The Women Change Worlds blog of the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) encourages WCW scholars and colleagues to respond to current news and events; disseminate research findings, expertise, and commentary; and both pose and answer questions about issues that put women's perspectives and concerns at the center of the discussion.

WCW Blog Bloggers

Are Men Really More Confident Than Women?

Leading a Life in Balance by Joan Wallace-BenjaminIn my recently released book, Leading a Life in Balance: Principles of Leadership from the Executive Suite to the Family Table, I talk about the impact of confidence on one’s career, professional, and personal development, and the importance of building and strengthening one’s confidence over a lifetime. The conversation about confidence often centers around comparing women’s confidence to that of men.

A recent Boston Globe article entitled “The problem isn’t that women lack confidence – it’s that men have too much of it” suggests that women hold back and do not step forward for promotional opportunities on the job, often feeling like they are not ready. On the other hand, whether truly ready or not, men step forward and seek that same opportunity even when their experience and skills do not verify that they are able to do the job. Columnist Shirley Leung chalks that up to men having too much confidence, even when it’s not warranted.

Where does that confidence come from? I contend that it starts when men and women are children. The boys are told that they can do it academically, even when they struggle with math; athletically, even when they never leave the bench and definitely when they do; and socially, even when they’re not so popular, or when they’re shy or introverted – which are characterized as more their choice than a failing of any kind.

In some, though not all, families, the girls are not told the same thing – that they can do it no matter what – even if they are better than their brothers in one or more of these aspects of life. Sadly, girls subliminally believe what they are not told, and believe what they hear being said to their brothers.

When girls grow into women, they come into the workplace without the internal cheerleader that men carry with them. Women must create their own cheering squad: the occasional special mentor that may be a man; other women; the encouraging father; the enlightened female CEO who understands the importance of her words and deeds to her women employees.

But most importantly, I would suggest that they create their own internal cheering squad. Women who are high-performing athletes that receive public acknowledgment for their athletic achievements are often the exception. Most women, though, must build their confidence themselves, and it is a process.

I do not want to focus here on the men or suggest that all men are overly confident and not qualified. That would be far from the truth. What I do want to focus on is, irrespective of the men, what women (and their parents, starting from when they are girls) do to develop and build their own confidence.

In my experience, confidence is the fuel of development. One develops when confidence is strong. One’s confidence grows over time from working hard, viewing failure or mistakes as valuable feedback, persisting, and experiencing continuous success.

The harder a woman works, the stronger (better) she becomes, the greater the likelihood of success, the more confident (that she can do it) she becomes – the better, smarter, stronger, more successful she is. And over time, the willingness and ability to take on more challenging assignments grows because the woman knows she can do it; she is smart, educated, knows how to tackle a problem, and has learned how to learn.

This process, in some ways, can substitute for the lack of external cheerleading that men have gotten from childhood through adulthood, but that women should avail themselves of when possible. Many women, however, are building confidence in themselves and using it as the fuel they need to go far.

When women professionals enter that upwardly mobile spiral of confidence-building, they can be unstoppable. Preparation, knowing the material, studying it and then studying it again, practice, and focus are key. They appear confident and are confident because they are prepared and sure of their ability to get it done.

The fact that confidence can be developed over a lifetime is truly encouraging, because it means that confidence is not just something one has (or that others bestow), but something that one can attain through hard work and effort. It also suggests that in families, in schools, and on the job, an environment that allows confidence to flourish should be created and offered to both men and women in equal measure.

Joan Wallace-Benjamin, Ph.D., retired as president and chief executive officer of The Home for Little Wanderers in 2018 after 15 years of service. She currently runs an executive coaching practice and serves as chair of WCW’s Council of Advisors.

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Now More Than Ever, Title IX Coordinators Need Greater Institutional Support

Dhanya NageswaranSage Carson was raped by a graduate student in her sophomore year of college. In an article for VICE in 2018, she recounts the grave trauma she endured as a result. Unable to transfer schools and experiencing a steady decline in her GPA, Carson was on the verge of dropping out. Who played the biggest role in helping her graduate? Her Title IX coordinator, who connected her with free counseling, helped her get extensions on her school work and issued a no-contact order between her and her rapist.

The rights of students laid out by the Title IX Education Amendments Act of 1972 remain a contentious topic in American higher education, as one in four women and one in 16 men experience sexual assault during their college career. In 2017, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos first announced her intention to overhaul the guidance on Title IX policies issued by President Barack Obama, which she described as "skewed against the accused." After reviewing the whopping 124,000 comments on the proposed Title IX guidelines posted in late 2018, the Department of Education released its new guidelines and policies on May 6, 2020.

The content of the regulations themselves is controversial, but no matter how the rules have changed, the individuals responsible for ensuring compliance with Title IX — Title IX coordinators — still strive to do their challenging jobs. Title IX coordinators are responsible for implementing rules that prohibit gender-based discrimination and harassment, and they coordinate the investigation of all Title IX matters, including sexual assaults. Depending on the college or university, they may conduct the investigation themselves or rely on others within their institution or outside it.

Following a wave of student-led activism in the early 2010s and Title IX guidelines newly issued by the Office of Civil Rights in 2011 and 2014, many campuses reviewed and modified their procedures for responding to complaints of sexual assault of college students. But to this day, Title IX coordinators work to end sexual assault on campus while grappling with the sometimes conflicting goals of institutional efficiency and legal compliance. It is argued by some that unnecessary bureaucratic procedures may interfere with the ability of Title IX coordinators to achieve justice that is both fair and prompt. Moreover, some Title IX coordinators are hampered by efforts to protect their college or university from negative publicity.

Recent reports indicate that two-thirds of Title IX coordinators have held their positions for less than three years — many for less than one year. The research I have worked on with Senior Research Scientist Linda Williams, Ph.D., at the Wellesley Centers for Women supports this assessment of the high turnover of Title IX coordinators and, more importantly, that many of them are not getting the support they need. Programs designed to prevent sexual assault have been significantly underfunded across the country, and we found in the course of our research that Title IX coordinators view support from institutional leadership as critical to their success. Such support includes resources, the visibility of the office, and an approach that legitimizes the importance of Title IX activities (reporting, investigation, and adjudication, as well as prevention) as part of an institutional commitment to respond to campus sexual assault.

For many, serving as a Title IX coordinator provides a great deal of satisfaction. They see the work of educating students about sexual assault as meaningful and essential. But implementation of Title IX requirements is a heavy burden, particularly if Title IX coordinators are not sufficiently supported by their institutions. Without that support, ending sexual assault on college campuses — in the midst of a pandemic, and with new regulations to follow — is an extremely difficult goal to achieve.

As institutions work to implement these new guidelines, equipping their Title IX coordinators with more resources is in the best interest of the safety of all campus communities. Now is the time when strong support by institutional leaders is critical to guarantee that no one is excluded from education because of sexual harassment or sexual assault, and that the ultimate goal of ending sexual assault on campus is achieved.

Dhanya Nageswaran is a member of the Wellesley College class of 2021 who is double majoring in Economics and Political Science. At the Wellesley Centers for Women, she was awarded the Linda Coyne Lloyd Student Research Internship for the 2019-2020 academic year, which supported her work with Dr. Linda Williams on the investigation and adjudication of sexual assault on college campuses.

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A Research Internship that Expands Horizons

Neha LundI never knew that I would have the opportunity to do social science research as an undergraduate until I got to Wellesley College. Towards the end of my first year, with my academic interests starting to gravitate toward Sociology and South Asia Studies, I knew I wanted to connect the concepts I was learning in the classroom to action-oriented research that produced tangible results for communities that I cared about. Through the helpful guidance of my peers, professors, and mentors, I discovered that I could get that opportunity by working at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

WCW’s social justice-oriented mission and reputation for providing meaningful collaboration opportunities for Wellesley students drew me to attend a networking event with students and WCW research scientists. This is where I first met my soon-to-be research mentor, Dr. Linda Charmaraman — little did I know that our conversation would be the beginning of a year full of support, learning, growth, and mentorship. Through the Sophomore Early Research Program (SERP), which provides funded research opportunities to underrepresented students in scientific and social science research, I have been a full-time research assistant to Linda in her Youth, Media & Wellbeing Lab this school year.

As a first-generation student, the idea of entering the world of academic research with no experience was definitely nerve-wracking. However, having such a passionate, dedicated, and encouraging mentor as Linda (who is also a first-generation woman of color in academia) has made all the difference. Linda has not only taught me mixed-methods research skills such as data analysis, transcription, coding, and conducting literature reviews. She has also shown me that there is space in the academy for scholars who look like me and who value the same social justice principles that I do. My SERP experience has opened up the door of academic research as a possible future career path, something I am so grateful for at this point in my academic career.

The main project I have been working on with Linda this year is co-authoring a journal article that explores the blurred boundaries between middle school students’ social media use in the context of school and home. Especially in the era of COVID-19, when learning is increasingly dependent on social technologies, we believe it is crucial to facilitate collaborative, complementary partnerships between educators and parents to best support students’ social media use. One of my favorite parts of the research process has been utilizing concepts and frameworks I have been learning in the classroom, such as in my sociology class on schools and society, in order to add to our article from my unique perspective.

Having the opportunity to contribute to this project as an undergraduate student has allowed me to develop a sense of pride in my work, connecting my liberal arts education with my passion for meaningful practical applications. Our lab at WCW values working together with schools, community organizations, and families, which shows how academic research has the potential to be accessible and change-provoking when created with the intent of contributing to social wellbeing. My experience as a research assistant this year has complemented my Wellesley education through providing me with avenues to exercise my intellectual agency and collaborate with other students and faculty in our lab. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to conduct mixed-methods research so early in my Wellesley career, and it has truly shaped my trajectory going forward. More than ever, I understand how many different ways my education has the potential to contribute to positive change, and I am excited to continue my work in the lab going forward.

Neha Lund is a member of the Wellesley College class of 2022 who is majoring in Sociology and minoring in South Asia Studies. Through the Sophomore Early Research Program, she is also a full-time research intern at the Youth, Media & Wellbeing Research Lab at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

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Research Connections: A Student Teacher’s View on Social Media in the Classroom

Emily VargasIt is the spring of 2020, and my senior year at Wellesley College is not at all what I imagined it would be like. Before concerns about COVID-19 led schools around the country to close their doors, I was student teaching at a nearby middle school and working as a research assistant in the Youth, Media & Wellbeing Research Lab at the Wellesley Centers for Women. Since mid-March, I have been taking my classes online and working from home in California. Now more than ever, as schools are using social networking sites to reach their students at home, I can see a strong connection between what I learned in my teaching role and in my research role.

My work in the Youth, Media & Wellbeing Research Lab involves reading articles and learning about how schools integrate social technology in the classroom, and whether teachers are trained to do so. As I began this work last semester, I was starting my own journey of teaching in a classroom.

From the very beginning of my student teaching experience, I saw how my research played out at school. I saw students dancing to TikTok dances (sometimes subconsciously) as they were talking to their teacher — such a common occurrence that the teacher seemed unfazed by it. As I was learning in the lab, teachers were divided on their feelings towards the popular app. One day as I passed by the library, I noticed some teachers trying to make a TikTok video. They wanted to know more about the app and how to use it to engage students. Not all teachers felt that way — some seemed uninterested, and some were cautious of it. One teacher mentioned to me that she was worried about students putting their personal information online and uploading videos of themselves for anyone to see.

In a social studies class, students were beginning a unit on Brazil. If the semester had continued as normal, I planned to have this class video chat with a friend of mine who was studying abroad in Brazil at the time. I thought it would be a good way to get students excited about their studies and bring more social technologies into the classroom.

Since students are now at home, I am sure they are using a lot of social networking sites. The teachers I was working with are using Google Classroom, and just recently, I joined my mentor teacher’s office hours on Google Hangouts. Through this platform, students are able to socialize and talk about their homework online.

I have been thinking a lot about my own future teaching and how I would like to bring social technologies into my classroom. I hope to use what I have learned in the classroom and in the lab to find ways to engage my students with the things they are most excited about. It is very clear now that social technologies can connect students online and that we still have a lot to learn about the best ways to use them. I hope that as classes move to online formats, social technologies begin to be integrated into more classrooms, and more training is provided to teachers on how to use them effectively.

Emily Vargas is a member of the Wellesley College class of 2020 who is double majoring in English and Education. She is also a research assistant in the Youth, Media & Wellbeing Research Lab at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

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Boardroom Diversity Can Help Nonprofits Respond to COVID-19

Increasing Gender Diversity on the Boards of Nonprofit Eds and Meds: Why and How to Do ItHospitals and universities are facing challenges that many have never seen before as they respond to COVID-19. Universities are closing their campuses and transitioning to remote learning in order to protect the health of their faculty and students. Hospitals are working around the clock to add more beds, secure lifesaving equipment, and acquire the gear needed to protect their staff. These educational and healthcare organizations ("eds" and "meds") need to identify creative solutions to solve these problems in ways that take into account the needs of their diverse stakeholders. Boardroom diversity is particularly important to achieving this.

Almost 14 years ago, the Wellesley Centers for Women published Critical Mass on Corporate Boards: Why Three or More Women Enhance Governance. I wrote this report along with my coauthors Alison M. Konrad, Ph.D., and Sumru Erkut, Ph.D. At the time, we didn’t know how much of an influence it would have on corporate boards. Since then, the biggest for-profit corporations have faced increasing pressure to diversify their boards from major shareholders, advocacy groups, some government entities, and the media.

The largest nonprofits—eds and meds—have not faced comparable scrutiny or pressure. But recent studies in Philadelphia and Boston, two major centers for eds and meds, have begun to shine a light on the low percentages of women on the boards of many of these institutions.

As a member of the Women’s Nonprofit Leadership Initiative (WNLI)—which was founded by my Wellesley College classmate, Happy Fernandez ’61, and is a co-publisher of the Philadelphia report—I learned of the need for research to understand the reasons behind the numbers and what remedies work. So WNLI colleague Carolyn Adams and I conducted in-depth, confidential interviews with 59 female ed and med board members and male and female board chairs and chief executives in 14 states and the District of Columbia, representing every region of the United States. We wanted to know what it’s like to be in “the room where it happens.”

In our new report, Increasing Gender Diversity on the Boards of Nonprofit Eds and Meds: Why and How to Do It, we document that women face substantial barriers to gaining board seats and to serving effectively once elected. Though our study focused on gender diversity, we found parallel barriers to racial diversity and note the impact of the combined barriers of gender and race for women of color.

Removing obstacles for all women matters, not only because equity in organizations must start at the top, but also because our interviewees reported that female directors have positive impacts on the boards and their significant decisions. Women make contributions related to their expertise, as do men, but they also bring different experiences and perspectives to the table, particularly on issues involving consumers (students and patients), culture change, improved governance, and the way decisions are made. An overwhelming number of interviewees believe board diversity can increase effectiveness in serving consumers.

Though these nonprofit boards present some of the same barriers to gender diversity as for-profits, women face additional barriers in nonprofits related to differences between the sectors:

  • FINANCIAL REQUIREMENTS: Unlike for-profit boards, where members are paid a stipend, nonprofits generally expect board members to make financial contributions, sometimes sizeable. That can work to exclude or reduce the numbers of women who are considered.
  • WHO-YOU-KNOW RECRUITMENT: Unlike for-profits, which regularly use search firms, nonprofits rely primarily on board members to recruit new members and are therefore limited by the largely white male social and business circles of the current white male trustees.
  • BOARD SIZE: Nonprofit boards are usually larger than corporate boards, which average 9 to 11 members. In our study, excluding one board with over 85 members, the average board size was 29, and some had over 60 members. Though our 2006 WCW study led the way in pointing to a critical mass of three or more women in order to have an impact on for-profit boards, our nonprofit respondents cited 30% as the relevant minimum on their boards, because of their greater size. Even a critical mass does not necessarily lead to inclusion on large boards, where committees do the real work and executive committees often make most decisions. Exclusion from such power positions, or appointments only in small numbers, can mute women’s voices and limit their opportunity to be of influence and value.

The differences we identified call for change strategies tailored to the nonprofit sector. The strategies we recommend include:

  • Placing less emphasis on a candidate’s financial capacity to contribute.
  • Changing recruiting practices.
  • Shrinking board size.
  • Creating separate fundraising boards.

Embracing change, we found, requires leadership, intentionality, and a full board discussion of diversity.

In the United States, pressure on for-profits has largely come from shareholders. Nonprofit eds and meds do not have shareholders but they do have stakeholders: students and patients and their families, alumni/ae, employees (particularly faculty in the eds), members of communities affected by major board decisions, and donors. Since we are all members of some of these groups, if we, as stakeholders, paid greater attention to the lack of diversity on these boards and organized to exert our influence, we could propel change—putting eds and meds in a better position to face future challenges.

Vicki W. Kramer, Ph.D., is a consultant to nonprofits and former academic. She has co-authored articles in the Harvard Business Review and numerous other journals, as well as chapters in Women on Corporate Boards of Directors: International Research and Practice and More Women on Boards: An International Perspective. She was the founding president of the Thirty Percent Coalition, a national collaboration of for-profit companies, institutional investors, and nonprofits promoting gender diversity on corporate boards.

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Connected Teaching – An Approach for Classrooms, Communities, and the Workplace

connected sequence of paper dollsA recent family conversation reminded me of my (long-ago!) elementary school experience of learning who my teacher would be in the coming school year. I remember the sense of anticipation – who will be my teacher?.

Now, decades later, I am a college professor, and with each new semester, I begin working with new groups of students. I have related anticipation (not as intense, for sure, but related) as I wonder about each new group of students. Will they be excited to learn? As we meet each week for class, will they arrive prepared and ready to discuss the topics of the day?

Who we learn from or teach with is important because we all learn through and in relationship. And I propose this is true not only in school (at any level), but also in the workplace, communities, and other settings. Relational Cultural Theory (RCT) helps us understand this more deeply.

Relational Cultural Theory

Many readers of this blog are familiar with Relational Cultural Theory (RCT), developed by Jean Baker Miller and her colleagues in the Wellesley area and later the Stone Center at Wellesley College, now part of the Wellesley Centers for Women. For those new to the theory, RCT is a human development theory based on the idea that we grow in and through relationships. This challenges many predominant developmental theories which suggest that adults are at higher developmental stages when they are independent or don’t feel they need others. RCT is clear, we are at our best when we engage in growth-fostering relationships.

RCT and Education

While RCT was initially developed and used primarily in clinical settings (e.g. psychotherapy and social work), scholar-practitioners have also applied RCT in other domains including organizations, social justice, and education. For example, RCT is foundational in the WCW program Open Circle, which provides social and emotional learning curriculum and professional development for elementary schools.

RCT and a broader relational approach can also help us become better and more resilient teachers (whether we are in formal educational roles or teach as leaders and supervisors). RCT helps us understand how relationships and even single interactions can be powerful conduits for teaching and learning. Additionally, an RCT lens helps us explore power, cultural context, boundaries, and mutuality in teaching.

Connection and Critical Feedback

For example, the concept of mattering helps us understand the teaching and learning relationship and gives us an important tool for assessment. An essential element of assessment (whether one is a teacher assessing student work or a supervisor conducting staff evaluations) – is being able to deliver critical feedback.

The concept of mattering helps us remain positive and focused on the other person’s growth and development as we prepare and provide critical feedback. Offering critical feedback can be frustrating (for example, when we believe we explained an assignment clearly and imagine the student wasn’t listening) and stressful (e.g. when the receiver is resistant or defensive). By reminding myself that students and their learning matter deeply to me before I engage, I’ve been able to get myself in a good space for providing sometimes-difficult feedback on papers or in person. I believe that at least some of the time, someone receiving critical feedback will be more open if they sense that the teacher or supervisor is coming from a place of respect, care, and hope for improvement. In part, this is about the energy and affect we bring to the interaction. Additionally, a sense of mattering helps us frame the feedback with a sense of hope and belief in the recipient’s ability to learn and grow. So mattering helps us position ourselves for the interaction and frame the message.

