married-couple families.
  • Women are disproportionately more likely than men to be affected by certain critical health problems, including mobility impairments, chronic health conditions such as asthma, arthritis, or depression.  Women are less likely to be physically active and are more likely to be obese.
  • Women generally use the health care system and preventive care more than men, but many women still do not receive recommended preventive care such as pap smears or flu vaccinations.
  • Attacks on women by their intimate partners have fallen since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, although women are still much more likely to be victimized and injured by this type of violence than are men.  

Posted in Career Advancement, Economy, Equal Pay, Families, Health, Lifestyle, Pay Equity, Research, STEM, Successful Workplaces, Women Veterans, Women's History Month | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Lessons of Eat Pray Love

Posted by egehl on February 14, 2011

It has been a few years since I read the book, and after recently seeing the movie I was reminded again why the storyline has resonated so deeply with me and millions of other women.  Eat Pray Love exploded into cataclysmic popularity for a reason—it struck a powerful chord and unearthed common threads of joy, pain, loss, renewal and the insecure struggle to follow our hearts that we all endure.  

Now that I’ve read the book and watched the film, I keep thinking about why the characters and plot have been so popular worldwide and what nerve did they hit?  It seems to me that when women universally rally behind something it’s usually because it’s touched upon something that’s not being talked about or remains suppressed in our societal dialogue.  

Very similar to the huge female following and response to Sex and the City, which empowered women to talk openly and honestly about relationships and sex, Eat Pray Love uncovered a popular emotion and angst among women about loving and getting to know ourselves, following our passions and happiness, facing our fears and taking a leap of faith, and figuring out what we really want in life. 

Just like Sex and the City ripped away society’s taboo about female sexuality, I think similarly Eat Pray Love uncovered a universal desire that women crave to discover our truths and to find the courage to follow them.

Stories and characters in Sex and the City and Eat Pray Love forced a conversation among women, and between women and their partners, about the relationships we have with ourselves and each other.  And ultimately how those relationships can lead us closer to, or stray us away from, true happiness and why we continually find ourselves in a perpetual state of self-exploration.  

All women at some point second guess their decisions, ruminate about their current life status or try to resolve what’s missing in their lives.  However as women we often never talk openly about it.  In my experience, many women love putting forth a mask of perfection and will paint an ideal picture for everyone to admire to keep up whatever pretense that seems acceptable.  Many of us rarely discuss what’s really happening behind closed doors for fear of being judged, having our actions and thoughts called into question, or opening up the possibility of doubts being planted. 

Unfortunately that has its price and Liz Gilbert in her amazing journey busts all of that open as she lets us into her very personal journey of self discovery through a period of intense depression, guilt and doubt but eventually crossing over to a place where she finally finds peace, self-love and balance. 

I have read mostly positive reviews of Eat Pray Love, but there are some negative ones too.  The negativity usually stems around how she acted in a narcissistic way by leaving her husband for no real reason, and how unrealistic it is for someone to have the financial means and freedom to travel for a year.  Granted, 99% of people cannot experience the full extent of Liz’s adventures, but I don’t think that was her point in writing this book.  She wrote this book for her own breakthrough, not to pronounce that travel is the only way to seek spiritual renewal and self-discovery.  That is what worked for her and while travel is a wonderful way to find yourself, it isn’t the only way. 

What people should gain and come away with isn’t to follow exactly what Liz did, but to seek your own pathway to self-love and inner peace.  Because as women no matter what life stage we are in, what responsibilities we have or decisions we’ve made, it’s imperative that we must not be idle in what should be an ongoing journey of self-discovery. 

I don’t think you have to travel to a far off land to ruminate and gauge the various things happening in your life.  There are many ways to find avenues for serenity, spirituality and self-learning here at home.   Whatever brings you peace and clear-headedness, whether that’s a yoga class, meditation, walk in a park, swim in a pool or writing in a journal, do more of it.  I believe you can discover the same “aha” moments Liz had in your own backyard. 

Overall what I hope women take away from this story, beyond the wonderful scenery and backdrop, idyllic romance and fabulous characters along the way, is that each of us has the responsibility for our own well-being and ultimate happiness.  It’s easy to fantasize about having a spiritual retreat and traveling around the world like Liz, but underneath all of that was the incredibly strenuous, honest and painful mirror she had to look into everyday to reach the sense of peace and understanding she so desperately sought.  It is our responsibility to figure that out in whatever shape or form that looks like.  And if we take the time to experience that enlightening, sometimes very painful, journey the payoffs will be rewarding and long lasting.

Posted in Feminism, Friendship, Lifestyle, Mental health | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Seeking Middle Ground with the Tiger Mother Controversy

Posted by egehl on January 21, 2011

As a single woman with no kids I am hardly the target demographic for Professor Amy Chua’s wildly controversial memoir about Chinese-style parenting entitled “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”.

Nevertheless the premise of the book has intrigued me because I think it touches upon more than just parenting, but also the notion of how to appropriately challenge ourselves to be our best.

There is no doubt the book has its shock-and-awe moments especially through the lens of our westernized culture, and the overarching view that children should have uninhibited fun and the freedom to be themselves.  While I certainly don’t want to squash our freedoms while growing up, I think as adults we must continually be mindful of our own self-autonomy and goal setting, and that ability starts in childhood. 

Therefore I think the themes of this book can have implications beyond just parenting and insinuate that encouraging our children to strive and expect their best can better prepare them for the trials and tribulations of adulthood.  Granted I think there are ways to interact with children in much less stringent and judging ways so it poses the question of what is the right method to foster self-worth and motivation?

Overall I think Chua’s book has sparked an important dialogue to force us to reexamine how children are being raised, whether we agree with her methods or not.  Her decisions, which are extreme, to disallow her children to go to slumber parties and play dates, accept nothing less than an A, and prohibit the engagement of many popular American activities could be an opposing view we all need to hear, if nothing else, to initiate food for thought. 

Her methods and attitudes may be outlandish, but perhaps we should consider the underlying premise of why she does it—mastery leads to fun and enjoyment, not the other way around, and we are better when we push ourselves to be our best.

Chua’s message that success requires effort is coupled with the message that the child has what it takes and will always exhibit strength if inspired.  I think all children have amazing talents and as adults we should be mindful of how we can help our kids not only reach their goals, but maximize their abilities even beyond their wildest imagination.  Perhaps there are ways to employ some of Chua’s methods in a more tempered fashion.  Children need loving, supportive encouragement to realize their true potential and it’s important they receive that early on in life.  Because that skill set will come in handy once they’re adults and will have to self-motivate and battle their own inner critic.

I am not condoning or necessarily agreeing with Chua’s methods, but I think the book has unearthed a worthwhile discussion.  Maybe there is a middle ground that can be reached somewhere between the often lenient attitudes of Western parents and the overly strict actions of Chinese parents.  Instead of hours of video games or brutal piano practicing, maybe there’s a mix of both? 

Parenting is something that will always continue to evolve and be organic in nature based on our present culture and how each generation reacts to it.  So methods that strike a chord and challenge our traditional views I think only serves us in positive ways because it forces us to take a step back, reevaluate, and either be fine with maintaining the status quo, or perhaps adjust to ideas outside of the mainstream. 

What do you think about Chua’s book and parenting style? 

Are there aspects about her methods that you agree with? 

Do you think there is a middle ground between Chua’s methods and American styles of parenting?

Posted in Families, Lifestyle | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

The Name Game.

Posted by businesswom on December 1, 2010

As I sat at my usual study location doing what Gen Yers do best (multi-tasking due to my short attention span), I overheard a conversation about salutations for professional women – amidst my Facebooking and e-mailing and clicking between four internet tabs annnnnd eating lunch.

The woman speaking noted that women are often not given the courtesy of the appropriate salutations they have worked hard for.  She cited personal experience where women in the military were more often addressed as ma’am, and not as Colonel.  Whereas, their male counterparts received greetings using their hard-earned Colonel title all the time.  She also noted that a Senator had not been addressed by her title until she specifically requested such.  I’m not sure if she was a congressional or state Senator, I didn’t start eavesdropping early enough.  The men in her company skeptically asked her if she really thinks their salutation would have been different if they were men.

Having received a new title myself, doctor, this is something that caught my attention.  I personally don’t mind not being addressed as doctor, as long as I am respected like any other working woman should be.  Just don’t call me kid or assume you can pinch my cheeks just because I am young enough to be your daughter.  I plan to write the appropriate credentials of Ph.D. on my written correspondence, and I’m certainly not sure what to do if by some stretch of imagination I have to do a name change…marriage *gasp*.

Some women hyphenate, some give up their name completely, some keep their name for professional reasons, some create a hybrid name using their name and their husband’s (see:  Ms. Van der Heusen + Mr. Liverpool = Mr. & Mrs. Vanderpool).

How a woman is addressed, and how she chooses to identify herself certainly relates to her sense of desire for independence and empowerment in today’s society.  Is there a preferred standard?