Mattering is just one example of how a relational approach to teaching, supervision, and leadership can fuel teaching and learning in a variety of settings. The following questions help us continue to explore:

How have important relationships shaped your learning? How can a relational approach help us:

  • navigate generational differences in the classroom and workplace?
  • balance availability, authenticity, and boundaries in the age of social media and 24/7 access?
  • be more resilient through the lows and highs of teaching and leading?

Harriet L. Schwartz, Ph.D., is the author of Connected Teaching: Relationship, Power, and Mattering in Higher Education and Lead Scholar for Education as Relational Practice with the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute, a legacy project of the Wellesley Centers for Women. She is also a professor of psychology and counseling at Carlow University.

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Reflections from an Undergrad at APA Convention

Dr. Jennifer Grossman and Wellesley College student Anmol Nagar at 2019 APA convention.My name is Anmol Nagar and I’m a junior at Wellesley College, originally from the California Bay Area. Over the past year I’ve done research at the Wellesley Centers for Women with Jennifer Grossman, Ph.D., through The Class of 1967 Internship Program. Our research was a qualitative analysis of how teens talk with their extended family members about sex and relationships. As a psychology minor and an older sister to a young teen, this topic is incredibly relevant and personal to me and our research has been highly rewarding.

In early August, I had the opportunity to go to the American Psychological Association convention in Chicago, IL, because Dr. Grossman’s and my research was chosen to be presented in a symposium called Enhancing At-Risk Teens' Resilience -- Extended Family's Role in Promoting Teens' Sexual Health. Dr. Grossman, Dr. Judith B. Cornelius of UNC Charlotte, and Dr. Emma Sterrett-Hong of the University of Louisville shared their research at the symposium.

2019 American Psychological Association panel speakersAt the end of the presentation, Dr. Gary W. Harper, another prominent researcher in the field at the University of Michigan, gave a summary statement. Then, a Question and Answer section allowed the audience to give their thoughts and ask questions. One question about the applicability and implementation of the work was particularly interesting and sparked questions about policy making and action programs -- potentially a space for future collaboration!

After the symposium, the presenters discussed potential connections and room for future collaboration. Besides our symposium section, Dr. Grossman and I attended a couple of other presentations about aging and dementia and explored the different booths. I had the opportunity to talk to interesting people about everything ranging from graduate school options to healthcare technology working to improve mental health diagnoses.

Apart from the conference, I was able to explore Chicago on my own for a couple of hours! I walked along the waterfront, saw the very famous Bean, and sat in Grant Park for a while. It was my first time in the city, and I can definitively say that Chicago pizza is the best.

Overall, my experience was an exciting chance for me to see the research that I’ve worked so hard on make it to the “big stage” and talk to people who were interested in similar things. I also learned so much about the plethora of post grad options to continue in this field and similar ones. I’m so grateful to the Lloyd family and the Class of 1967 for funding my internship at the Wellesley Centers for Women and for making it possible for me to attend this conference!

Anmol Nagar ’21 was the Linda Coyne Lloyd Intern at the Wellesley Centers for Women during the 2018-19 academic year. She studies economics and psychology at Wellesley College and will be studying at the London School of Economics for her junior year.

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Progress for Girls in Colombia

Susan McGee Bailey In ColombiaClose to half a century has passed since I lived in Bogota, Colombia. In the early 1970s my husband, Jerry, and I had conducted research for our dissertations in there. Jerry’s work explored training pharmacists to provide birth control pills to women in countries where medical prescriptions were not required. My data collection focused on eight-, ten-, and 12-year-old students from different social strata. I was particularly interested in gender differences in their views of citizenship.

After completing our doctoral requirements back in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan, our plan had been to live wherever I found a job. I wanted to work on issues related to women’s equality. But it was 1972. It was frowned upon for mothers with young children to work outside the home. I found nothing. My faculty advisors were of no help and uniform in their responses: “Susan, you have a child. Once you and Jerry are settled somewhere you can find a part-time position.”

Jerry was offered his dream job working on family planning with the Population Council in their Bogota office. We returned to Colombia with two-year-old Amy.

Again I searched for work without success. Inspired by Robin Morgan’s 1970 classic, Sisterhood is Powerful, I started a consciousness-raising group. Eventually I accepted a two-year postdoctoral fellowship from John’s Hopkins School of Public Health for work in Cali, Colombia. The project focused on developing sex education materials for junior high-aged students. Discussions in the consciousness-raising group on sexuality and women’s roles had reinforced my sense that women needed to be in charge of our own bodies if we were ever to achieve equality. And sex education was key. All students deserved clear information about the physical and emotional aspects of puberty, sexual relationships, and family life.

Cada Familia WelcomeBut as much as I believed in my work and as much as I loved Colombia—the food, the people, the mountains, majestic and ever changing as clouds and sun played hide and seek—I realized Amy’s physical and developmental challenges required medical care and educational programs unavailable in Colombia. Amy and I left. I was unsure if I would ever return.

This past January I returned for the first time since leaving for the U.S. in 1974 with my daughter, Amy, but without her father. That 1974 journey eventually led me to Wellesley and the Center for Research on Women* a decade later.

Boarding the flight for Colombia in Boston last month, armed with the positive data that 94 percent of girls now complete lower secondary school, and 43 percent of women are in the paid labor force, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Perhaps I’d feel like a modern day Rip Van Winkle—and in many ways I did. Some changes disappointed me—the pollution and urban sprawl in Bogota, the modernization of smaller cities that robbed them of some of their original charm—but others, particularly those related to girls and women, were encouraging.

The small group I traveled with met the first morning for a tour of Bogota. The day started on a happy nMedellinColombia2ote for me. One of the bits of information our guide mentioned as we passed a large public school was that schools were now required to teach sex education to students starting in the early grades. Recalling the opposition our sex education project had encountered years before, I asked if the requirement was enforced or merely a regulation on the books. He smiled. “Well, Senora, I can’t speak for the entire country, but certainly in the big cities and towns it is a regular part of the educational program. The law was passed in 1994.”

Everywhere I turned there were new highways, parks, and museums. Among all the positive changes, the most impressive for me was Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city and the hub of the drug trade in the 1980s and early 1990s. Time magazine had labeled Medellin the most dangerous city in the world in 1988. Fifteen years later, in 2013, The Wall Street Journal dubbed it the world’s most innovative city.

CableTramsColombiaA spectacular cable car/tram system completed in 2010 transports people from the very top of the mountains to the city center. Purposely built to travel through some of the poorer barrios, the system has transformed them from unsavory and dangerous to typical lower middle class neighborhoods. Riders who cannot afford a ticket are asked to bring plastic bags and bottles to recycle in lieu of the fare.

Our group hopped off the tram in the Santo Domingo barrio on our way down the mountain. As we stood at a small plaza taking photos of the city, five girls in their school uniforms walked up, giggling and staring. Our guide talked with them briefly. They wanted to know where we were from. When I replied in Spanish they giggled even harder. The guide asked about their school, their ages, and what they thought they might do when they finished their studies. Their answers were immediate and self-assured: “I’m going to be a doctor!” “Yes, she is, but I’m going to be a surgeon.”

“Are youSantoDomingoBarrio all interested in medicine,” we asked. “No, I’m going to study psychology,” another replied.

The next girl laughed. “Well, I’m going to be a model!” And pointing to the last girl, she added, “She is still thinking, there are lots of things to do, you know!”

After more small talk and much laughter, they left to walk home, but not before pointing out their public school—a large, new-looking building with a playground crowded with soccer games and cheering onlookers. I was near tears as I thought back to the conditions of many of the schools where I had interviewed students decades ago. Then, most girls, unlike the boys, had been shy and uncertain. These eleven- and 12-year-old girls sparkled with self-assurance. Their exuberance was contagious and inspiring.

I returned home more hopeful about the world than I‘ve felt in many months: Sex education in the schools, young women participating in far greater numbers in education and confident in their opportunities, a greater focus on women in the workforce. Struggles remain—e.g., gender violence continues, the situation of Venezuelans seeking refuge in Colombia poses new challenges—but persistence matters. Progress is often slow, but it does happen.

Susan McGee Bailey, Ph.D., directed the Wellesley Centers for Women from 1985 to 2011. She is currently completing a memoir, Are We There Yet: The Education of a Feminist. The book weaves 50 years of social change and feminist history with the collision of theory and practice she encountered as a single mother determined to shape a career fighting for equal rights while caring for her physically and developmentally challenged daughter.

* Wellesley College founded the Center for Research on Women in 1974 and the Stone Center for Developmental Services and Studies in 1981. The two centers came together in 1995 to form a single organization—the Wellesley Centers for Women.

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A Personal Story on International Migrants Day

Ninotska Love At Wellesley CollegeToday, it is almost impossible not to talk about immigration and what that represents to every single individual in our nation. As an immigrant transgender woman who was granted asylum during the Obama administration, it breaks my heart to see many people seeking help at the borders, but not getting it. My experience, perhaps, is very different from other immigrants, but we all share the same commonality—the hope to build a better future for ourselves and the future of our loved ones.

I left Ecuador based on the persecution of my gender identity. In Ecuador, I was kidnapped and told: “I deserved to die for being who I was.”  I still remember leaving my hometown, Guayaquil, in the middle of the night, saying goodbye to my brothers and my mom with tears in my eyes. I knew that I would not have the opportunity to see them anytime soon, perhaps never again! I took an airplane from Guayaquil to Mexico City.

Once in Mexico City, I was greeted and hosted by a beautiful family. Everyone there was so welcoming and supportive of my journey. We went to a small fair in the town so I could get familiarized with and introduced to their community and business. I walked around on my own and tried to order something from a store but realized that my Spanish was different from theirs. I remember crying non-stop. For a second, I regretted my decision, but I knew I could not go back. My life was at risk back home, so I continued with my journey. 

After a few weeks in Mexico City, I traveled to Aguas Calientes, then to Nuevo Laredo, located on the border between Mexico and the U.S.In Nuevo Laredo, I joined a group of people also seeking asylum and together we successfully crossed the border. Once in Laredo, Texas, we stayed in a hotel room—more than a dozen people in a space that was meant for two guests. We celebrated as if it was our own crossing every time we learned someone else was able to pass the checkpoint, because we knew that those people would eventually have a better future for themselves and their families.

Now, when I passed the immigration checkpoint, I thought I made it, but new challenges were about to start. I faced two barriers common among immigrants: I did not speak English nor did I have U.S. residency. Every story, however, differs from individual to individual. After a few weeks in the country, I started attending a local church that provided free classes in English. That improved my English, so I continued with the classes and started reading and watching English-language television shows.

Three years later, with the help of a pro-bono lawyer, Jhon Sanchez, I was able to apply and obtain asylum to stay in the U.S. When I gained legal status, I started my transition from male to female. Finally, I would become the woman that I always felt myself to be. After my transition, I decided to go back to school to start my life all over again. In 2015, I attended LaGuardia Community College in New York. There, I was treated and recognized as a woman, and no longer had to fear being sent back home. These have been the most rewarding experiences in my life.

For a while now, I have been able to work, study, and continue helping my family from afar. Currently, I am attending Wellesley College, as one of the first openly transgender woman ever accepted to the school. But none of this would have been possible without the vast amount of support I have received over the past few years, from my mom, brothers, family, friends, mentors, professors, and people who have provided their solidarity to me. I am just one example of what, with the support of others and one’s own will, someone can accomplish. I am hopeful that our government can move more positively for the future of many immigrants and their families seeking asylum, for a more inclusive and accepting society. We, as immigrants, matter and all we need are opportunities to demonstrate that we are capable of contributing and thriving, free of oppression and violence. We all should have equal opportunities to succeed!

Ninotska Love is a Women’s and Gender Studies major at Wellesley College. December 17th marks International Migrants Day.

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Poverty, Black Women, and HIV

About twenty years ago, I received some unbearable news about a dear friend.  A highly intelligent, strong, and beautiful woman of African-descent revealed to me that she contracted HIV as a result of having unprotected sex with a man who had the virus. Twenty years ago, I was convinced that the virus was an automatic death sentence for my friend. Thankfully, with advances in medical technology, not only is she still with us but she is healthy and thriving. However, keep in mind that she has the necessary resources that are needed in order to take care of herself, so she can successfully manage her overall health. She is middle class, has a good health insurance plan, has access to the appropriate health care, and has a supportive social network that encourages her to maintain her health.

However, the reality is that many Black women who contract the virus are not as fortunate as my friend. Black women mainly contract the virus through sexual activity with infected men. Many who contract the virus not only must live with HIV but also poverty. As a result, there are higher morbidity and mortality rates among Black women as compared to other racial communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women are 18 times more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than are White women and due to lack of resources have an increased chance that they will die from AIDS. The theories surrounding this staggering racial disparity are complex. However, much of the discourse among published research discusses poverty as one of the main risk factors for the contraction of HIV among this marginalized group.

Research has demonstrated that poverty and HIV are inextricably linked. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 20 percent of Blacks live in poverty vs. only eight percent of Whites. An impoverished woman is much more likely to have an insufficient education about sexual health practices, less access to proper health care, as well as a reduced amount of access to appropriate contraception (i.e., condoms). In addition, research suggests that life stressors fueled by poverty can be the catalyst for mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Such sequela may affect the sexual behavior/practices of women living in poverty that are detrimental to overall health.

This problem is systemic and multifaceted. Addressing this issue through actions based upon the ideals of social justice is key to preventing its escalation. There are several organizations that are dedicated to addressing HIV among Black women including the Black Women’s Health Imperative and the National Black Leadership on HIV/AIDS.

Katherine E. Morrison,KatherineMorrisonPhD Ph.D., is a former post-doctoral intern at the Wellesley Centers for Women.  She is currently the coordinator of the Health & Wellness major at Curry College, Milton, MA. She specializes in the prevention of disease and injury among marginalized populations including communities of color, women, and the LGBTQ community.

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Changing the Landscape of Hate After Pittsburgh

This article was originally posted by Dana Rudolph on the Mombian blog, on October 30, 2018. This weeks marks the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass.

This landscape is familiar, strewn with ash and blood. We’ve been here before, too often, seeking the living, counting our dead. I know the terrain, can pick my way stumbling over the bodies, the stench of fear and hatred lingering in the air; the thoughts and prayers; the headlines and statistics.

I walk here with other Jews after the massacre in Pittsburgh, seeking comfort and strength, as I did with other LGBTQ people after the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, as I have done with other parents after school shootings, and as I know communities of color do every time they, too, are targeted by hate.

This time, though, the tragedy causes reverberation deep in my soul, touching the first act of hatred I ever knew about, one directed at people like me: the Holocaust. My Jewish parents were minimally observant, but conscious of their cultural heritage as the son and granddaughter, respectively, of Jewish immigrants—a heritage that stood out in our predominantly Christian New England community. I don’t remember exactly when I first learned of genocide, but it feels as if I’ve always known.

Later, on top of this, came the knowledge of homophobia. I am a lesbian born two years before Stonewall, and the milestones of my life have shared space with markers of the LGBTQ rights movement. I’ve seen progress–my son was born the same year the first U.S. state ruled that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. I’ve also seen how far we still need to go–less than three weeks after my son’s bar mitzvah came the shooting at Pulse.

In both my Jewish and queer identities, then, I’ve seen hatred and inequality directed at people like me and families like mine. At the same time, I recognize that people of color in the U.S., of all religions, face far more danger and far more inequities on a daily basis than I do. Being White and middle class gives me a tremendous amount of privilege, which I hope I can use to be an active ally to those who have less.

Still, the spectre of anti-Semitism gave me pause when it came time to enroll my son in Hebrew school. My spouse is Christian, and we could have placed our son in either a Christian or a Jewish religious school program. As the child of two moms, he already had one aspect of his life that could make him subject to harassment or worse. Why give him two?

I have never been particularly observant, but wanted our son to experience the part of his heritage that he would get little exposure to in our mostly Christian community and society. Additionally, my father had died about two years before, and I was feeling the need to connect our son with the half of his family that felt like it was fading away—mine is a small family. My wonderful spouse was simply happy that we would be part of a faith community.

I asked myself, though: Am I making our son more of a target? I had to answer that in our country, rife with school shootings, simply going to school could be equally dangerous. And as someone who commuted through the World Trade Center every morning to my job next door until two business days before 9/11, I know that hatred sometimes casts a wide net, regardless of the identities of its victims. The best we can do is not let fear of such hatred cause us to hide parts of ourselves. One lesson I have learned from the queer part of my identity is that doing so causes its own damage.

I’d like to think, too, that in giving our son a Jewish education, my spouse and I have also given him strength: the strength of a people that has survived thousands of years of oppression. The strength of a people that values welcoming the stranger and repairing our all-too-broken world. The strength of a people that wrestles with the tough questions of human existence and still finds joy in each other and the world around us.

That joy is dimmed this week, though. How can we regain it and find our way out of this bleak and too familiar landscape, tainted with fear?

In the aftermath of the shooting this past February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida that killed 17 students, some of the surviving students adopted the slogan “Never again” for their gun control campaign. The phrase has long been tied to the Holocaust, and a few people seemed perturbed at what felt like appropriation for a different cause, even if the students did not do so intentionally.

The students were prescient, however. Anti-Semitism met mass shooting in Pittsburgh and to both we must say “Never again.”

“Never again” means doing whatever we can to stop the violence and hate that only seems to be increasing. That includes reaching out in kindness to our neighbors of all identities, calling our elected officials, voting, supporting advocacy organizations if we are able, putting financial pressure on the supporters of hate groups, and marching in the streets if necessary. It means taking time from our lives when we would rather be doing other things. It means overcoming our small fears (of approaching that neighbor; of speaking in public) in order to hold off the big ones.

It won’t be easy. As the Talmud teaches us, though, “You are not obligated to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” Let us resist and not desist, so that where once was a desolate landscape, a tree of life will grow again.

Dana Rudolph launched the Mombian blog, a lifestyle site for lesbian moms and other LGBTQ parents, offering a mix of parenting, politics, diversions, and resources, in 2005. A member of the National SEED Project team, she manages the project's website content and social media.

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Re-conceptualizing a Classical Educational Concept

 Margaret CroccoEmily Style’s beautiful phrase “curriculum as window and mirror” has had an enormous impact on my work as a teacher and teacher educator over the last 30 years. Other proponents of multicultural education have, over those years, deployed many more words to assert what curriculum ought to be and do. Emily’s lyrical imagery is testament to her skills as both poet and educational theorist. And, generations of teachers are all the better for having taken these words to heart as they consider the choices they make in responding to the students in their classrooms.

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Many Windows But No Mirrors

Sumru ErkutWhen I first came across Emily Style’s words, “A good curriculum is both a window and a mirror,” I began realizing what had been missing in my education at an English language immersion high school in Turkey.

We started with English as a second language material developed by our teachers, but by the middle of seventh grade we knew enough English to be assigned readers that had been used some years back in elementary schools in the U.S. These books had numbers on them such as 3-2 or 4-3, which I later surmised referred to grade and semester levels in elementary schools. One story we read in such a reader has stayed with me all these years. It was about a little girl from New England whose family had moved to an arid town in the Southwest. She was upset that there were no evergreen trees that could be cut to decorate a Christmas tree for the coming holiday. In the story she used her ingenuity to pick a prickly bush that grew in the desert and decorated it with tinsel and ornaments. Happy ending.

The story opened a number of windows for me, a Muslim teenager growing up in a lush Mediterranean climate. Start with Christmas, the need for an evergreen tree, prickly bush growing in a desert, a little girl’s agency to find a tree to decorate, on and on.

What I realized when I read Emily’s work was that my English curriculum had indeed broadened my vision but it did not have mirrors for me to see myself reflected. This realization helped me discover why my learning stood a little bit away from who I was deep inside. It had nurtured an “other” in me that was open to new ideas and knowledge but was not fully integrated with who I truly was, in a way that was satisfying nor authentic. Recognizing the source of the problem was important for me bridge that divide.

Many years later when my colleague Ineke Ceder and I were reporting our findings on the scarcity of women and people of color leading large theaters in the U.S., we advocated for an industry-wide shift in who holds power so that theater programming can more widely incorporate the voices of wider segment of humanity. We wrote, “the function of theater is not only to hold a mirror to the varieties of human conditions, but also challenge it and bring fresh perspectives. In the words of a visionary educator, Emily Style (2014), good theater, just like a good curriculum, must both hold a mirror to and open windows for new ideas.”

Erkut, S. & Ceder, I. (2016). Women’s leadership in residential theaters: Final report. Wellesley Centers for Women. p. 106.

Style, Emily. "Curriculum as Window and Mirror," Listening for All Voices,OakKnoll School monograph. Summit, NJ, 1988.

Sumru Erkut, Ph.D., currently a senior scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW), was a WCW senior research scientist and associate director. Her research interests include women’s leadership, racial/cultural norms and identity in youth and families, and adolescent development.

 

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Reflections on a time in Cabo Verde

Cabo Verde Flag

This article was originally posted by Natália Marques on her Medium blog on June 4, 2018.

I landed in Cape Verde on June 17th. I’ve been here for a while already, but as someone who has just spent the last four months away from home, I know that the adjustment period to living in a foreign country lasts essentially the entire time you are there.

I’m here as part of an internship with the Center for Research on Women and Families (CIGEF). My internship involves participation in a much larger project of labor inclusion for the young women of the community of Bela Vista, Praia. As an intern, I will be conducting workshops on the topic of women’s empowerment, and gender-based violence, as a way to contribute to the end goal of including the women of Bela Vista in the formal labor force. Luckily, I will not be working alone, I will be partnering with Mira, a student studying English at the University of Cape Verde (UNI-CV). Together, we will be researching gender-based violence and leading these workshops.

Last week, I visited Bela Vista. It does not look radically different from other parts of Praia, apart from a larger prevalence of spontaneous settlement housing. Those who cannot afford regular housing will stake their claim to a plot of land by building a tiny, one-room structure, and then slowly adding on to it as they are able. This type of housing often lacks basics such as running water and bathrooms.

Many members of the community, notably the women, are employed in the informal sector. This means that the women that I pass by every day on my way to CIGEF, selling fruit, candy, or cigarettes on the sidewalk, might be from the community of Bela Vista, and might be the women who I end up working with closely.

Based on what I have learned so far, Bela Vista has been characterized as an underserved community. But there is always so much more to a place than it being “underserved”, and I am eager to learn more about Bela Vista’s people and their celebrations, past-times, diversity, food, apart from only their struggles. I was very glad to visit Bela Vista’s community center last week, where I will be holding the workshops.

That being said, I also do want to focus on the struggles of the people of Bela Vista in a more productive way, as in, are there community leaders that are currently fighting for better conditions for the community? Who are they, and what exactly are they concentrating on?

Especially as I am doing research and leading workshops on the issue of gender-based violence, which from what I hear is a prominent issue in Cape Verde. How to the women of Bela Vista understand gender-based violence as an issue in their lives? How do they understand gender, as it applies to them? Do they see obvious, unchanging biological differences between men and women? Do they see a need for women to be liberated?

I am extremely curious to know how these women conceptualize the world around them, as it relates to issues of gender. And I have started reading critical pedagogy, and an important principle that stood out has been that there are no new ideas that I can introduce as an educator. I am not here to teach these women anything new about their lives, I am not here to tell them that they are oppressed, that they must memorize and regurgitate the latest gender theories that I learned in college. I am here to “lend theoretical coherence to available evidence” (as Theodore Mills Norton states). If a theory is valid, the evidence of it is out there in the world. If the women of Bela Vista are deeply affected by gender-based violence, and this violence is mass violence that has the potential to poison an entire community from within, and the only way this violence can be combated is through a radical feminist understanding of the world, then these women and I can work cooperatively to stitch together the evidence that proves this to be the case. If this cannot be done, then the theories and the teaching methodology have failed in their principal objective: to remain rooted in reality. These theories are on trial here, not the “correctness” of theoretical knowledge of Cape Verdean women.

Therefore I want to be the type of educator that challenges both herself and her students to sift through evidence and reach conclusions together. I don’t want to teach anyone anything really, because I don’t think I know much at this point in my life, and because I am very aware of the implications of a white western woman educating proletarian African women. I am very aware of the choices I must make as someone who has been tasked as an educator within a group of people who will share radically different experiences from myself. Intersectionality theorists such as Crenshaw argue that sexism is not universally experienced by all women. Women who grew up in Bela Vista might have very different ideas of gender, and the role it plays in their community. I must learn from them as much as they must learn from me.

These next few days, I need to challenge myself to continue reading about radical pedagogy, gender & feminist theory, theories around abuse and gender-based violence, as well as how this phenomenon exists in Cape Verde specifically. I need to inform myself so that these workshops are as useful to the women of Bela Vista as possible. I hope that I can commit to writing these posts weekly, so that next week I can return by sharing more research that I have done around the topic of gender-based violence in Cape Verde. I am also challenging myself to write each post in both English and Portuguese, so that I can strengthen my language skills.

P.S. This internship experience is made possible through a collaboration between the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College and CIGEF, and by funding from the Anchor Point Fellows Program at Wellesley College.

Natália Marques is Political Science major at Wellesley College (Class of 2019) and the second intern participating in the WCW-CIGEF internship program.

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Wellesley Centers for Women Mourns the Loss of Advisory Council Chair, Activist Deborah Holmes

Deborah HolmesThe Wellesley Centers for Women is mourning the death of Deborah Holmes, Chair of the WCW Council of Advisors and a passionate activist committed to the lives of women, people of color, equity, and social justice across the world.

“Deborah understood the intersectionality of social justice causes as well as the necessity of making change on multiple fronts at once, and she lived it,” reflected Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of WCW. “She brought indefatigable energy and an indomitable spirit to our Council of Advisors, and our global outreach and media impact expanded under her influence.”

Last spring, WCW cosponsored a research forum for change makers, “From Persistence to Power: Facts, Truth & Equity for Women,” in Washington, D.C., during which Deborah spoke about the need to address issues of intersectionality in order to achieve equity for all women in the U.S.

“It is hard to be black every day in America; but at the same time, I love being black. Because we have so much power, and the fact that we are in this room, and in this place, and still strong, and nobody has knocked us down, says a lot about our people,” she told the hundreds of attendees. “We are at a moment now where we have an opportunity, perhaps in coalition with other black and brown folk, to really rise up in a way that we rose up when we shut down the buses in Montgomery, when we forced people to listen to what we have to say.”

At the time of her death, Deborah was the Chief Communications and Engagement Officer at the Women's Funding Network (WFN), one of the world's largest philanthropic networks devoted exclusively to the equality and rights of women and girls around the world. There, she oversaw external and internal communications, brand and reputation management, strategic partnerships, and member relations. Prior to WFN, Deborah served as Chief of Staff and Vice President of Communications at the Global Fund for Women (GFW), where she was senior advisor to the CEO and charged with the development and execution of GFW's mission, vision, and strategies. Additionally, she was responsible for nurturing key organizational relationships and initiatives, enhancing staff and board capacity to steward the GFW brand, talent management, and human resources.

"No one met Deborah Holmes and was not immediately impressed,” said colleague Deborah Richardson, Herndon Human Rights Expert in Residence at Honors College, Georgia State University. “She wore her confidence and brilliance well, while openly embracing you as a fellow sister and comrade. Every moment of her life was purposeful—her yes meant yes. If she committed to something, she was all in.  What I learned from Deborah is we have to do more. Speak out more. Confront injustices more and love each other more. Those who had the privileged of working with her, and the thousands she felt a deep responsibility to—we are all blessed by her many gifts.”

An award winning television news correspondent and analyst for more than 30 years, Deborah worked for local, national, and international news organizations covering an array of issues including race, politics, and social justice. She addressed the importance of quality journalism during the D.C. conference.

“Backing down is no longer an option,” she argued. “The facts matter and we have to get the facts into the right hands of the people—and that includes your friends and associates who need to read and use critical thinking skills. Because there are facts out there. But if you choose not to read them, or you ignore them, then they are of no benefit to anybody. Losing first-rate investigative journalism,” she stressed, “is one of the worst things that can happen in this democracy.”

Prior to her work in women's rights, Deborah was Senior Vice President at a global communications firm, Fleishman Hillard, Inc., where she led client strategy in brand and reputation management, healthcare, and multicultural audience development and initiatives. She was an outspoken activist for issues impacting people of the African diaspora including racial equity and economic and political empowerment. Throughout her career, she promoted and facilitated opportunities that brought diverse voices into public discourse and debate to inform social change.

“This [work] takes time, and so you have to make a commitment within yourself and among your friends that you are going to devote some actual time to this in addition to the knowledge, but we have to show up,” Deborah said.

In addition to her service on the WCW Council of Advisors, Deborah’s board and community service included Global Press Institute, Change Philanthropy Partners, Bay Area Blacks in Philanthropy, Reporters Without Borders, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

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Family, friends, and colleagues are welcome to share their reflections in the Comment Section below.

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How Can We Support Working Parents?

A woman working as a server clears an outdoor cafe table.A few days ago, my eyes fell upon an online post discussing recent studies that showed how unpredictable work schedules in low-wage industries, especially food and retail, are really bad for families. The article highlighted that some practices, such as last-minute notices, on-call shifts, irregular and/or variable work schedules, etc., which are common in many industries in the U.S., harm workers, especially women who care for children.

My colleague, Senior Research Scientist Sumru Erkut, Ph.D., and I had just written about that same topic, as we continue to explore cross-industry relevance with our recent study on women’s leadership in the theater field. Through our interviews, surveys, and conversations at conferences, women had shared with us the challenges they faced in their lives when they wanted to rise to a leadership position in the theater. Our piece, published in Harvard Business Review, showed how some of the theater field’s practices, such as unpredictable scheduling of rehearsals and auditions, the 70-hour tech weeks before a show goes live, and extensive travel demands to get national visibility, all require work-life balance provisions that most workplaces currently have not yet put in place.

Even in this 21st Century, we have not yet come to accept that parenting is a shared component of our human condition. Every industry employs parents who are trying to balance their work obligations with their family roles. In fact, even non-parents can be called into a caregiving role, for example when their ageing parents need help. Gone are the days when a two-parent family could live on a single paycheck and when family roles were clearly divided. Therefore all of us, across gender and age, would benefit from a variety of workplace supports that accommodate our multiple roles as modern human beings.

The business argument for implementing work-life balance policies is fairly clear: these supports will help us stay better focused on our jobs’ priorities and be more productive, because we will be assured our home life is protected while we work. And, these policies will go further than just supporting us while we care for others. I remember the story a theater-study interviewee shared of how a policy change in one particular theater to make schedules a bit more predictable was received with gratitude by non-parenting colleagues: they now could more easily schedule every-day necessities, like medical or dental appointments.

Even though women and their allies have been calling for changes in workplace policies for decades -- and while some were indeed made -- we still have quite a way to go.

In the U.S., parental leave is still largely unpaid, financially penalizing those who start a family, and partially causing the gender pay gap, which becomes a lasting disadvantage for women’s economic security. Once past the period immediately following the birth of a child, working parents still face several more hurdles to be able to balance their family and their work obligations. Not only is the cost of good quality care astronomical, child care centers or other child care providers are organized along schedules that may not align with those of parents who need access to that child care. Public schools are equally uncoordinated with parents’ employment reality. Many workers have weekend duty or work overnight shifts, again most often in lower paying industries. However, there are almost no providers that take in children over the weekend or for overnight care, and most organized care requires a family to enroll with a predictable schedule for an extended period of time.

Thinking back on the findings in our women’s leadership in theater study, we identified that the hurdle to upward mobility among caregiving women is not the lack of a mother’s ambition or her creativity toward addressing those roadblocks, but rather the virtual absence of any workplace provisions. Indeed, women are just as intentional and strategic about their upward mobility as men are, and just as ambitious for that top spot. But, because caring for others, especially for children, is still predominantly a woman’s job, a working mother faces discrimination, lack of willingness to make any adjustments, and forced invisibility, expressed in statements like “I don’t think [women] aspire for that type of leadership role given their family situations,” which we heard in our theater study.

This mothers’ day, let’s honor all mothers in our lives in two ways. First, let’s pledge to share caregiving responsibilities equally in our homes, not just for that one Sunday, but for the rest of the time our loved ones need support. And second, both respect working mothers’ second shift as much as we do her employment contributions, and help advocate for change in policies at work to make that second shift easier to coordinate for all working parents. Showing children how families can be built with intentional gender equity is a crucial gift to our society’s future parents. Indeed, when our children in turn become leaders, their belief in work-life balance provisions will inform their future company policies toward fairness.

Ineke Ceder is a research associate at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, where she has been involved since the 1990s on projects that focus on race/ethnicity, sex education, child and adolescent development, and women's leadership. Her work described above is based on the research she conducted with Sumru Erkut, Ph.D., on women's leadership in theater.

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Helping Children Deal with Traumatic Events

Students sitting at a classroom tableA message from Open Circle, the elementary school social and emotional learning (SEL) program at the Wellesley Centers for Women: Since the start of the new year, 17 schools had experienced the terrifying reality of gun violence. Yesterday, unfortunately, the eighteenth school was added to this list. In light of these and past school shootings, we are writing to share some resources that school communities might find helpful. These tragedies impact all of us, both near and far, regardless of whether we are educators, parents, or students. Building off of materials we shared following the Newtown, CT, shootings, we at Open Circle would like to offer our assistance during these difficult times. It is important that we help schools support students who, understandably, may have questions or concerns in response to this tragic event.

Children may need reassurance that their classrooms and schools are safe places for them. It is important to recognize the needs of individual children who might have a harder time coping with this event than others. Often children who are prone to anxious feelings or those with their own trauma history can be triggered by another traumatic event, even if it did not directly happen to them. In addition to the positive, supportive classroom climate and the social and emotional learning tools that Open Circle provides, some students may need additional time with a school psychologist or guidance counselor to help them manage their fears.

It is also critical that adults get the support they need to help students with their questions and feelings about this tragic event. Modeling how to stay calm and knowing when to ask for help yourself will help reassure students of their safety and remind them that the adults in school will be there to take care of them.

During difficult times, safety, consistency, and predictability are critical to helping children maintain a sense of stability and psychological comfort. Open Circle provides a classroom routine and climate that is safe, consistent, and predictable -- one in which you may be able to discuss sensitive topics. Continuing to do Open Circle, as usual, is very important. Revisiting and applying the following skills and concepts may be one way to help students and adults as they deal with this traumatic event: Calming Down; Understanding Feelings; Speaking Up; and Listening Skills.

Additional Resources:

We recommend the following additional resources from the National Association of School Psychologists on School Safety & Crisis:

Open Circle’s mission is to advance children’s wellbeing and learning by partnering with school communities to foster social and emotional development and caring learning environments.

 

 

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Why the #MeToo Movement Disrupts the Creeping Commodification of Feminism

This blog was originally posted by the International Press Service News Agency and is reproduced with permission from the author.

Headshot of the author, Rangita de Silva de AlwisAs the 62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations in New York draws near, women from every corner of the world will convene to deliberate on the theme of CSW 2018: Challenges and Opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls. This year, the theme of empowerment has added significance. The #MeToo movement has shocked our collective conscience and made it impossible to ignore that empowerment goes far beyond economic agency.

Women’s economic empowerment has enormous consequence. Research from McKinsey & Company shows that gender equality adds U.S. $12 trillion to the global economy, yet women are conspicuously absent from boardrooms and in some communities, school rooms. The evidence is now clear, when women are absent from the marketplace, the market suffers.

Although the cost analysis is important, the #MeToo movement has helped unmask the way in which sometimes women’s economic participation pays lip service to women’s power, while serving those in power. Feminism’s urgent charge is not to commodify women through glossy stories and data, but to pierce those veils to identify the underlying power structures and structural barriers that prevent women’s access to and retention in the market.

Feminism’s latest incarnation, “economic feminism,” poses a complicated challenge to the pursuit of gender equality around the world. By providing legal economic rights to women empowerment is thus framed as voluntary, and structural barriers are normalized.

Herein the champions of economic feminism proudly parade entrepreneurial women as proof of gender equality, a byproduct of a transformation in a society that sees value in women. In this cultural shift, if a woman is not in the marketplace, it is because she has made a choice not to work – and not because of debilitating structural inequalities.

However, this thinking masks patriarchy’s power over women. Economic feminism, in its unquestioned authority, can pose a threat to women’s advancement around the world. The importance attached to economic instrumentalist arguments for women’s rights can hide unexamined challenges.

Without a doubt, the plethora of recent research confirming gender equality significantly boosts economic growth from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), as well as the aforementioned McKinsey study, is to be celebrated for giving a tangible economic reason for countries to improve the status of women.

Unfortunately, this message has been warped by some economies, and economic policies such as Abenomics in Japan supplant important social change policies on sexual abuse and hold back feminism’s goal of full realization of gender equality under law. The reality is that women continue to face inequality that goes beyond just economic opportunity.

Quote from the article: Gender equality in all laws, most importantly family laws, have a profound impact on shaping and advancing women’s economic participation. Several countries, notably Japan, have put forward “win-win” economic policies, but they ignore controversial and difficult social policies such as violence against women. This approach is similar to the nations that peddled the “Asian Values” theory in the 1990s. The better approach is to reveal the interconnectedness of women’s economic participation with equal protection of laws.

For example, in many corners of the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, women have unequal access to property and land. Globally, women’s unequal access to citizenship, residency, inheritance, and decision-making in public and private often subordinate women’s economic participation.

Gender equality in all laws, most importantly family laws, have a profound impact on shaping and advancing women’s economic participation. In many countries, laws that regulate women in their families require women to get permission from their husbands to travel and disallow married mothers to confer citizenship on their children. Several nations have legislation that do not recognize women as heads of household and control their free movement.

Further, laws around the world permit underage and forced marriage for girls. Every two seconds, a girl is forced into marriage. Women married as children will reach one billion by 2030, according to UNICEF.

Martha Minow, the former Dean of Harvard Law School, has argued that the rules of family law construct not only roles and duties of men and women, but can shape rules about employment and commerce, and perhaps the governance of the state.

And not to be forgotten is that violence is one of the most insidious barriers to women’s economic empowerment. Where a woman suffers sexual and other forms of abuse, her capacity to work and function are severely impaired – Fortune estimates that it costs the US $500 billion, but the human cost cannot be computed.

Fortune argues that when talking about equality, the focus should include violence, or more specifically, violence against women. And according to McKinsey, violence is one of the biggest factors holding American women and all other women back.

Feminism’s and the #MeToo movements’ power lies in its potential to disrupt seemingly immutable gender norms. The international women’s rights community, as it convenes in New York in March, should not be swayed by the promise of economic opportunity alone, it must continue to press on issues of violence, sexual abuse and discrimination that disallow women from participating in economic activity, and inhibit women’s full empowerment.

Rangita de Silva de Alwis, S.J.D., is a senior scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women, associate dean of International Affairs at University of Pennsylvania Law School, and advisor to the UN SDG Fund.

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Five Ways to Support Social and Emotional Learning with Children’s Books

The fifth-grader’s voice was full of emotion as he shouted, “That’s not fair! What a mean thing to do!”

He wasn’t upset about an event on the playground, or on the school bus. This student was reacting to an incident described in a picture book entitled Yoon and the Jade Bracelet, by Helen Recorvits. As other students chimed in, the teacher took the opportunity to facilitate a discussion about peer mistreatment, how it feels to be left out, and the role of bystanders. Students expressed genuine concern for Yoon, the main character in the story. Throughout this time of authentic connection to each other and the story, the teacher and his students focused on some key social and emotional skills, such as recognizing and naming feelings, perspective-taking, and empathy. The combination of the book, the teacher, and the children created the equivalent of an electrical current that energized an authentic conversation about how people choose to treat each other.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) identifies the following social competency skills as keys to success in school and beyond: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness/empathy, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Social and emotional learning (SEL) skills can be taught to children in schools through programs such as Open Circle, a program of the Wellesley Centers for Women, which uses children’s literature as a vital part of its curriculum.

Whether books are shared in a classroom, a public library, or a living room, there are some specific ways that educators and caregivers can leverage the emotional connection between children and literature to reinforce SEL skills, including empathy. Some people may make a New Year’s resolution to read more books; I encourage us all to include children in this goal. Here are five ways to support SEL skills through children’s literature:

1. Help children build their feelings vocabulary.

The most basic building block for social competency is self-awareness, being able to recognize and name your emotions. Sharing picture books that highlight a range of emotions, such as Lots of Feelings, by Shelley Rotner, or Yesterday I Had the Blues, by Jeron Ashford Frame, helps children expand their feelings vocabulary and recognize that it’s normal to have many different feelings, including negative ones.

2. Model and reinforce self-management strategies.

It’s important for children to know that they can learn some ways to calm down when they are upset. Books such as Sometimes I‘m Bombaloo, by Rachel Vail, or Mouse was Mad, by Linda Urban, illustrate effective self-management strategies. As you read aloud stories like these, share your own experiences with challenging feelings and describe your coping strategies. Encourage children to find strategies that work for them.

3. Choose books with diverse content.

Emily Style, a co-founder of the National SEED Project at the Wellesley Centers for Women, has written about how curriculum serves as both mirrors and windows for students. Sharing literature that is culturally diverse ensures that all children can see themselves reflected in books, and can see beyond their own world and experiences. Encourage children to explore the perspective of characters who are different from themselves in order to build their capacity for empathy. Books such as the Anna Hibiscus series by Atinuke, or Jingle Dancer, by Cynthia Leitich Smith, can dispel stereotypes and pave the way for building positive relationships and making responsible decisions about how we treat each other.

4. Use an interactive approach.

Megan Dowd Lambert, author of Reading Picture Books with Children: How to shake up storytime and get kids talking about what they see, emphasizes the importance of “reading with children as opposed to reading to them.”

Lambert suggests asking open-ended questions, such as: “What’s going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that?” Open-ended questions also help children connect to their experiences and feelings. For example, you might ask: “How do you think the character feels? What are some things that make you feel angry? (scared, upset, happy, etc.) or, “What might you have done differently if you were this character?” To help children develop consequential-thinking skills, ask them to predict what might happen when a character behaves a certain way or makes a particular choice.

5. Choose books children can connect with.

Anyone who has read with one child, or a group of children knows that literature engages both the heart and the mind. Pairing the right book with a child, and helping her explore personal connections to the story completes the circuit to power up social and emotional learning. For inspiration, get started by looking at Open Circle’s list of children’s books connected to SEL.

Peg Sawyer is a trainer and coach at Open Circle, a program of the Wellesley Centers for Women, that provides a unique, evidence-based social and emotional learning program for grades K-5.

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How the Power of Representation Transformed My Wellesley Experience

Budnampet RamanudomBy the end of my first year at Wellesley College, I knew that I wanted to explore the world of research. I had taken the first of many gender studies courses to come, and left class with a head full of questions that I not only wanted answers to, but wanted to take a stake at answering. A stroke of luck brought me to an event for students to meet with research scientists at the Wellesley Center for Women. A stroke of better luck brought me to Dr. Linda Charmaraman.

She was the only researcher I gravitated towards, the only researcher I left my resume with. Conducted research on media and identity? Check. Person of color? Check. Personable and inviting? Check, check, and check. One application, two interviews, and a letter of recommendation later, I was offered a position as a research assistant for the next school year. Little did I know that by accepting the offer, I would also be gaining an invaluable undergraduate experience shaped by inspiration, warmth, and empathy.

There is something really special about being able to work with someone who looks like you. This is something you often hear as a Wellesley College student, though its meaning is often one dimensional ( Women in politics! Women CEOs! Women in STEM!). I really came to understand the power of representation in two ways: when it became personal and when it became central to the research I was helping bring to life.

The power of representation became personal when I began to cultivate a mentor-mentee relationship with Linda. Our weekly/bi-weekly research check-ins were not only crucial for the advancement of the qualitative research we were conducting and my own research skills, but also for developing my own sense of worth and potential. Little by little, I was able to learn about Linda’s life and experiences, research and otherwise. I found out she was Thai (like me)! I found out that she also struggled in her undergraduate years (who knew that researchers were not perfect?). She spoke about her queerness in ways that normalized my own burgeoning questions about sexuality and gender. She validated my questions, hopes, and fears no matter how naive, incomplete, or overwhelming. I was learning so much from someone who shared my most salient identities - - from a successful academic whose work brimmed with passion. If she could do it, maybe I could too.

Themes surrounding representation were also crucial to the research that Linda was allowing me to take part in, providing an important link between the personal and the professional. In our new round of research, Linda entrusted me with the task of selecting the participants for our qualitative interview. I took a chance and spoke to Linda about my interest in highlighting South and Southeast Asian participants, knowing fully that this demographic/ group of people who looked like me seemed to be underrepresented in bodies of research. I will always remember the feeling of being able to capture the lived experiences of people who looked like me - - to be able to document their narratives in a way that emphasized the diversity of the Asian American community. In one interview session, a fellow Southeast Asian American student ended the interview with an emotional thank you. She told me that it meant so much for her to not only be able to contribute to a body of work that sought to capture her experiences, but to know that the academics themselves were also Southeast Asian. She told me that she had never seen herself in research papers. She told me that she was excited. Representation really matters. Representation has a real impact on real people.

Now at the tail-end of my Wellesley College experience, I now understand how lucky I was to be able to engage with such meaningful work so early in my academic life. I hope to be able to continue to contribute to the world of academia in a way that is similarly passionate and emotionally driven. I want to live my life knowing that I am actively working to raise the voices of those that are being systematically ignored. I hope to do all of this with the same kindness, patience, and grace that Linda has given me.

Budnampet ‘Pet’ Ramanudom ’18 was the Linda Coyne Lloyd Intern at the Wellesley Centers for Women during the 2015-16 academic year. She studies Computer Science and Women and Gender Studies at Wellesley College.

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Guest — Erika kates
What lovely testimony, personally and professionally, Linda. You do wcw proud.
Wednesday, 24 January 2018 16:13
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What’s Our Resolution to Progress Gender Balance in the Workplace?

As we enter 2018 with eager anticipation, it is a natural part of the transition into the new year to establish personal and career resolutions. Many business leaders consider ways to refresh the strategy for their organizations seeking to answer questions such as “How can my team help our organization achieve its goals with a greater impact?”

For Capgemini’s North America Corporate Responsibility Team, the answer is easy… We understand that to realize sustained change for greater gender equality we must facilitate courageous conversations, identify opportunities for improvements as they arise, and maintain accountability for our progress through measurable goals.

Some context on our current state:

In 2016 and 2017, Capgemini in the U.S. and Canada, respectively, became EDGE Certified. EDGE is the leading global assessment methodology and business certification standard for gender equality. Capgemini was awarded the recognition after a third-party review of its inclusion practices across five dimensions: equal pay for equivalent work, recruitment and promotion, leadership development training and mentoring, flexible working, and company culture. This recognition confirms our commitment to gender balance through impactful actions across North America, which include new benefits such as our backup care program. We will continue to be an innovative environment where our talent helps our clients transform business through solutions fueled by inclusion, diversity, and team development.

Capgemini’s EDGE Certification set the stage for our thought leadership on diversity measurement in the workplace enabling best practices sharing with other companies and community partners. In 2017, Capgemini sponsored two external events with the Anti-Defamation League’s Women’s Initiative, which had cumulative audience totals of over 600 attendees. Capgemini representatives joined other business leaders in addressing global gender balance challenges and the related topic of unconscious bias.

In July and December of 2017, Capgemini North America hosted its first Women in Digital sessions in San Francisco, CA, and New York, NY. Capgemini’s Global Women@Capgemini Group created this strategic program to explore how women are driving change as executives, navigating organizations through digital disruption to innovation.

Capgemini was also proud to support the National Diversity Council’s Women in Leadership Symposiums (WILS). The program’s mission is to bring together a diverse mix of successful women leaders who, through the discussion of topics relevant to today’s issues, educate, inspire, and encourage women to reflect on their own goals and status as they strive to move higher in their organizations.

Finally, Capgemini enhanced our Women’s Leadership Development Program (WLDP) to ensure a positive impact on the development of our women leaders. As a three-month program designed to provide training, mentoring, career objective-setting, and coaching for women in North America, WLDP is a signature program of the company’s talent development initiatives.

Our resolution for 2018:

We recognize that we need existing and future leaders contributing to the conversation on gender balance and equality in the workplace. This year we will empower our North America Employee Resource Group Leaders to build on last year’s 16,000+ hours of engagement through a focus on deeper partnerships with our leaders and clients to drive accountability across organizations, not only on gender balance but on all aspects of diversity and inclusion. In 2018, we will partner with our clients on everything from unconscious bias training to volunteering. We will continue to make progress by holding ourselves accountable to be the change we want to see through our behaviors anchored by our seven core values and leadership commitments. We’ve found past success where our grassroots efforts met our leadership goals and expect this year’s results to take us even further.

Janet Pope is a member of the Wellesley Centers for Women Council of Advisors. Additionally, she and her colleague Yvonne Harris work to grow the reach of Diversity & Inclusion initiatives at Capgemini North America.

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Guest — Haresh
Nice work
Saturday, 12 January 2019 02:43
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Adding a Lone African American to its Board is Unlikely to Solve Facebook’s Diversity Challenges

 In a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus earlier in October, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, made a public commitment to appoint an African American to its currently all-white board of directors – in the foreseeable future.

The promise came when members of the Congressional Black Caucus were questioning Sandberg about the lack of diversity on Facebook’s board and at all levels of employment at Facebook where only three percent of employees are African Americans, and there are no black executives. Lawmakers confronted Sandberg about Facebook advertising that has been linked to Russian accounts purchased during the 2016 election that were connected to Black Lives Matter. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus said that if more blacks were in decision making positions, the connection with Russian accounts and anti-Black Lives Matter content may have been caught before the FBI looked into the issue.

But is one African American board member going to be able to bring a loud enough voice to change the status quo on the board and also move the company toward greater diversity in its rank and file? Drawing on our research on how many women it takes to change corporate board dynamics we conclude that a lone member of an underrepresented group is unlikely to be an effective voice for change.

My colleagues Vicki Kramer, Allison Konrad, and I interviewed 50 women directors, 12 CEOs (nine male), and seven corporate secretaries at Fortune 1000 companies. We found that the benefits of having women on a corporate board are more likely to be realized when three or more women serve on a board.

While even one woman can make a positive contribution, more typically, the token minority person is simultaneously invisible as a peer who can contribute and hyper-visible for being different from the majority, with irrelevant aspects of their demographic difference overshadowing their professional skills. We heard examples of lone women directors being talked over and otherwise ignored when they responded to a strategy question but asked about their preference for home decorating. In other words, being a token tends to be a powerless position.

Having two people different from the majority is generally an improvement over the token position. But it is corporations with three or more different people on their boards that tend to benefit the most from the diverse perspectives they can bring. Our results showed that with three or more women, board discussions expanded to include the interests of multiple stakeholders, including the community and to pursue answers to difficult questions such as CEO compensation and diversity. Three or more women were also able to change board dynamics toward a more collaborative approach to leadership, improving communication among directors and between the board and management.

Important to note is that Facebook’s board is currently comprised of eight individuals—six white men and two white women—and two of these individual are the inside directors, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg. This elite structure reflects the lack of a wider perspective of viewpoints, experiences, concerns, priorities, and sensitivities. While this may have helped the organization’s growth, there are corporate responsibilities beyond the bottom line.

If Facebook is serious about its diversity problem, adding one African American to its board is not going to be enough. It takes a critical mass of three or more people who are different from the majority to bring about change on a board.

Sumru Erkut, Ph.D., is senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. Her research interests include women’s leadership, racial/cultural norms and identity in youth and families, and adolescent development.

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In India, Action to End Child Marriage Has a Long Way to Go

The Supreme Court of India ruled last week that sex with one’s wife under 18 years of age will be deemed as rape for which the husband can face up to 10 years of imprisonment. This judgement, being hailed as “landmark” by Indian media, irons out a major discrepancy in the Indian law: while the age of consent for women in India is 18, an exception in the Indian penal code allowed men to have sex with their wives between 15-18 years of age regardless of their consent (Indian law does not acknowledge marital rape).

While it is indeed a laudable step on part of the Indian judiciary that called out the “artificial distinction” between a married girl child and an unmarried girl child to be “arbitrary and discriminatory”, the judgement puts the spotlight on the issue of child marriage itself. A recent study conducted by IndiaSpend -- a journalism non-profit -- found that nearly 12 million Indian children are married before the age of 10, a mind-boggling figure that shows that child marriage continues to be a real and persistent threat in the country. We also know that early marriage can be disastrous for a girl’s sexual and reproductive health. According to Girls Not Brides, complication in pregnancy and childbirth is the leading cause of death in girls aged 15-19 globally. Considering that, this indeed is a landmark judgement which will now present a barrier to men wanting to consummate their marriages with their underage brides. However, the moment one begins to think about the wider socio-cultural context that child marriages take place in, the judgement sounds wildly optimistic and impracticable.

It is common knowledge that there is a link between lower levels of education and early marriage. The IndiaSpend research also found that as many as 5.4 million married under the age of 10 were illiterate, and 80 percent of them were female. Given that we are talking of a largely illiterate female population that is subjected to child marriage, what are the chances of them seeking legal recourse when faced with the prospect of forced consummation of marriage? Child marriage is also very often a discreet affair, one that is deeply entrenched in patriarchal values and traditions, and wary of the State machinery. Given how little agency a girl child has in a marriage, it is highly unlikely that she will report her husband for having sex with her. What, then, is the way forward? The obvious answer is education. It has always been known that educating girls and boys is one of the most effective ways of eradicating child marriage. Even the government of India acknowledged it when it said that child marriage is a reality in India due to economic and educational inequalities. However, what our government really meant was that given that child marriage is a reality, we might as well allow the consummation of marriage before the legal age of consent because “the institution of marriage must be protected”.

The government’s paranoia regarding the institution of marriage, as if it were more endangered than the Bengal tiger, is preposterous. And I don’t mean to be facetious about this. The government’s delusion is both amusing and scary; it has used this defence not only to argue for lower age of consent in child marriages but also against criminalizing marital rape which is an ongoing battle in the courts. In fact, in defence of not criminalizing marital rape, the government said that India could not follow the lead of western countries as “India has its own unique problems due to uneven literacy, economic and social diversity." Granted that India is an extremely complex terrain for the implementation of any such law, it cannot be used as an excuse for maintaining the status quo. Besides, it is not the government’s job to uphold the institution of marriage and what they call the Indian family system, based on the assumption that sexual consent is implicit in marriage and a nod to women’s autonomy will destabilize the institution. This is important because unless the government gets its priorities right, it will not be able to focus on levelling the “uneven” playing field that it acknowledges as the cause of social problems, also required for the effective implementation of women-friendly laws.

Nandita DuttaNandita Dutta is deputy manager at the Centre for Studies in Gender and Sexuality (CSGS) at Ashoka University in India. CSGS is a partner of the Wellesley Centers for Women.

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Envisioning a World of Feminist Peace

Since 1981, the United Nations has observed International Day of Peace on September 21. In its resolution, the UN marked the day as a “globally shared date for all humanity to commit to Peace above all differences and to contribute to building a Culture of Peace.” But how far along are we in this process? Terrorism, nuclear weapons, militarization, and other visible forms of violence are in plain sight. And if one considers the hidden and silenced forms of violence, it is difficult to be optimistic.

As a global and long term trend, some popular and academic publications would have us believe that violence in the world (from wars to homicide) is declining. Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, the 2013 Human Security Report, or Joshua Goldstein’s Winning the War on War argue that the data at our disposal shows that, not only has the number of interstate and intrastate wars decreased, battle-related casualties have also been in a downward trend since the end of the Cold War. Pinker goes as far as saying that recorded violent deaths have been on the decline at least since 10,000 BCE.

As feminists, however, we know better than to trust just numbers as if they were the only data at our disposal. Feminist scholarship and advocacy shows that those numbers and statistics are misleading, particularly as they ignore and make invisible violence against women and girls (VAWG). Monash University Professor Jacqui True claims that if qualitative and quantitative data on VAWG are taken seriously, we are not witnessing a decline in violence, quite the opposite. Feminists have exposed the extent and gravity of political violence committed in the home (so commonly characterized as non-political, because ‘domestic’); the underreporting and ignoring of sexualized and gender-based violence; and the multiple forms of harm – psychological, physical or economic – suffered by women and girls as a consequence of unequal gendered power structures during armed conflicts as well as in so-called peace times.

Feminist insights compel us to make violence and threats of VAWG central to our definition of peace. If VAWG is increasing, we cannot really say that we, as a human species, are getting better at peace. The challenge is then to recognize and make visible VAWG, its causes and consequences, as a precondition to, but also as inextricably linked to achieving a more peaceful and just world. In the view of the world’s longest-operating international women’s peace organization – Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), feminist peace is expansive and inclusive. It is about recognizing all forms of oppression and violence as interrelated; about questioning how systems of power and privilege – from neoliberal capitalism and patriarchy, to militarism and racism – underlie and sustain a violent world; about providing feminist visions and models for a different, more just and peaceful future.

WILPF has been one of many women’s peace organizations who successfully lobbied the UN Security Council to recognize, in Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325), that peace and security are linked to gender equality. Specifically, UNSCR 1325 – and several follow-up resolutions in subsequent years – created obligations for UN member states and other parties in armed conflicts – i.e., non-state actors, militias, humanitarian agencies, etc. – to adopt a “gender perspective” in the prevention of war, in peace processes, and in relief and recovery efforts. Often criticized for, among other things, adopting a narrow view of gender, UNSCR 1325 nevertheless recognizes the particular ways in which women are victimized during war, as well as the ways in which they participate in armed conflicts and in subsequent peace efforts.

A 2015 report on the implementation of the resolution – authored in consultation with women’s groups across the world by Radhika Coomaraswamy – shows, however, the chasm between feminist peace activists’ goals and the political and financial support their agenda receives from international and state policymakers. For example, despite growing evidence that women’s participation in peace negotiations contributes to the durability of peace agreements, there continues to be a reluctance to include women in conflict resolution and peace-building processes. Despite strong links between women’s rights (such as the right to education, health, political participation and leadership, or property) and their security and bodily integrity, gender equality is yet to become a central organizing principle of post-conflict humanitarian assistance, development, or human rights work.

Coomaraswamy’s report offers unmistakable evidence of the connections between justice, peace, and gender equality. Commitment to “Peace above all differences” and to “building a Culture of Peace” commands us, then, to take seriously both the work of feminist peace advocates and feminism as a lens with which to approach questions of peace, justice, and security. Only then can we begin to establish the conditions and institutions that nurture and support non-violent and just human relations, and recognize the inherent worthiness and dignity of every human being.

Scholar and activist around issues of peace and gender, Catia Confortini, Ph.D., is an associate professor of Peace and Justice Studies at Wellesley College and a member of the Wellesley Centers for Women Council of Advisors.

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Back to School, This Time with Social and Emotional Learning

It’s back-to-school time and families, youth, and educators must adjust their schedules for another school year. In the midst of the forms and information families receive – or that get “lost” in a child’s backpack or locker – you may have heard something about a social and emotional learning (SEL) initiative or curriculum. In fact, the local school system in my rural, seaside community is convening a team of educators to consider how SEL can inform and improve what teachers are already doing to promote positive youth outcomes.

SEL refers to the way individuals learn and use a set of social, emotional, behavioral, and character skills to navigate successfully in school, work, and relationships across the lifespan. Related experiences, programs, and curriculum vary widely just like the school or afterschool settings in which they are taught. Whether the particular program is focused on conflict resolution, character education, bullying prevention, or another version of social skills instruction, the development of SEL programs is based on the consensus among social scientists, educators, and health care professionals that social and emotional skills matter. The positive youth outcomes from high-quality, evidence-based SEL programs include improvements in behavior, attitudes, and academic outcomes. (Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405- 432).

Across the country at all levels of education – from state administrators of federal child care funds to infant-toddler and early childcare teachers or public school and afterschool leaders – a focus on SEL practices is gaining ground. For many, this is not a new conversation.

Here at the Wellesley Centers for Women, SEL has been an ongoing part of our work for the past thirty years.

  • In 1987, Open Circle was launched as a research project committed to the social and emotional wellbeing of children. Today, Open Circle provides a unique, evidence-based SEL program for grades K-5 aimed at proactively developing children’s skills for recognizing and managing emotions, positive relationships and problem solving, as well as helping schools develop a community where students feel safe and engaged in learning.
  • The National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) has brought national attention to the importance of children's out-of-school time using research, training, and advocacy to strengthen children's emotional, physical, and social development.

From my desk at NIOST, I’m starting the school year by working at the national, state, and local levels to support educators and administrators in their efforts to promote positive youth outcomes, especially in the expanding field of SEL. Specifically, I am researching the SEL programs that states are currently adopting in preparation for our forthcoming workshop for out-of-school time (OST) leaders on how to integrate these practices into school-age child care or other OST settings. As I do this work, my background as a former school committee member and education advocate means I can’t resist passing along the newest SEL information that comes across my desk to the regional school administrators in my community who are convening the SEL planning discussions for local schools.

If you want more information about SEL programs and practices, check out the Wallace Foundation’s May 2017 report, Navigating SEL from the Inside Out.

If you simply want to celebrate the importance and purpose of afterschool care for the wellbeing of children and families, consider joining the 18th annual Lights On Afterschool on October 26, 2017. This campaign includes a series of events across the U.S. promoting awareness of the many ways OST programs contribute to positive youth outcomes and children’s wellbeing.

If you have other ideas or resource recommendations for how SEL can be incorporated more into OST programming, please share in the comments. Let’s make this a rewarding year all-around for our young people and those who support them!

Gwynne Guzzeau, M.S., J.D., is a research associate at the National Institute on Out-of-School Time at the Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College. She has been affiliated with the Gestalt International Study Center for a number of years as a faculty member and Professional Associate and served as executive director from 2014-2016.

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Guest — Ben
As a teacher and writer, I can say that, firstly, the problem of education has always related to the social series of concepts and... Read More
Wednesday, 19 September 2018 09:38
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For the Trailblazing Women Who Mentor Me

January is National Mentoring Month, a time to recognize the value of mentoring in all its forms. Kavindya Thennakoon ‘19, a student assistant in the WCW communications department, reflects on the profound impact that mentors have had on her path to Wellesley and beyond.


Kavindya with her mentor AntoniaMentorship was the reason I came to Wellesley College, all the way across the globe from Sri Lanka. Back in 2013 on the day of the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl Child I was given the opportunity to address the Sri Lankan parliament on the status of young women in Sri Lanka and on what can be done to make things better. I spoke on how Sri Lanka lacked a comprehensive sex education curricula, how the judiciary victim-blamed women and girls, and how male parliamentarians sitting in the audience had set a very bad precedent.

Little did I know that in the audience were two Wellesley women, the past U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka Michele Sison (Class of '81) and UNRWA chief of staff Antonia DeMeo (Class of ’89) who was the UNICEF deputy representative to Sri Lanka at the time. In the years to come Antonia became such an important part of my life -- a mentor if not for whom Wellesley would have remained just a distant dream.

Antonia has remained such an incredible role model, who I constantly run back to for advice, guidance, and reassurance. For me, both my mother and Antonia were such good role models of women who’ve broken the barriers, defied the norms, and shattered the stereotypes.

Coming into Wellesley I was embraced by a host of wonderful mentors, from Sarah Isham and Elizabeth Mandeville (Class of ‘04) from Career Education, who connected me with a number of great opportunities while helping me figure out my options and interests, to Milena Mareva (Class of ‘01) from Admissions and Karen Pabon from Slater International Center, who were always there with advice and support to handle the tough transition from home to college. From there I made my next stop at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) and I couldn’t have possibly asked for anything better.

My work here at the Centers as a communications assistant is something beyond a mere task-oriented job. To me, it has been a learning journey where I’ve gathered such important skills in the areas that I am most passionate about. It’s such a refreshing change to be mentored and guided rather than merely supervised, which is the exact environment that the WCW communications team members, especially Donna Tambascio and Megan Cassidy, have created.

At WCW I have ample creative space to work on projects that I am interested in, to work with software that I am keen to know more about, and to learn something new every day instead of ticking a to-do list. More than anything else, it’s such a great feeling to work under people who value your mental health and wellbeing above all else, and who are ever ready to give you all the space and time you need to recover. Looking back at my journey starting off in a community where girls are not allowed to be out on the streets past seven and where rape victims are blamed for their dress and chastity, I can not stress enough the critical role played by the trailblazing mentors in shaping my life.

Young adults who face an opportunity gap, but have a mentor, are 55 percent more likely to be enrolled in college than those who did not have a mentor, according to a 2014 study commissioned by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. However the report also stated that 1 in 3 young people in the U.S will grow up without a mentor. This number could grow when considering countries like mine where the concept of mentorship is still foreign. Having a safety net of women who you can fall back on for advice, guidance, and mentorship is a chance that every girl deserves. In a world where board rooms are tipped off balance, where feminism is a crime, and where women are constantly othered every step of the way, we all need that extra push.

Kavindya Thennakoon is a student assistant in the communications department at the Wellesley Centers for Women. She is a Wellesley College sophomore (Class of ‘19) double majoring in Anthropology and Cinema and Media Studies.

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World AIDS Day: Reflections and Hopes from an African Village

The Pearl Community Empowerment Foundation, (PCE) my persistent mission and struggle, is building a firm foundation for Uganda's rural young people as well as shaping the attitude and consciousness of the grassroots people. This World AIDS Day, I would like to reflect about the Amor Village community, the village where I was born.

Amor Village is composed of 871 households; with a population of 1,479 people. This is a very poverty-stricken community, composed entirely of farmers who rely on agriculture for their income and rain drops for their food production. Every household has a history of HIV-- either someone has died or is living with HIV. Of these, 77% are young people below 30 years of age. This has left so many orphaned children, struggling to survive and make a living for/by themselves.

Our HIV/AIDS interventions have been very minimal, due to lack of the necessary resources required to respond to the needs of the community. For example, there's a family of four—a father, mother, and two sons--all infected by HIV/AIDS. Such a family needs psychological support, food, and medication as well as education for the two boys. This is just one of the examples of families in need of our support, but within the wider community of the 24 villages we are currently supporting through educational interventions.

That said, we have registered achievements in terms of our health interventions: 812 rural girls received education about the dangers of early sex, teenage pregnancy, and early marriages; 104 rural boys received education about condom use and HIV/AIDS risks. We partnered with the AIDS Support Organization (TASO) which provided HIV counseling and testing for 203 people in the community. In conjunction with Open Circle, a project of the Wellesley Centers for Women, we conducted a Life Skills training for 106 people, including youth, teachers, and parents; communication, problem-solving , and leadership skills were some of the topics of the training. This project was funded by the International Research & Exchanges (IREX).

We have barely scratched the surface of possibilities, and with support we hope to move forward with our preventative health initiative such as facilitating the counseling and testing of the local people, HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns, and general education about reproductive health, family planning, and parenting. We will be able to implement programs to meet our health goals after we acquire resources such as a laptop, projector, generator, camcorder, cameras, stationary, funds for the rental of venues, facilitating the consultants and the project implementer.

The PCE Foundation is a Ugandan national rural development and empowerment NGO founded in 2011 to empower rural communities through dynamic but simple programs that directly involve and benefit community members, especially women and children, currently operating in rural communities of the Tororo and Buteleja districts in Eastern Uganda. The Foundation embraces community-driven solutions to community challenges. This fosters the implementation of not only relevant/appropriate need based but also sustainable projects. In line with this principle, the PCE Foundation has identifies community needs that are developed into fully fledged projects, that benefit individuals and families directly affected by HIV/AIDS.

My journey over the last five years, since I founded the PCE Foundation, has transformed my life. Little did I know, after having lost nine siblings to HIV/AIDS, that I would have so many people from across the world sharing their care, resources, and love. I am enriched by this large global family, and my neighbors and villagers are, too.

Beatrice Achieng Nas, BSC, was Community Solutions Program Fellow through the IREX Board, and a visiting scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women in fall 2013. She worked previously with Build Africa Uganda before founding the Pearl Community Empowerment Foundation.

 

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Three Activities to Help Students Deepen Their Gratitude

This article originally appeared in Greater Good, the online magazine of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.


Young students sitting in a classroom with their teacherIt’s one thing to teach kids to say “thank you” when they receive a gift or when someone does a favor for them. But how can we help children understand what gratitude really means, in ways that will make them more likely to feel it deeply, express it authentically, and reap its many benefits?

One way to increase kids’ gratitude is to guide them to not only acknowledge that someone else did something for them, but to also consider why the person did it, what the cost to the person was, and what benefits they have received from it. The idea is that gratitude happens when you realize that another person has intentionally done something that benefits you, especially at a cost to themselves.

This thinking process, which researchers refer to as “benefit appraisal,” highlights the interpersonal nature of gratitude and may help strengthen our relationships. In one study, elementary schoolers who were taught benefit appraisal reported more positive emotions and showed more grateful attitudes and behaviors than other students, both immediately and months later.

In partnership with the Greater Good Science Center and the John Templeton Foundation, Open Circle, an evidence-based social-emotional learning program for students in grades K-5, has added a new component based on the science of gratitude—including benefit appraisal. In addition to incorporating gratitude into their professional development workshops for educators, they developed gratitude lessons and practices for their classroom curriculum for grades 4-5.

The pilot group of teachers who have tried the gratitude curriculum have responded very positively, reporting benefits for themselves and their students such as strengthened classroom relationships and community, higher levels of positive emotions, and more generous and compassionate action.

We are grateful to Open Circle for allowing us to share three sample activities for helping students deepen their understanding and practice of gratitude—along with insights from some of the teachers who have used them.

Click here to see the full post in Greater Good and read the three sample activities for helping students deepen their gratitude.

Emily Campbell is the research assistant for the Greater Good Science Center’s education program and a Ph.D. student in education at UC Berkeley.

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Approaching Adulthood: Assisting Youth Aging Out of Foster Care

In 1954, the United Nations established Universal Children’s Day (November 20) to promote togetherness and children’s rights. It is a day that reminds and encourages us to work towards a better future by improving the wellbeing of children all across the globe. In recognition of Universal Children’s Day, Joan Wallace-Benjamin, president and CEO of The Home for Little Wanderers, looks at the obstacles facing children and young adults who are at risk of aging out of foster care and highlights programs that can improve their welfare.


Transitional age youth, those who are leaving state systems of care, are one of our most vulnerable populations of children. Each year in the United States, about 23,000 young people age out of foster care, according to Child Trends, because they reach the legal age of adulthood (18-22 years, depending on the state) and are no longer qualified to receive state services. And each year, these youth lack a permanent relationship with a biological or adoptive guardian, forcing them to navigate the challenges of adulthood without a mentor and critical support systems.

In the U.S., nearly 36,000 children are at risk for aging out of the system, as they are at least 9 years of age and have a case plan for long-term care or emancipation. For those who are at risk of aging out of foster care without a permanent solution and forever family, they are at greater risk for homelessness, unemployment, incarceration, early pregnancy, substance abuse, and struggles with physical, mental, and behavioral health.

Often times, these youth are dually enrolled in multiple state systems of care, including child welfare, juvenile justice, and behavioral and mental health services. In 2015 in Massachusetts, 312 out of 800 youth offenders in the Department of Youth Services had previous involvement with the Department of Children and Families prior to their detention, according to a 2016 Tufts University study. This sequential, often simultaneous, involvement in multiple systems of care place these youth at a crossroads; they lack positive, unconditional supports and mentoring that is offered through adult relationships as well as concrete resources and tools required to thrive independently, including housing, employment, health insurance, education, and basic life skills. Transitional age youth are often removed from conversations pertaining to child welfare and are underserved in the innovation of strategies to best support and strengthen children within these systems.

The Home for Little Wanderers believes that these youth deserve every opportunity to thrive and succeed to their full potential as they enter adulthood. By collaborating with the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Mental Health, and the Massachusetts Task Force for Youth Aging Out, the Home has developed specific and effective supports to serve this population. Through customized, age-specific services the Home has implemented innovative programs, including the Young Adult Resource Network (YARN) for “wraparound” services, the Roxbury Village to provide transitional housing for homeless youth, Academic Support for College and Life (ASCL), Peer Mentors, Life Skills programs, and Life Coaches. All of these programs share the same goal and ultimate vision for success: to connect young adults with community resources and help them become contributing members in the community while acquiring the skills they need to achieve self-sufficiency.

Alongside this, the Home works tirelessly to collaborate with various agencies through both communication and action to advocate for change and ensure their voices are heard. Through shared partnerships, the Home works to strengthen connections and services for youth who are at risk for transitioning out of care, which not only prepare them for entering adulthood, but also foster connections and relationships with adults and peers that will follow them on their path toward personal and professional success.

For more information on the Home and their work with Transitional Age Youth visit: thehome.org

Joan Wallace-Benjamin, Ph.D. is president and CEO of The Home for Little Wanderers as well as a graduate of Wellesley College, Class of 1975.

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Thoughts on the Safety Pin--To Wear or Not

The International Day of Tolerance (November 16) was established in 1995 by the United Nations to help increase public awareness of the dangers of intolerance. In our current climate of heightened intolerance both in public discourse and acts of violence, we need no reminders--but we do need clarity and strategies to build our strength and effectiveness as activists who choose to respond proactively to intolerance. The following is written by Christine Saxman, a National SEED Project staff member and Chicagoland high school teacher who reflects thoughtfully about the safety pin symbol that is being worn by people in the U.S. and Britain to show solidarity with targeted/marginalized people in our communities, and how every action we take has consequences.


I wrote these thoughts as a white, upper-middle-class, able-bodied, heterosexual, secular humanist woman, with the primary goal of connecting more deeply with other white people and being open to all other intersections. I was deeply impacted by and must honor this writer of color--Isobel Debrujah’s “So You Want to Wear a Safety Pin.” There was also much reaction to a white writer, Christopher Creelty’s, “Dear White People Your Safety Pin is Embarrassing.” After I wrote my initial reflection, I was also deeply impacted by ryboylorn’s “On Safety Pins, Pant Suits, and (Faux) Markers of Safety,” the personal testimony of so many people of color who were yet again targeted by the white fragility that could not tolerate the message that their pin is not enough, and by the need for Mia McKenzie’s “How to Tell the Difference Between Real Solidarity and ‘Ally Theater’” to be re-shared so many times. So I’ve reflected and added to my original piece. I humbly offer it here.

INTENT and IMPACT:
Pay attention to and appreciate all the thoughtful dialogue that prompts deep self-reflection and understanding of one’s purpose/self-reflection, taking ownership of the impact of one’s actions, regardless of intent. Own your impact if you wear the pin or if you do not wear it. But do not dismiss anyone who shares a negative impact with you from their perspective as a targeted group. Listen. Believe. Take further action and focus on repair.

INTER-CONNECTEDNESS:
Appreciate (and question) the history of the pin: from Australia’s #illridewithyou to support Australian Muslims to the history of the pin to combat the anti-immigration sentiment post-Brexit.

CALLING IN WITH LOVING ACCOUNTABILITY:
For some white people, this might be one of the first public actions they have taken and it is all they can see to do. As a white person, I have the energy and responsibility to support them in this step. I do not expect people of color or other targeted groups to take this action. And I personally have to be vigilant internally when I monitor and judge the behavior of other white people negatively to make sure I’m not just trying to make myself feel like I am the good white anti-racist, falling prey to competitiveness that props me up and allows racism and other -isms to continue on happily. This is the question I would pose Christopher Creelty, given the chance. How can we hold other white people in loving accountability, moving them to action? How can I do that with humility in the service of inspiring other white people to take deep, abiding action?

LOVING ACCOUNTABILITY ONE STEP FURTHER:
I see another white person wearing a pin who feels like they deserve credit for doing so. How can I use that symbol to start a conversation and move to actions we can take to back up the symbol, to give it some weight? In my own humility, I can possibly learn a new action. Perhaps, I can help someone realize an action they could not envision. Perhaps, we can work in solidarity. We can even continue the conversation to ask how can we move to a more overt symbols--a Black Lives Matter Pin, #NODAPL, #ISUPPORTDREAMERS, #STANDINGFORLGBTQ rights, #NoHumanIsIllegal…. And I commit to lovingly calling to action those whose only action is wearing a pin. I can emphasize that we are in it together.

ACCOUNTABILITY:
As a teacher I have been asked many times to identify as an ally publicly by my students and colleagues and so I have chosen to honor those requests and hold the anger/frustration/disappointment from others who do not believe I have the right to call myself an ally. It is one of those tough accountability decisions that I reflect on regularly and discuss with anyone calling me in or out. I am always a work-in-progress. I welcome all feedback, listen, believe, and act on the accountability that aligns with my commitment, humility, and humanity.

WHITE SUPREMACIST CO-OPTION:
What happens when white supremacists are faking it? I totally support all targeted groups to stay steadfast in their refusal to trust anyone wearing the pin. But as a predominantly privileged person, I go back to my responsibility to start dialogue with others I see wearing the pin. What does it mean to you? What’s your story? And if I doubt their answers and sincerity, I call them in and have another accountability discussion about White Supremacy. I commit fully to that. I had to do it in high school in Pennsylvania. I can do it as a grown woman now.

INTERSECTIONAL SYMBOLISM:
For me, the pin symbolizes standing against all the violence: racism, Islamophobia, anti semitism, ableism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia. As a victim of sexual assault, I want to see the pin. I will ask for support and action from those wearing it. And I will have the conversation if it is just an empty gesture. But, wow, will I enjoy the conversations that let me know I am not alone. Don’t underestimate that.

BOTH/AND:
I believe we must wear a symbol and question the symbol. I believe we must wear a symbol and take action. I believe we must have this conversation and interrupt racism, Islamophobia, anti semitism, ableism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia at the same time. I believe we can be both/and. But we must take action. Our humanity depends on it.

Christine SaxmanI love the people in my life who push me to be better. I owe much gratitude for this piece to Mirah Anti, Jorge Zeballos, Pat Savage-Williams, Andrea Johnson, Donald Burroughs, Matthew Biecker, Ashley Tuzicka Ray, and Jamie Utt.

This piece was written by Christine Saxman, a National SEED Project staff member and Chicagoland high school teacher.

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Encouraging Girls to Pursue STEM

Females outnumber their male colleagues in higher education, tend to get better grades, yet do not proportionately pursue STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. A woman’s participation or pursuit of STEM-related studies is a question of choice, not ability. Women are just as intellectually and academically capable of performing in STEM fields, yet the share of STEM bachelor’s degrees awarded to women over the past decade has fallen. Unfortunately, statistics about the participation (or lack thereof) of women in STEM fields should not come as a surprise; for far too long headlines have told this all too familiar story. Though we have long been aware of these alarming statistics, we should set forth to understand it and find ways to combat it.

There is no shortage of literature on this topic. A simple search of the phrase “girls in STEM” yields a staggering number of results. Though it goes without saying that solutions to closing the participation gap are heavily rooted within the plethora of reports regarding the achievement gap, longitudinal studies on children’s beliefs about academic competency, and sex-linked interest preferences, that focus on the strategies in which we can encourage girls to pursue STEM fields will make us most aware of the ways we can reverse the alarming aforementioned statistics.

Keys to Encouraging Girls to Pursue Math and Science

  • Increasing Confidence: When students are more confident about their abilities in a subject, they are more likely to engage in that subject through higher level classes or extracurricular activities.
  • Supporting Self-Efficacy: Through providing detailed feedback that helps students understand their mistakes and focusing on a student’s ability to learn and improve, teachers can increase student efforts.
  • Exposure to Role Models: When polled, 53 percent of girls that are interested in STEM reported knowing a woman with a STEM career, compared to 36 percent of girls without an interest in STEM.

National nonprofit organizations like Women Who Code have already inspired thousands of young girls to pursue math and science because they created a community of support and mentorship. Change, however, is not solely made by the positive influence of one organization. Change, rather, is the result of continued, localized efforts. Teachers, parents, and peers can provide a reliable network for aspiring female mathematicians. Encouraging girls to pursue STEM-related careers carries implications far beyond equalizing some set of statistics. More girls in STEM means more innovation, more opportunity, and more highly skilled workers in our economy. Most importantly, however, encouraging STEM means that every student has the ability to freely pursue his or her true passion without societal inhibition. As we think about the ending of another school year and opportunities for summer exploration, we must remember to not only endeavor to help girls realize the importance of math, but also to realize their propensity to achieve.

Sophia Zupanc is a Wellesley College student (class of 2019) and a Wellesley Centers for Women Student Ambassador.

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The Value of Mentorship: A Personal Reflection

Juliana Robeson and Georgia Hall

Two summers ago I started what I thought would just be a summer job at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW), with Georgia Hall, Ph.D, a senior research scientist with the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST). That summer job extended into the fall semester of my junior year at Wellesley College and when I returned from my spring semester abroad, I was excited to be working with Georgia as the Shirley R. Sherr research intern for the summer. Now in my senior year, I am still working at NIOST and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities it has given me. In particular, I am incredibly grateful that I have had an amazing mentor in Georgia.

This experience has been invaluable, because of Georgia. I have been able to learn so much and have been exposed to so many aspects of research that I would otherwise not have had and which many undergraduate students never get to experience. This past summer, while assisting Georgia with her work in the Women and Girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) project, I was also able to pick my own topic to investigate. This was incredibly exciting because it gave me a chance to use skills I already had, learn new skills, and explore my own interest. I learned so much, including being able to analyze data and conduct site visits. Georgia was an incredible mentor every step of the way, giving me feedback but also letting me work on my own. Thanks to Georgia and all the other amazing WCW researchers at NIOST, I have acquired skills that I will use for many years to come.

When I first began the daunting process of applying for jobs, I reflected on the experiences that I have had and realized how strongly they influenced my career path. Although I hope to go into health care, I want to work for several years before continuing on to graduate school. Thanks to my experiences with Georgia, I now have the skills and passion for data analysis—an incredibly important aspect in the health care field. Georgia encouraged me to take a quantitative analysis class, too, and I now am able to pursue such work immediately after graduation.

Without someone encouraging and inspiring these interests and helping me along the way, I may have never found out how fascinating data analysis could be (at least for me—some people may disagree!). Soon I’ll be completing my time at Wellesley, and I couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d love to spend my afternoons working and anyone else I would want as a mentor. I am sure that what I have taken from my time at NIOST and what I have learned from working with Georgia will help me for many years to come. And I know that if I ever need advice, there’s always someone waiting to help.

Juliana Robeson is a Wellesley College senior (’16) majoring in Spanish, minoring in Women’s and Gender Studies. In addition to her work at NIOST, she serves as a Student Ambassador for the Wellesley Centers for Women. She is pictured above (right) with her mentor, Georgia Hall.

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Connecting with You in 2016

People of all ages are spending more time on smartphones or tablets. Did you know that smartphone users are expected to increase to 70 percent of the global population, or 6.1 billion phones, by 2020? In the past couple of years many have experienced the phenomena of selfie sticks, and wearable technologies like FitBit or the Apple Watch. We have computers that not only talk to us, but listen to us and track our steps, our sleep, our heart rate. Technology invades our everyday (and every night) experiences and changes how we interact with the world. Technology offers us an overwhelming variety of information and choices about what we read or listen or view. It helps us stay connected and informed.

It’s essential to us that we stay connected to you. Much of our social change work can be found on our website (wcwonline.org). Thanks to a new responsive design that is built off an engaging visual template donated by Capgemini*, you can view the site more easily on a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, or computer on your desk; you can stay better informed of the important work we’re doing.

As you know, research is a big part of WCW’s four decades of groundbreaking work. And we want to learn from you, too. You already let us know how our content impacts you when you tweet, share, like, or pin our work. However, we want to learn more from YOU!

We are experts on research, social change--but we need you to share your insight on how you use the wcwonline.org website.

  • Are you able to find the information about the social issues in the lives of women and girls, families and communities that is important to you?
  • Do you find what you need by viewing our video commentaries, listening to our podcasts, downloading a fact sheet, a policy brief, or a presentation?
  • What is helpful?
  • What is missing?

The website analytics we use give us many valuable statistics but they don’t tell us the complete picture about you, and the information you seek.

Please help inform us by taking a few minutes to fill out the quick survey and help us understand what areas of our work you are most interested in, how you learn about our work, and ways we may be able to make your online experiences with our website and social media more beneficial. This is a great way to impact WCW’s dissemination efforts and further help to improve the lives of women and girls, and their families and communities. Thank you!

Sue Sours is the Information & Technology Systems Manager for the Wellesley Centers for Women, at Wellesley College.

*Top level design elements for wcwonline.org were generously donated by the Rapid Design Team of Capgemini, one of the world's foremost providers of consulting, technology and outsourcing services. "Gender equality is an important component of Capgemini’s focus on diversity and inclusion, and larger corporate responsibility and sustainability strategy, and it is proud to have helped The Wellesley Centers for Women more effectively disseminate its research through support for the refreshed website." Learn more about Capgemini!

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An OST Quality Case Study

Photo courtesy of MELC

My father-in-law used to say that getting old is not for the faint of heart. It takes a dogged determination to persevere while keeping on top of new issues that arise. I think the pursuit of quality in out-of-school time is similar. That effort is long-term and takes group effort, not just individual commitment. Just as there are services and doctors to help the aging, there are processes and assistance for those committed to improving quality in out-of-school time (OST) e.g. afterschool or summer programs. The process we promote at the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) is “continuous quality improvement” (CQI) and our clinicians are “Quality Advisors” or QAs. The QAs are councilors who offer resources, tips, feedback, and guidance. They can be working internally but more often they are occasional visitors from outside.

To best illustrate the concept of doctoring or coaching the CQI process I’ll share a story from Veirdre Jackson, director of Professional Development Dimensions, at the Montgomery Early Learning Centers (MELC) near Philadelphia. Several years ago MELC embarked on a quality improvement initiative in OST programs serving youth kindergarten through sixth grade in three counties. To support this work, MELC received funding for professional development and curricula and received state supported quality advising tied to quality improvement. MELC targeted improving Social Emotional Learning (SEL) skills as their overall goal and used the Assessment of Program Practices (APT) tool as their improvement gauge. The tool serves as both a baseline and a year-end measurement, but most importantly the scales are research-based best practices. The specific scales MELC looked at gave a rich picture of areas where staff should be supporting youth, building relationships, and guiding behavioral expectations. The results of the APT baselines gave a clear picture, for example, that routines were not working and wait time was excessive which led to disruptive behaviors and staff taking punitive measures in a cycle of frustration.

A group of young children playing togetherPhoto courtesy of MELC.This scenario is not uncommon in OST (and among anyone with children). Jackson says her trainings that address youth behavior are routinely sold out. OST staff are often part-time and enter this field from a wide variety of career backgrounds that may not offer experience and training in child development that school-day teachers who work with children systematically gain. With an increase in challenging behaviors and a decrease in the presence of self-regulation skills by youth, staff quickly become mentally exhausted and get trapped in the cycle of reacting instead of responding to behaviors.

With the results of the APT, the CQI process began with visits from QAs. The QAs gave feedback on the physical environment and how to make routines such as transitions flow more quickly and orderly. Primarily the coaching addressed interactions between staff and youth and guided staff to de-escalate rather than escalate situations. Staff who asked, “When are you going to work with the youth?” realized their emotional status and behavior were key to youths’ behavior. Staff shifted away from punitive tactics to understanding what’s happening in a situation and addressing that need. Additionally, curriculum was employed to provide staff with appropriate strategies, and individual youth received focused skill-building that was age appropriate. Staff realized that their own social emotional wellbeing helps them be their best and that in turn helps youth be their best.

This experience points to the structure behind CQI: setting goals, using data to drive an improvement plan, making program adjustments, and using resources that involve staff in carrying out the changes and being part of the solutions while keeping a focus on engaging and supporting youth. NIOST has been a leader in advancing quality work for more than three decades and provides all the elements needed to begin this work. Training is available including Quality Advisor, APT tool use (now online), and how to use data for program improvement. Resources for adopting a CQI process and engaging staff, parents, and schools are also available.

Last month, my colleague Betsy Starr wrote about the importance of professional development to attain quality in out-of-school time programs. It is gratifying to hear of the MELC work, to learn of professional development successes, and know that OST is making a significant contribution to improving the lives of children.If our Quality Advisors are our OST “doctors” then we need to make sure that all OST programs have access to this important care.

Kathy Schleyer, M.S. is the Director of Training at the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) at the Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College(Video: Ellen Gannett, M.Ed., is director of NIOST; Photos: Courtesy of Montgomery Early Learning Centers.)

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MotherStruck!

This article was originally published on Huffington Post and is posted with permission by the author.

Reproductive freedom. What do these words mean? They mean having the children you want, when you want. They mean not becoming pregnant when you don't want and not having children you don't want. They mean sexual freedom; becoming and expressing who you are.

International Planned Parenthood (IPPF) was founded because women were becoming pregnant when they didn't want to be and either having children they didn't want or resorting to unsafe abortion to terminate their pregnancies. We at Planned Parenthood in the USA and abroad have focused on providing safe and effective contraceptives to women who want to delay, limit, time and space their children, as well as safe abortion services. Along the way, my grandmother started a program to help women conceive, become pregnant and have the children they wanted. Fertility services are now offered at many IPPF clinics around the world.

I was reminded of this last night at the opening of a marvelous new play, MotherStruck!, written and performed by Staceyann Chin, a half-Jamaican, half­-Chinese, lesbian immigrant to Brooklyn, who decides to have a child. The play chronicles her poignant search for the right partner--both the romantic and the sperm­ donor varieties--her marriage to a gay man (who dies before his 30th birthday), and her subsequent assisted insemination by his younger brother. After a fraught pregnancy and difficult delivery, Staceyann experiences the trials of motherhood as a single mom and the difficulty of trying to eke out a living as a poet in Brooklyn.

The play reminded me that reproduction is not relegated only to heterosexual couples, and that childbirth and raising children are often not easy or without pain and trauma. This is why reproductive freedom is vital.

At the curtain call, Staceyann Chin's daughter, Suri, bounded onto the stage with flowers for her mother. The actor enveloped her and held her tight in her arms ­­ a gift to her mother, and to us.

Alex Sanger is Chair, International Planned Parenthood Council, and a former member of the Wellesley Centers for Women Council of Advisors.

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A Reformed Peace Conference Skeptic

Laura Golakeh

Earlier this summer I attended--even though I was a skeptical about peace conferences and felt they were a waste of time, energy, and resources--the Third Annual Hague Peace Conference in Holland.

Living in a post-conflict country, Liberia, I had become aware that peace was simply not the absence of war, and until the international community recognized that, peace conferences would amount to nothing. Since attending this conference, however, my skepticism has been replaced with hope.

The Hague University of Applied Sciences organized the Third Hague Peace Conference, “not for government delegations but for the new generation of students who have a keen interest in contributing to better ideas on how to improve the maintenance of peace and humanitarian law.” The Conference should have taken place originally 100 years ago, in 1915, but the outbreak of the First World War made it impossible.

The Conference evolved around an essay competition in which over 140 essays were received and of these, 75 students from 33 countries were selected, including mine. My essay highlighted my rather “unconventional” suggestions to contributing to peace around the world. Just like former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, I argued that gender equality is a perquisite to maintaining peace around the world. I drew my conclusions from one of his favorite quotes on gender equality--that it is “more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development, and building good governance.” To illustrate my point, I gave an example of a research done by Saferworld which revealed that there is strong evidence that the gender norms which underpin gender inequality can drive conflict and violence, particularly where cultural notions of masculinity are associated with violence, domination, and control. A case study focused on some communities in South Sudan which revealed that participation in violent cattle raids, which perpetuates conflict between communities, was seen as a prerequisite to manhood and a rite of passage for young men in South Sudan.

The three-day conference was full of conversations and speeches by professors, politicians, lawyers, and students from around the world and it helped further shape my ideas about peace and how, instead of been skeptical, I can contribute to achieving world peace. It wasn’t merely these conversations or speeches that shaped my thinking, but mostly by being a part this global community I had the opportunity to use my voice--and the voices of other participants--to rally behind a common good. The conference exposed me to a lot of factors undermining peace around the world as well as possible solutions to tackle them. It brought me face to face with other young people from around the world who had similar experiences as mine but who had examples of proven and possible solutions for peacebuilding. One of those participants was a Canadian law student, originally from Rwanda, who became an immigrant at a tender age because of the genocide in her country. She stressed her idea that peace is possible but only if we focus our efforts on changing international humanitarian laws.

Lastly, while at the conference, I realized how interesting and complicated the concept of peace is and how it means different things to different people. For example, a participant from Ghana told me peace is when “two opposing parties agree to pursue an agenda although it doesn't favor their interest and philosophies.” Robert Fulghum, an American author, once said that “peace is not something you wish for, it is something you make, something you are, something you do, and something you give away.” I see peace as not merely the absence of war but an “era” where every individual have the opportunity to grow, develop, and envision the future they want.

More importantly, the conference has made me more determined to stop being a skeptic--not that it is wrong--but to be more hopeful and put that hope into work for better world. It showed me that more emerging leaders should have such opportunities. I have been able to build networks around the world that will surely be useful to me in the future and the work that I will do. This conference was 100 years in the making, and there’s much work to do, together.

Laura Golakeh, M.A. is founder and executive director of Right to Read Liberia, a Mandela Washington Fellow 2014, member of the 2014/2015 Gender and Peacebuilding class at the United Nations mandated University for Peace, and a 2015 summer intern at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

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How Foreign Abortion Bans Hurt Children

The following blog article and corresponding photo was posted on the New York Daily News, June 3, 2015 by Alex Sanger, chair of the International Planned Parenthood Council and member of the Wellesley Centers for Women Council of Advisors.

With Memorial Day behind us and summer here, most kids in New York are finishing school or preparing for camp or dreaming of pools and extended playtime.

But this summer will be very, very different for one 10-year-old girl in Paraguay. Because she’s pregnant.

The girl’s doctors discovered the pregnancy after she complained of a stomachache. But despite the fact that the girl is 10 years old and that doctors have identified the pregnancy — the result of the girl being raped by her stepfather — as dangerous and high-risk, the Paraguayan government has refused her access to an abortion.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, seven countries ban abortion under all circumstances, even to save the life of the mother. Paraguay is not one of them. Even though the law of the land states that abortions are legal in instances that pose a significant threat to the health of the mother, the Paraguayan government continues to deny this child access to a potentially life-saving procedure. This constitutes a cruel denial of the girl’s basic human rights, tantamount to torture.

My grandmother, Margaret Sanger, founded the organizations that would become Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the International Planned Parenthood Federation — to provide education and services to men and women in an effort to end injustices like violence against women and enforced pregnancy. She believed that providing access to contraceptives and reproductive healthcare was integral in empowering women to fully engage and participate in their communities and live the lives they want. I followed in her footsteps and, as the head of Planned Parenthood New York City, heard from countless women who needlessly suffered before abortion became legal in New York.

Cases like this 10-year-old’s make it clear that that needless suffering hasn’t ended, especially if you look abroad. For instance, one out of every three women in Latin America is a mother before her 20th birthday. 20% of all adolescent pregnancies occur among girls younger than 15, and are often the result of sexual abuse within the family.

At IPPF Western Hemisphere Region clinics, we provide contraception and abortionblogpullquoteForeignAbortion services to women and girls who need them. What our clinic staff has seen firsthand is that blocking access to abortion and comprehensive reproductive health care doesn’t stop them from being needed, or even stop them from happening — it just keeps them from being safe. Due in large part to extensive abortion bans throughout the region, 95% of abortions in Latin America are performed in unsafe conditions that threaten the health and lives of women.

In fact, according to the World Health Organization, complications in pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death among adolescent girls in developing countries. Specifically, in Latin America, girls who give birth before the age of 16 are four times more likely to die during childbirth than women in their 20s.

And yet politicians around the globe — including in Paraguay and the United States — have shut their eyes to common sense and public health by continuing to ban and criminalize abortion, even abortion in cases of rape or incest. Children should not be forced into motherhood and doctors should not be kept from providing life-saving care just because of political hurdles.

And in instances like the 10-year-old girl currently pregnant in Paraguay, government officials shouldn’t be able to act counter to the spirit of the law and put young girls in serious danger because of political whims or extreme beliefs.

That’s why a broad spectrum of human rights and international advocacy organizations are calling on the Paraguayan minister of public health and wellbeing, Dr. Antonio Barrios, to immediately intervene and grant the girl access to safe abortion services. By doing that, Dr. Barrios would be upholding Paraguayan law and following the advice of leading international medical authorities — and, potentially, saving the life of a very real girl who has already survived more trauma than a child of her age should ever be forced to encounter.

Alexander Sanger is the author of Beyond Choice: Reproductive Freedom in the 21st Century, published in January 2004 by PublicAffairs. The grandson of Margaret Sanger, who founded the birth control movement over eighty years ago, Mr. Sanger is currently Chair of the International Planned Parenthood Council and has served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund.

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Healthy Young People Despite a World Filled With Violence

The following article was posted May 4, 2015 on the Medicine and Faith blog of Lisa Fortuna, M.D., and is re-posted with permission by the author. She is pictured a pledge to be a Partner in Peace during the Mother's Day Walk for Peace in Boston, MA.

Because I am a priest and a psychiatrist I spend a lot of time discerning the meaning of things. The past two weeks have been filled with a lot of news stories about discord, violence and hate. A lot of this very bad news has to do with racism, divisions, greed, and power. I only have to bring up Ferguson, Baltimore or ISIS and you know the kinds of stories I am speaking of. These things bring me to two questions: How do we raise up our young people to be healthy in body, mind and spirit in a world that upholds such violence? How does our world contribute to the development of anxiety, depression, and traumatic stress in our young people?

Today one of my parishioners asked me, “What can we do to help our kids make it in this world?”

It is an important and challenging question that I have had to try to answer either at the coffee hour after church service, in my consultation office when seeing a patient and their parents, or when investigating a new intervention that might help young people with depression or trauma.

Although these are all big questions, I have at least learned a few things over the years through my clinical practice, research and ministry about what helps young people stay healthy (or what helps them heal if needed) in mind, body and spirit. Here are my top five learnings of what helps young people:

1. Having someone in their life that is absolutely crazy about them, loves them unconditionally and lets them know it.

2. Having a sense of community and true belonging.

3. Developing compassion for self and others.

4. Connecting to ones heritage and traditions while also embracing new ideas and diversity (Includes bi-culturalism, multiculturalism).

5. Developing a sense of a greater good and commitment to something bigger than oneself (spirituality, justice, connecting across differences).

I have found that these five core areas are very important for emotional health and development.

Here are some links of some examples of youth living into these principles and adults supporting them on the journey:


La Puerta Abierta/ The Open Door—a program for clinical excellence and belonging for immigrant youth

 

What are some of the ways we can engender these types of experiences and opportunities for growth and healing in the lives of our young people?

LFortunaBlog2Lisa Fortuna, M.D. is a psychiatrist triple board certified in general psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, and addiction medicine. A research collaborator with scholars at the Wellesley Centers for Women, she is the medical director for child and adolescent psychiatry services for the Boston Medical Center, faculty at Boston University Medical School, and an Episcopal Priest serving as pastor in a Latino congregation in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.

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Celebrate Diversity Month-April 2015

The purpose of Celebrate Diversity Month is to recognize and celebrate the rich diversity of cultures around us. Although this is often a necessary first step toward increasing understanding and heightening awareness of the differences and similarities among us, not probing beyond these experiences can lead to a “tourist approach” to understanding difference, particularly when engagement with other cultures is limited to the more obvious areas (e.g., food, arts, celebrations, music, and historical contributions). This often results in those cultures remaining in the realm of “exotic other.” Why not take Celebrate Diversity Month to the next level? What if we work to gain a deeper understanding of the invisible riches and underlying motivations of culture?

My own journey beyond tourist-based experiences of culture began with the discovery of several models for deconstructing and understanding culture. One of these, the Iceberg Model of Culture, is a tool for elucidating the two layers of every culture: surface culture and deep culture. Picture an iceberg with its smallest visible part above the water (surface culture) and much larger, invisible part below (deep culture). Surface culture includes food, dress, literature, history, language, etc., while deep culture includes core values, concepts of personal space, world views, nonverbal communication, beliefs, tolerance for change, etc. Deep culture always influences surface culture. In fact, it can be challenging to make sense of the surface aspects of a culture without understanding the invisible, deep elements from which those aspects originate. We can be proactive by journeying beyond our tourist-based experiences of surface culture and delving into deeper aspects of other cultures.

My academic and teaching interests lie at the intersection of culture, computation, community, and cognition--I like to think about how technology can support learning in community and public settings. In my Digital Technologies and Learning Communities seminar, I challenge my students to push beyond their cultural tourist-based experiences to engage in deep culture learning of both their own and of others’ cultures, and to consider how deep culture impacts equity in learning. Throughout the semester, students practice designing learning technology interventions that are culturally responsive in deeper ways.

For a broader equity perspective on learning technologies, let’s consider how deep culture impacts learning technology policies, even before those technologies leave the factory. Cultural assumptions about learning--and learners--inform design decisions. Technology designers are often oblivious to how their cultural programming influences their ideas about appropriate characteristics of software functions, features, and interface metaphors. The deep cultures evident in those spaces where learning technology design decisions are being made usually forecast who will benefit most from that technology’s use. For example, gaming software companies (predominately white and male) have often been criticized for the gender and other biases embedded in their game design choices. This has fueled efforts to design gaming software that incorporates greater gender flexibility (and to increase gender diversity within the designer ranks). There is a more detailed discussion of this phenomenon in my chapter, “Diversity and Inclusion in the Learning Enterprise: Implications for Learning Technologies,” in the forthcoming Wiley Handbook of Learning Technology.

Celebrate Diversity Month is our opportunity to take steps toward a better understanding of other cultures. We can deepen that celebration by taking a few more steps toward understanding the invisible structures and practices that fuel our own and others’ cultures. Wellesley College is an amazing and privileged place. Our students are the future educators, policy makers, executives, entrepreneurs, etc. who will craft a better world. Their time with us is an opportunity to grow beyond the limitations of tourist-based diversity experiences and delve into the richness and complexities of deep culture. Let’s join them in that learning. If we are to offer our students more equitable and inclusive learning spaces, then we must examine--and when appropriate, address--the deep cultures within our institution, our disciplines, and ourselves. We must encourage the exploration of deep cultures as well as surface cultures. This is the pathway to appreciation of differences and similarities within our communities.

RChapinRobbin Chapman, Ph.D. is Associate Provost and Academic Director of Diversity and Inclusion and Lecturer, Education Department at Wellesley College.

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Human Rights, Women’s Rights: Plodding Toward Progress

beijing platform conferenceA press conference during the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. Credit: UN/DPI 071031/Yao Da Wei

This article, by Susan McGee Bailey, was originally published on the Girl W/ Pen blog on March 20, 2015.

“Fighting for women’s equality is an arduous but necessary process, ploddingly pursued by dedicated women and men who refuse to accept a lesser role for women in society.” Jean Hardisty (1945-2015)

March is Women’s History Month, but the history being made in the U.S. is far from uplifting. Women continue to be an easy batting ball for political impasses. We continue to struggle for basics readily available in most other developed nations: e.g. paid family and sick leave, adequate childcare, health and reproductive rights. As an antidote to setbacks in this country—where we seem to be in the two-steps-back phase of the old ‘three steps forward, two steps back’ adage—I’ve looked at reports released in conjunction with this month’s 59th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). There are some encouraging signs. But progress is slow, uneven; the struggle for women’s rights and equality is far from over. Nevertheless, celebrating positive accomplishments can provide motivation needed to keep us all plodding ahead, no matter how soggy the road. Jean Hardisty knew better than anyone how critical plodding along is. For all of us around the country—and in various corners of the world— who knew Jean as a beloved colleague, mentor and leader in the battle for human rights and justice, there is no better way to honor her life and her work than to keep on plodding.

So, some good news gleaned from reports on progress for women since the 1995 United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing:

  • The global rate of maternal deaths in childbirth has dropped by over 40 percent;
  • Adolescent births have fallen by more than 30 percent;
  • Many countries have made significant gains in girls’ education, particularly at the primary school level;
  • And people everywhere are paying more attention to gender gaps in access and opportunities on everything from health services and education to leadership, employment, and earnings.

Sadly, for almost every positive statement one can make, there is a ‘but’. And some ‘buts’ are so overwhelming it seems pointless to mention the positive. For example, awareness of violence against women has grown, but the violence itself has not lessened. A third of the world’s women have experienced physical or sexual violence. It is estimated that the number of girls among trafficking victims has increased by more than ten percent in the past seven years.

The Beijing meetings two decades ago were electrifying. A total of 17,000 women and men from 189 countries attended the official Fourth United Nations Conference on Women. Another 30,000 took part in the parallel NGO Forum held outside the capital in Huairou. We returned to our homes around the globe committed to doing whatever we could, both individually and collectively, to implement the Beijing Platform for Action. Many of those unable to attend the meetings in China were eager partners. In country after country, women and men worked together to ensure the "full and equal participation of women in political, civil, economic, social, and cultural life."

But the transformative promise of the Beijing Platform for Action has not yet been fulfilled. The Platform was a call for a change in focus from women to gender. A call for recognizing that the structure of society and relationships between women and men must be rethought if women are to be fully empowered as equal partners with men. The Platform affirmed that women’s rights are human rights, that gender equality benefits everyone. In retrospect these called for changes in thinking and action were exceedingly ambitious given the ten-year time frame originally stated. Even after 20 years we have not succeeded. But ambitious goals generate ambitious plans, and ambitious plans are required to sustain commitment, passion, and determined action.

As the Women’s Rights Caucus stated last week in response to the draft declaration from CSW: “At a time when urgent action is needed to fully realize gender equality, the human rights and empowerment of women and girls, we need renewed commitment, a heightened level of ambition, real resources, and accountability.” Some UN member states may not share this perspective. Nations that do must speak loudly. Within a few days over seven hundred and 50 organizations had signed the caucus statement. NGOs representing women from all parts of the world and all strata of society must push, and push hard to ensure that the spirit as well as the letter of the Beijing Platform is carried forward.

None of this work is easy. Much of it is unpopular in certain circles. But we have pushed and plodded our way this far. A 40 percent decline in maternal morbidity is a major step forward. The progress in access to primary education for girls is impressive. Many more huge steps await. We have done it before; we can do it again. And again, and again, and again!

Susan McGee Bailey, Ph.D. served as Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women and a Professor of Women’s & Gender Studies and Education at Wellesley College for 25 years. She attended the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.

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In Memoriam: Jean Hardisty

“Fighting for women’s equality is an arduous but necessary process, ploddingly pursued by dedicated women and men who refuse to accept a lesser role for women in society.”

Jean Hardisty, Ph.D., August 2013

(Photo credit: Ellen Shub)

The Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) community is saddened to share news that social justice champion and WCW Senior Scholar Jean Hardisty, Ph.D., died March 16, 2015. Dr. Hardsity was a widely published author and activist, especially for women's rights and civil rights. She was the founder and president emerita of Political Research Associates (PRA), a Boston-based research center that analyzes right wing, authoritarian, and anti-democratic trends and publishes educational materials for the general public. She retired from PRA in 2004 after 23 years but continued to build on her important scholarship and advocacy, including as a senior scholar at WCW.

"Jean Hardisty was a bold scholar who knew the power of data to advance social justice,” said Layli Maparyan, Ph.D, WCW executive director. “Her courageous research probed political questions and topics in places where others might have feared to tread. She has left a tremendous legacy of work, both in her scholarship and in the institution of PRA."

A political scientist with a B.A. and Ph.D. from Northwestern University, Dr. Hardisty taught and researched conservative political thought in academia before establishing PRA in response to the emergence of the New Right in 1981. She pursued this challenging work with respectful candor, sharp debate, and tireless campaigning—her gentle presence and humor were countered most remarkably by a ferocity for confronting social injustices.

“Pushing people out of their comfort zones is a great mistake that’s sometimes made by progressive movements,” she shared in a 2012 interview in WCW’s Research & Action Report. “But not providing constant encouragement and constant paths to activism—and to leadership, if women can and want to do that—is an equally big mistake. I believe we each have talent to contribute to advocacy for a more just society, but we must make our own path, not forgetting to celebrate our successes. We can make a better world for women, which will be a better world for all.”

blogpullquoteJeanHardistyDr. Hardisty had served on the Board of Directors of the Highlander Center for Research and Education, the Ms. Foundation, the Center for Community Change, and the Center for Women Policy Studies, among others. Her book, Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers, was first published by Beacon Press in 1999. Some of her WCW-related commentaries, blog articles, and presentations have been archived and are available on the Centers’ website.

Tributes:

“Jean Hardisty was a mentor, a role model, an inspiration and a friend. She leaves a huge gap in the lives of all who knew her, all who turned to her for guidance. Both a visionary and a realist, she led the way toward greater justice for all with a rare combination of intellectual prowess, unwavering passion, fierce determination—and always, a magnificent gentleness. It is hard to imagine a world without her.”
- Susan McGee Bailey, Ph.D., WCW executive director (1985-2010)

"Jean had a deep commitment to social justice and related to it passionate advocacy which she pursued with intellectual vigor. She combined these with a delicious sense of humor and camaraderie. I looked forward to each and every one of our conversations. I join so many others who feel enriched by the way she touched our lives and cheated out of not having more of her for chats, dinners, walks, and invaluable wisdom in how to make sense of this crazy world."
- Sumru Erkut, Ph.D, WCW senior research scientist

“Jean’s intelligence, commitment, idealism, research, and radical thought inspired feminists, LGBT activists, and all progressive people. I was so fortunate to know her these past few years and to receive her friendship and enthusiastic support of Women’s Review of Books, WCW, and my own writing. I will miss her warmth, what I can only call her loving kindness—her unique, beautiful spirit. To honor her I will try harder than ever to carry that into my own work. Her memory is a blessing.”
- Amy Hoffman, MFA, editor-in-chief, Women’s Review of Books

“Jean was beloved by many, those who knew her well and those at a distance. She was so gentle and yet a fierce fighter for justice. I'm honored that as a part of the Wellesley Centers for Women community, she had an office across from mine and that I was among those who got to be called "hi sweetie" by her. She will remain an inspiration.”
- Nan Stein, Ed.D., WCW senior research scientist

Share your reflections about Jean Hardisty, her life, her work, her influence by posting a Comment:

 

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Guest — Layli Maparyan
Jean brought a lovely spirit to WCW. The peacefulness of her demeanor belied the political passion that produced laser-like focus... Read More
Wednesday, 18 March 2015 14:15
Guest — Donna Tambascio
Jean's quiet, persistent intellect, passion, and advocacy stimulated debate, influenced change agents, and made the world a better... Read More
Wednesday, 18 March 2015 14:30
Guest — Meena Hewett
Jean was a teacher, mentor, and a friend. Her writings presented both sides of a story and she trusted the intelligence of the rea... Read More
Thursday, 19 March 2015 10:48
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2014 Round-up

Below are links to two articles from good friends of the Wellesley Centers for Women—Susan McGee Bailey and Alex Sanger. Susan is the former, long-time executive director of the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW); Alex is chair of the International Planned Parenthood Council and member of the WCW Council of Advisors. In their respective blog articles, they share their perspectives on the year 2014.

In her latest piece on Girl w/ Pen, Susan writes, "Hanukkah, then Christmas next week, followed by the start of a new year—a time of hope and beginnings. Why doesn’t it feel that way? For the past several days I’ve been searching for the bright spots. The ones that can provide the energy we need in the midst of so much darkness. Not an easy task. Each day new horrors erupt: the second anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre and still no reasonable national gun control legislation; free passes for racial biases and deadly police brutality; the sickening slaughter of school children in Pakistan; ongoing revelations of rape in the US military and on university campuses. Negative news can so easily obliterate positive signs in the struggles for equal rights. But all around us there is tangible evidence of the many ways feminist work contributes to positive progress for everyone... You can read the full article online.

In his latest piece on Huffington Post, Alex writes, "Once again, we've had a year of ups and downs, a year of strong stands for women's rights and crushing defeats. Here's a quick run-down of some of the most memorable moments of 2014. Last month, the Chamber of Deputies in the Dominican Republic put forward a measure to reinforce—and strengthen—the country's existing ban on abortions in all circumstances. Thankfully, Dominican President Danilo Medina vetoed the measure, urging legislators in a letter to decriminalize abortions in cases where the woman's life is at risk or in cases of rape, incest, or fetus malformation. " You can read the full article online.

What do you think have been notable events or moments of the past year? Share with us!

The mission of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College is to advance gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing through high quality research, theory, and action programs. Since 1974, work has generated changes in attitudes, practices, and public policy.

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The Greying of the LGBTQ Community

October was LGBTQ History Month. We should continue to celebrate, reflect, and get back to work!

It has been less than 50 years since Stonewall, the start of the current LGBTQ Rights Movement. There have been trials and tribulations, along with celebrations. Today, over 30 states grant same-sex couples the right to marry legally. Today, social acceptability has permeated society (Pew Research Center, 2011). Today, groups, businesses, and academic institutions supporting LGBT rights and LGBTQ youth, all with the message of equity and equality, have increased exponentially (HRC, 2014). Curriculum teaching about inclusiveness is making schools safer and more hospitable than they were even 5 years ago.

These accomplishments are certainly remarkable considering a mere 50 years ago homosexuality was considered a mental disorder. Gay people feared getting fired from their jobs and, often, only a suspicion of homosexual behavior was enough. Religions condemned homosexuality as an abomination, an affront to the natural order of things. And AIDS meant social isolation and certain death.

With so many improvements in equality and rights for LGBTQ communities since Stonewall, one might wonder what else there is left to do. One area that is unaddressed and under-researched is the challenges LGBT elderly people face. More than six million LGBTQ individuals will be in the “65+” age bracket by 2030 (SAGE, 2014). This, of course, provides some trepidations -- and opportunities—for LGBTQ communities, policymakers, and the general population.

In the last couple of years, more research has surfaced regarding LGBTQ elderly people, which provides a sobering look at their attitudes and thoughts about aging. The first and obvious concern is aging in a society and community that places a high value on youth, leaving the elderly feeling useless and insignificant (Fox, 2007). This is both within the LGBTQ communities and in the general population. Ageism is pervasive in the U.S.

The second concern is discrimination or perceived discrimination at long-term facilities and healthcare institutions. SAGE (2014) reported 40% of lesbian and gay elderly people do not tell healthcare providers they are homosexual, and healthcare providers just assume they are heterosexual. Moreover, in long-term care settings same-sex couples are denied same-space living arrangements more often than heterosexual couples (Stein, Beckerman & Sherman, 2010). In other words, heterosexism entitles you to live your life with your significant other, especially in the final years.

A final concern is that LGBT elders worry about financial insolvency more often and believe they will not be able to retire or will outlive the meager retirement savings they have. In addition, current retirees have lived through years of employment discrimination (SAGE, 2014). Even today, there are still some states that don’t ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in their employment discrimination laws (HRC, 2014). About 15% of LGBT women and men 65 or older live in poverty, compared to only 10% of heterosexual men (Table 4; Badgett, Durso, & Schneebaum, 2013). In couples over 65, female same-sex couples are almost twice as likely as heterosexual couples, or male same-sex couples, to be low-income, reflecting the double impact of women’s lower earnings compared to men(Table 9; Badgett, Durso, & Schneebaum, 2013).

October’s LGBTQ History Month is about celebration, reflection, and work. We should celebrate that elderly couples are now, legally, entitled to their married spouses Social Security benefits when one spouse dies. Moreover, we should celebrate that the Affordable Healthcare Act is providing many people, especially transgender older adults, with needed healthcare. Finally, we should celebrate that LGBTQ issues are being discussed and acknowledged with the federal, state, and local agencies. In the span of less than 50 years, LGBTQ communities have gone from despised to celebrated and are seen as important members of the global community. Reflection comes as we realize there is more to be done to truly create equality for all members of society.

Let’s get back to work. We need to call members of Congress and demand that they pass the Older Americans Act (the premier elder care law) with LGBTQ elders added to the definition of vulnerable populations. We must call on state and local decision makers to pass anti-discrimination laws and create new minimum wage laws, so that pay is equalized for males and females, LGBT and heterosexual, gender conforming or nonconforming. Furthermore, let’s do what we do best, continue to initiate meaningful discussions on heterosexism, sexism, and ageism.

Brian Fuss, M.P.A., a Research Fellow at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, is working on his doctorate in Public Policy and Administration. The working title of his dissertation is Public Policy Recommendations for Florida’s LGBT Elderly Population Residing in Rural and Suburban Areas.


Additional References:

Fox, R.C. (2007) Gay grows up, Journal of Homosexuality, 52, 33-61. DOI:10.1300/J082v52n03_03

Stein, G. L., Beckerman, N. L., & Sherman, P.A. (2010). Lesbian and gay elders and long-term care: Identifying the unique psychosocial perspectives and challenges. Journal of Gerontological Social Work 53, 421-435. DOI:10.1080/01634372.2010.496478

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Seeking LGBT Parents in History

Opponents of LGBT equality often try to make LGBT parents seem like a new and untested phenomenon, and therefore something to be avoided. The history of LGBT parents and our children, however, goes back further than one might think.

The Greek poet Sappho, whose island home of Lesbos gave us the term “lesbian,” may have had a daughter named “Cleis.” That would mean that the history of LGBT parents goes back to around 600 BCE.

The existence of her daughter is only attested through a few fragments, though, making it far from certain. It’s also anachronistic to apply modern identity terms to historical figures, even such a lesbian icon as Sappho. The possibility of her existence, however, should encourage us to reflect that the history of parents who fall under a broad LGBT umbrella (not tied to modern conceptions of the terms) likely goes back as far as the history of LGBT people as a whole. They may not have been “out and proud” like many modern LGBT parents, but we can still see them as their forebears.

Sticking with better documented cases, Oscar Wilde was the father of two boys with his wife Constance Lloyd, and apparently a loving one. His son Vyvyan, in his book Son of Oscar Wilde, wrote about Wilde’s relationship with him and his brother, “He was a hero to us both. . . . a real companion to us. . . . He would go down on all fours on the nursery floor, being in turn a lion, a wolf, a horse, caring nothing for his usually immaculate appearance.” Alas, when the boys were eight and nine, their mother took them to Switzerland after Wilde’s trial for “gross indecency” (having same-sex relations) and they never saw him again.

Vita Sackville-West had relationships with several women, including fellow writers Virginia Woolf and Violet Trefusis, and had two children with her husband, Harold George Nicolson (who also had same-sex relationships). Her son Nigel Nicolson later used her account of the affair with Trefusis as the heart of a book about his parents, Portrait of a Marriage. There, he called his mother’s description of the affair “one of the most moving pieces that she ever wrote.” While he acknowledged both parents’ same-sex relationships, he also said their marriage “became stronger and finer as a result.” Their love affairs were mere “ports of call,” but it was “to the harbour that each returned.” Nevertheless, it is easy to see Nicolson as the product of parents who fall under the broad LGBT umbrella, and to place another brushstroke in our picture of LGBT family history.

Looking only at parents who had a more modern sense of their LGBT identities, out LGBT parents go back to the very start of the LGBT civil rights movement. Most still had their children within the context of different-sex marriages, but were more likely than in earlier times to leave those marriages, even though this often meant losing custody of their children. Del Martin, one of the founders in 1955 of Daughters of Bilitis, the first national lesbian rights organization in the U.S., was one such parent. Not surprisingly, her organization held some of the first known discussion groups on lesbian motherhood—way back in 1956. (See Daniel Winunwe Rivers’ Radical Relations, which I reviewed in the Women’s Review of Books earlier this year.)

Even the term “gayby boom”—referring to same-sex couples starting their families together—is already over two decades old, dating to at least March 1990, when Newsweek reported, “a new generation of gay parents has produced the first-ever ‘gayby boom.’” That means that many of the children from that boom are themselves now adults—while many of the first generation of out parents are becoming grandparents.

Think of it this way: the fictional Heather who had two mommies was in preschool in Lesléa Newman’s classic 1989 children’s book. If she were real, she’d now be in her late 20s.

Those who continue to insist that LGBT parents are not good for children have failed to realize that if that were true (even leaving aside the extensive social science research to the contrary), there would be many more maladjusted adults running around. Analyses from UCLA’s Williams Institute have found that currently, between 2.3 and 4 million adults have an LGBT parent. If they suffered harm because of that, someone surely would have noticed the connection by now.

As a lesbian mom, I believe that learning the history of LGBT parents and their children can also help us feel less alone, less like we are the first to face each challenge. Having confidence that others have succeeded before us can translate into confidence in our parenting skills, which in turn can positively impact our children.

Knowing the struggles—and triumphs—of LGBT parents in the past can also give us hope and strength in overcoming the challenges—legal, political, social, and emotional—that we still face.

And seeing how the early organizations for LGBT parents helped shape the overall LGBT rights movement of today (a story told in Rivers’ book and in the 2006 documentary Mom’s Apple Pie: The Heart of the Lesbian Mothers’ Custody Movement) can inspire us to keep contributing to that broader effort, even as we balance the demands of work and family.

LGBT History Month for this year may be drawing to a close, but the work of exploring our history must continue.

Dana Rudolph is the online content manager for the National SEED Project at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. She is also the founder and publisher of Mombian, a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and associated newspaper column for lesbian moms and other LGBT parents. She has a BA summa cum laude from Wellesley College and an M.Phil in Modern History from Oxford University.

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Child Care and the Overwhelmed Parent

Courtney Martin, a friend of the Wellesley Centers for Women, journalist, author of “Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists,” and one of the founding directors of the Solutions Journalism Network, is a regular contributor to the New York Times online opinion pages. In her July 24th article, she writes, "...what working mothers really need are systematic ways to find and afford safe, local care options for their kids. While many parents scramble to find care in the summer months, especially for older children out of school, it’s a year-round challenge for families with kids younger than preschool age."

Read Martin's full article,"Child Care and the Overwhelmed Parent">>

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Open Circle Training Goes to Uganda

Two Open Circle trainers from the Open Circle Program, Jen Dirga, MSW, and Sallie Dunning, Ed.M., traveled to Uganda in May 2014 to train teachers, youth, and parents from six rural primary schools and communities through the Pearl Community Empowerment Foundation. The goal of the training was to improve the relationships between the students, teachers, and parents, and to improve academic performance.

After the training, the teachers noted in their evaluation forms that this is the first training on social and emotional learning they had ever attended.

Dirga and Dunning reflect on their experiences with Open Circle training in Uganda:

Jen Dirga

Our trainings in Amor Village were amazing. It was hard to imagine ways to transfer the practices and concepts of Open Circle to Eastern Uganda. Yet, the experience highlighted the transformative power of positive relationships. Throughout our trainings there was an openness to mutually learn from each other. This is a community impacted with overcrowded schools (200 students to 1 teacher with very few resources), extreme poverty, and pervasive illness – and they welcomed opportunities to transfer Open Circle concepts and practices to support their children.

Sallie Dunning and I went to Amor Village with a training design based on the goals identified by Beatrice Achieng Nas, BSC, a visiting scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) in the Fall of 2013. Beatrice set the stage for our learning through her community work that effectively supports education and social change within her village.

Our training focused on practices that both promote and support positive relationships. We also highlighted specific interpersonal and life skills.

I think Sallie and I both learned how universally transferable so many of these skills are and the impact that they can have in supporting an entire community.

 

Sallie Dunning

Living in this small rural community in Eastern Uganda for two weeks was a life-changing experience for me. Riddled with disease (75% of the population is HIV positive), and poverty, the people had an astounding capacity for joy and generosity. (Two families gave me a precious chicken as a sign of gratitude for just being there.) Though isolated from “civilization” (having no electricity, mail, or running water), and used to their own ways, they were surprisingly open to our ideas about cultivating positive relationships, speaking up for girls’ education, and solving problems. Teachers, who have class sizes between 100-200 students with no pencils, paper, books, or materials, enjoyed trying out new teaching practices that might empower their students. Parents became convinced that they were their children’s most important teacher (a new concept for them), and vowed to try to be better models. All of this was possible because of the innovating grass roots work done by Beatrice Achieng Nas, a leader of that village who did work here at WCW last year.

Open Circle is a leading provider of evidence-based curriculum and professional development for social and emotional learning (SEL) in Kindergarten through Grade 5 in the United States.

Since its inception in 1987, Open Circle has reached over two million children and trained more than 13,000 educators. Open Circle is currently used in over 300 schools in more than 100 urban, suburban and rural communities across the United States. Open Circle is a program of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

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#BringBackOurGirls

More than two weeks have gone by since 276 young women were abducted from a high school in Nigeria,* and there has been relatively little attention to their plight from the international community and news media. These are young women who had returned to the school (which had previously been closed due to regional violence) to study for an important physics exam, the results of which could help them gain entry to a university and later into careers such as medicine and education.

Wellesley College, like many other colleges and universities in this country, has recently opened its doors to visits from prospective students--women from a wide range of backgrounds. As we share their anticipation and hopes, we might also take a moment to consider how in “one fell swoop” a group of terrorists, Boko Haram, violently intercepted the hopes of these young women who are of similar age. The other day, walking on our campus, I saw a group of local high school seniors in formal attire having their pictures taken by our beautiful lake, and I was touched by their pre-graduation excitement and, at the time, overwhelmed as I imagined the despair those young Nigerian women, aged 16-18, must be experiencing in the clutches of a depraved enemy.

Wellesley is one of the Seven Sisters’ Colleges--colleges with a historic commitment to the education and rights of women. If “Sisterhood” means something, then please lend your voices now; let the world know that this is unacceptable. Two years ago Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head and almost killed as a member of the Taliban opened fire on her school bus. Once again, young women risk annihilation in their effort to become educated. We are in a position to assert our voices on behalf of these “sisters.”

What you can do:

  • Use social media--hash tag #BringBackOurGirls Instagram posts and tweets in an effort to increase awareness.
  • Organize/ Attend Peaceful Community Marches.
  • Petition.
  • Raise public awareness and show support for these women in a peaceful, law-abiding and effective way.

 

Margaret Cezair-Thompson, Ph.D. is a Senior Lecturer in the English Department, Wellesley College.

* The actual number of abducted students has been difficult to confirm.

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Guest — Layli Maparyan
Building on this post, here is a perspective I greatly appreciate from Hauwa Ibrahim, the first female lawyer in Yamaltu District ... Read More
Friday, 16 May 2014 12:06
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UN Commission Calls for Increased Efforts to Promote Gender Equality

The following blog article was posted onHuffington Post, March 25, 2014 by Alex Sanger, chair of the International Planned Parenthood Council and member of the Wellesley Centers for Women Council of Advisors.

After two weeks of intense negotiations, the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women ended early Saturday morning with a strong call to prioritize gender equality and the human rights of women in order to achieve sustainable development.

The Commission was convened at the UN headquarters in New York to address the challenges and achievements of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in improving the lives of women and girls in developing countries. While the MDGs resulted in a reduction of poverty in some respects, the goals furthest from being achieved are those focused on women and girls -- particularly on achieving gender equality and improving maternal health. With the MDGs set to expire in 2015, the Commission's outcome document will help shape priorities for the next global development framework.

The Commission specifically called for a stand-alone goal on gender equality, a move that was applauded by women's rights activists.

A stand-alone goal on gender equality signals that gender equality and women's rights are important in and of themselves, as well as a priority for governmental investment. It recognizes that sustainable and meaningful development must address the root causes of gender inequality, which deny women and girls an education, the right to make decisions about their bodies and childbearing, to decent employment -- and equal pay for equal work -- and to live free of violence.

The Commission also stated that the post-2015 development agenda must include gender-specific targets across other development goals, strategies, and objectives -- especially those related to education, health, economic justice, and the environment. It also called on governments to address the discriminatory social norms and practices that foster gender inequality, including early and forced marriage and other forms of violence against women and girls, and to strengthen accountability mechanisms for women's human rights.

The Agreed Conclusions reaffirmed the Cairo Programme of Action as well as the Beijing Platform of Action, which called for investments in "quality comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care" including emergency contraception, information and education, safe abortion where allowed by law, and prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections and HIV. Furthermore, the Conclusions called for the recognition of the human rights of women to "decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality... free from coercion, discrimination, and violence."

Member States also recognized that progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals -- which include eradicating poverty and expanding access to health services such as reproductive health -- has been held back due to persistent "unequal power relations between women and men," particularly discriminatory laws, social norms, and gender stereotypes.

The governments expressed concern that several critical issues related to gender equality were not adequately addressed by the MDGs, including violence against women and girls; harmful practices such as early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation; women's and adolescents' sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights; women's and girls' disproportionate share of unpaid work, particularly unpaid care work; the gender wage gap; women's equal access to and control of resources including land; women's inheritance rights; and women's full participation in decision-making at all levels.

The Commission called for measures to ensure universal access to primary education, especially for girls and vulnerable youth, as well as measures to strengthen the ability of women to participate in formal and informal labor sectors. The governments also called for efforts to ensure that women's rights and health obtain the prominence they deserve in the next global development framework.

Women's health and rights organizations applauded governments who stood up for the rights of all individuals to live free of violence, discrimination, and barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health services, particularly for girls. However, advocates expressed disappointment that a small minority of conservative governments spurred on by the Holy See--which holds special observer status at the UN -- held up negotiations by objecting to concepts as fundamental as gender and the human rights of women throughout the two weeks of negotiations.

In particular, advocates noted that, despite a 20-year legacy of UN prohibition of discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and increasingly on gender identity, government delegates gave in to pressure to exclude recognition of these violations in the final agreed conclusions. 

Alexander Sanger is the author of Beyond Choice: Reproductive Freedom in the 21st Century, published in January 2004 by PublicAffairs. The grandson of Margaret Sanger, who founded the birth control movement over eighty years ago, Mr. Sanger is currently Chair of the International Planned Parenthood Council and has served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund.

 

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Computer Literacy: A valuable skill for all girls and women

We need more girls and women to consider careers in STEM--science, technology, engineering, and math--particularly computer science. Computers are everywhere and are part of our lives in so many ways--phones, cars, home, workplace. Women who can master technology may find more career opportunities and new ways to make a difference in their communities and the world.

Further,STEM careers offer financial rewards and some flexibility. According to Department of Education Analysis of Girls in Education, women in STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than those in non-STEM occupations and experience a smaller wage gap relative to men. Yet, a 2011 report “Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation” confirms that women pursue STEM jobs and STEM degrees less than men. I am hopeful that more women will enter STEM fields, or at least include computer science as part of their education.

Technology today is significantly different than in the past. Today it’s an art of adapting and knitting pieces together, evaluating possible strategies, and understanding requirements and limitations of functionality and outcomes. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan described learning to code as “creative and empowering”; this past winter he encouraged students, teachers, and parents to participate in the Hour of Code campaign as a preparation for the critical thinking and problem solving needed for academic and career success. The Maker Movement, with sponsors such as Cognizant, Intel, and Pixar, encourages kids to combine creativity with science, technology, engineering, art, and math. I believe that the emphasis on creativity is why the Maker Movement reports a 55 percent female participation rate.

In my hometown, I see evidence that women are emerging as confident, enthusiastic leaders of technology. Recently, I was at a public meeting for a community group planning the inaugural Wellesley Science & Technology Expo slated for next month. The feedback from local women programmers who had an idea for using Raspberry Pis in a computer science demo resulted in the room buzzing with energy and excitement.

We need to reach a critical mass of women in technology and we need to keep young girls engaged throughout their academic trajectories. Similar to the finding that three or more women are needed to make an impact on a corporate board, we need better female representation to change the culture of computing. Entering technology today is an opportunity for adolescent girls and young women to make large strides toward equality, to decrease the gender gap in pay, and to attain leadership positions where they can inform workplace policies and bring women’s perspectives into our technology-driven society. By utilizing and sharing these skills, women can help drive social change for the field, for the world.

So, here's my call-to-action women of the world: Be innovators, become comfortable with technology. Learn something new and share your knowledge; become a wizard using applications on your phone or tablet. If you have children in your life, learn with them so they may associate technology learning from and with women as well as men. Be a leader!

Sue Sours, B.S. is the Information & Technology Systems Manager at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. She earned her degree in Applied Mathematics/Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University.

 

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A College Student’s Perspective on Leadership

S Mahmood H K Bottomly and M Albright

Wellesley College has a legacy for producing storied female leadership. Our alumnae include two Secretaries of State and the most female Fortune 500 CEOs of any American college or university. This legacy was what drew me, along with many other students, to the College. We, too, wanted to be leaders, and the achievements of our high-profile alumnae confirmed that this was the place to be.

At the Madeleine Korbel Albright Institute for Global Affairs this past winter session, however, the other fellows and I began to wonder if our original conception of leadership had been too narrow. The Institute’s focus on developing women’s leadership for the international stage made us think critically about what being a leader means. Perhaps, we realized, being high-profile was not the only way to be high-impact.

We heard from former Wellesley College President Nannerl Keohane, now a Senior Scholar at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School, who discussed the 2011 findings of the Princeton Steering Committee on Undergraduate Women’s Leadership. At Princeton, female students have been less likely to seek prominent leadership positions than their male counterparts, in a pattern consistent with co-ed colleges across the country.

As students at a women’s college, we were accustomed to an environment where women hold all of the leadership positions. We knew that women were discouraged, and even prevented, from pursuing prominent leadership roles in the “real world,” but it was jarring to realize that this also took place at college campuses. After all, college is intended to develop, not hinder, your potential.

Yet just because women weren’t holding high-profile leadership positions on campus didn’t mean that they weren’t contributing to campus life. The committee also found that women were more likely to “hold behind-the-scenes positions or seek to make a difference outside of elected office in campus groups.” Women at Princeton, for example, were often engaged in cause-based issues, like spearheading campaigns to institute recycling across campus.

These findings made us consider whether our definition of leadership was so limiting that we were overlooking those who were providing it, just in alternative ways. In defining leadership as something that must inherently be prominent and visible, we had forgotten that leadership is about putting the issue, and not yourself, on the frontlines.

That is not to say that we shouldn’t keep working towards cracking the glass ceiling. Another speaker, Rangita de Silwa de Alwis, Director of the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative, as well as a Senior Scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women, emphasized the importance of including women’s voices at the table. High-profile positions come with great power and influence, and excluding women from them is both unjust and unwise, as research suggests that closing the gender gap in fields like policymaking results in more inclusive legislation and economic empowerment. While we work towards making top leadership more inclusive, though, we must also recognize that sitting at the head of the table isn’t the only way to get work done, either.

In fact, most of the people driving social change are “ordinary” people, doing extraordinary things. Consider the women that created HarassMap, an SMS reporting system for sexual harassment in Egypt. Their work has directly made a difference in creating a safer world for women. They might not appear on the cover of Forbes, but their leadership has made a difference in the lives of Egyptian women.

Further, perhaps part of the problem in why women are less likely to be found in prominent positions is because we devalue the other forms of leadership that they have been providing in the first place. Organizing a recycling campaign requires the same degree of management and vision as being the president of a club--yet one is seen as more prestigious than the other. This not only limits the opportunities available to qualified women, but also makes them feel as though they’re not qualified in the first place.

One of the traditions at Wellesley is hoop-rolling, where seniors race down a lane, while rolling a hoop. Back in the day, it was said that the woman who finished first would be the first one to get married. That changed with the feminist movement, when the winner was the first one to become a CEO. Now we say that the winner will be the first one to have her dreams come true, whatever they might be. It is time we start applying the same open-mindedness to our view of leadership.

Sarah Mahmood is a senior at Wellesley College and a Communications Assistant at the Wellesley Centers for Women. She has worked as an On-Call Writer at PolicyMic; a Press Intern at the Clinton Foundation; and an Intern for Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien at CNN. Mahmood is pictured above with H. Kim Bottomly, Wellesley College President, and Madeleine Korbel Albright, Secretary of State (1997-2001), during the 2014 Albright Institute in January.

 

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Views expressed on the Women Change Worlds blog are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the Wellesley Centers for Women or Wellesley College nor have they been authorized or endorsed by Wellesley College.

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