Posted in Lifestyle, Women Veterans | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Prince Charming

Posted by gansie on November 17, 2010

I don’t care. Sometimes you just have to give in to the swoon.

Sometimes you want a prince.
Sometimes you want to be a princess.
And sometimes, fairy tales exist.

Engaged: Prince William and Kate Middleton [Huffington Post]

Posted in Families, Feminism, Global, Lifestyle | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Dr. Condi’s Book

Posted by businesswom on October 20, 2010

I am excited to read former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s memoir, Extraordinary, Ordinary People.  A book publicized based on its appeal to young adults, I believe it will offer inspiring commentary on the journey of a woman to one of the most prominent leadership roles in this country and her life afterward.  You may say that I’m a fan of hers at times:  I was among those eager to see Condi on NBC4 Washington when Barbara Harrison reported on the SOS’s workout regimen for a week, and I watched her recently on the Today Show.

Sidebar:  I am not the greatest fan of the title, but you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, right?  For some reason, it reminds me of New York Times best selling author Lawrence Otis Graham’s “Our Kind of People.”  A book that provides an inside look at the lives of the black elite in America.  I admit this is unrelated, but the connection crossed my mind.

While it is a challenge to pick up a book entirely about a woman who is of a different political philosophy than I, great lessons can be learned from diverse sources and I cannot wait to get to the bookstore and buy the book.  Because of our anticipated differences – which certainly shape how we interpret our personal experiences and how we view the world – I will be paying careful attention to how Dr. Rice chronicles her past in the segregated South and how she addresses the triumphs and tragedies that she certainly faced as a woman in society destined for great things.  I have heard mixed reviews about the memoir, but I will read it for myself.

Posted in Career Advancement, Gen Yner, Lifestyle, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Redefining Work Clothes

Posted by gansie on August 6, 2010

I went to Old Navy looking for bathing suits. “Just bathing suits”, I told myself, “this is not a shopping spree.” Of course an adorable romper, a flouncy skirt and a top also found its way into the fitting room.

I tried the romper on. It was extremely comfortable, but not suitable for public consumption. It was for around the house. “You have a million t-shirts and boxers and pajama pants”, I told myself, “this is not a shopping spree.”

I simply did not need another outfit to lay around in while in my apartment.

Or wait.

My apartment is now not only a place of leisure and sleep, it is my office. And I always need more “work clothes.”

Being a virtual worker now means I get to shop for cozy sweat pants and breathable t-shirts and it is my new work gear. Much cheaper, much more comfortable, work gear.

Oh the life of a virtual worker!

Also in virtual working:
This is What a Virtual Worker Looks Like
Virtual Worker in Need of Place to Work
Eating Virtually

Posted in Lifestyle, Virtual Office | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

News to Chew On: Link Love for Lunch

Posted by sherrysaunders on August 2, 2010

What sports really does for women [Boston.com]

 Benefits for women in health care overhaul [Washington Post]

87% of voters say woman president likely in next 25 years.  Does this seem like along tome to you? [Rasmussenreports.com]

 Women lack confidence in handling their money [Reuters]

VA is stepping up services for women and it is about time. [Washington Post]

Veterans groups struggle to attract younger members and women [wbur.org]

Eight states could elect first female governor this year [MSNBC]

No more ladies nights in Minnesota. An Era ending? [Inside Counsel]

 Young women just as likely to have job as young men [CPR.NET]

Small business taking positive approach to maternity leave [New York Times]

Businesses owned by women and minorities boomed before recession [Washington Post]

Daughters following in military dad’s footsteps [Madison. Com]

Seeking gender visibility equity. Women mission on stamps, statues, money etc  [Shelby Knox

Women’s strong voices in the Obama Administration – are they heard? [Huffington Post]

 Labor in danger of losing women leaders.  [Workdayminnesota]

Forbes’ best cities for working mothers [Forbes]

A bit of history-A look back at a noted BPW/TX member and feminist leader   [Blogs.Chron

First Lady praises women in military service [DOD]

Rep DeLauro supports of the Paycheck Fairness Act [The Hill]

Women’s gains in the workplace are not made at the expense of men [Modesto Bee]

 Stop praising differences between men and women [Huffington Post]

 How to rejoin workforce after long absence [Forbes]

For GOP women 2010 may not be their year [Los Angeles Times]

Whether by choice or because of recession, more Dads at home with kids [New York Daily News]

Posted in Families, Feminism, Lifestyle, Link Love, Pay Equity, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »