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.

What is a Girl Worth? Lessons from USA Gymnastics on International Day of the Girl Child

On October 11, International Day of the Girl Child, Intern Simone Toney and Senior Research Scientist Linda M. Williams, Ph.D., discuss how USA Gymnastics exemplifies what happens when an institution places a girl’s achievements above all else, and how Simone Biles is driving change for the better.

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National Student Parent Month is Coming to an End, But Our Work Carries On

Jade Prior and her mom Mishelle Prior of Eugene represent two-generations of Oregon student parentsJade Prior and her mom Mishelle Prior of Eugene represent two-generations of Oregon student parents.

On September 15, 2021, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution declaring September National Student Parent Month. As a person who both was a student parent, and has worked to advocate for other student parents throughout my education and career, after many long years of simply trying to be seen and acknowledged, this federal recognition felt like an important victory. While it didn't direct resources to student parents, nor change laws or policies to better protect and ensure our equitable access to higher education, it showed acknowledgment and solidarity both for the fact both that we exist, and that we are significant: one in five undergraduate students, and one in three graduate students, is parenting during their studies.

In the student parent world, this was a moment for both celebration and frustration: many of us work in small offices, or even departments of one, and our day-to-day work centers around supporting student parents. This is busy, ongoing, and critical work. Helping student parents address their needs and overcome their challenges and crises takes priority over day-to-day work. Between helping students succeed academically, helping them navigate systems to find child care and meet their basic needs, and helping strategize crises, we are very busy people!

Celebrations and special events take months to plan, and with National Student Parent Month being declared half-way through September, many of those celebrating this monumental recognition, were left with no time to plan, organize, and implement a celebration.


Instead of seeing September 30 as a deadline for celebrating the hard and diligent work of student parents and their allies, we should view the close of National Student Parent Month as a catalyst towards the change that is on the horizon.

While I no longer work directly in a student parent program on my campus, I've been busy supporting student parents through research, program support, curriculum development, and advocating for policy and systems change, I can admit that, like a lot of my colleagues in the student parent world, I wasn't ready for a sudden two-week deadline.

So to my friends in the student parent world, I have a proposal. Instead of seeing September 30 as a deadline for celebrating the hard and diligent work of student parents and their allies, we should view the close of National Student Parent Month as a catalyst towards the change that is on the horizon. Let’s use this as a call to action through which we will work to expand college access, inclusion, and success for student parents and their families between now and the second National Student Parent Month in 2022.

This is a moment to celebrate and showcase the collective work that we are already doing to support student parents, and to consider what it would take to be able to do our work even better. It's also a call for advocating for policy and systems change, envisioning a nation where every person—regardless of their background, age, race/ethnicity, income, gender, marital, and/or parenting/caregiving status—is offered an equitable opportunity to complete a college degree.

Highlights from Ongoing Work to Support Student Parents

At the Higher Education Access for Student Parents Research Initiative, we have been busy working to advance student parent success across the landscape of U.S. higher education. Here are a few highlights of our work from the past year, and some previews of what you’ll see from us in the coming year:


Educating the Public About Student Parent Issues

  • Testifying before the Oregon State Legislature's Senate and House Education Committees on the need for student parent demographic data collection, which led to the passage of Senate Bill 564, requiring public postsecondary institutions to collect student demographics pertaining to parenting status. Oregon was the first state to pass such legislation, through an effort that was mobilized by student parents and their allies.
  • Authoring a series of op-eds to call attention to student parents and their challenges and successes in outlets including The Hechinger Report, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, and Ms. Magazine.
  • Launching Student Parents @ the Center, in collaboration with the Urban Institute, a project through which we are developing and expanding upon a framework for understanding and mapping the broad range of policies intersecting in student parents' lives that support or impede their college success.

Reports and Resources on Student Parent Programs Across the U.S.


Academic Journal Articles and White Papers

  • Publishing a new article in About Campus about how to strategically time student parent support services across the phases of an academic term.
  • Releasing a new white paper and sample curricula reflecting pedagogies for parent/child learning through the Two-Generation Classroom Project. In the coming year, we are excited to put this work into action through a partnership to support student parents.

Contextualizing Our Work in Historical Perspectives

  • Student parents have been part of college life for a lot longer than most people realize! There is so much to learn from the history of student parents in higher education to inform our contemporary work, but this history is still largely undocumented. Our Student Parents in History Project, launching in fall 2021, is building a digital archive of documents and oral histories on the history of student parents in higher education from the Post World War II era through the present day.

We work to engage and elevate the expertise, leadership, and contributions of current and former student parents in meaningful ways that counter tokenism and affirm experiential expertise.

In all of these efforts, we believe it is critical that student parent voices and expertise are centered, supporting their efforts as emerging leaders and experts in higher education, social science research, policy, and advocacy. We work to engage and elevate the expertise, leadership, and contributions of current and former student parents in meaningful ways that counter tokenism and affirm experiential expertise. Student parents’ perspectives are critical to understanding the challenges that student parents face in college today and determining how to build systems to create a more inclusive and equitable future for student parents and their families.

All of our projects work to engage student parents as meaningful contributors to our shared work. We engage with student parents, interdisciplinary experts who were student parents during their studies, and self-identified student parent allies as knowledge and research partners, collaborating with them to engage in the processes of informing and shaping social change. We practice family friendliness and flexibility in every aspect of our work, creating inclusive, welcoming, supportive, and safe spaces to be both parents and students/professionals, recognizing the brilliance, strength, and contributions of all of our partners in this work.

In the coming year, we hope to inspire and advance the quest for equitable access to education for all: including students with kids. Our projects focus on informing and shaping policy, systems, and structural changes that are necessary to achieving this goal across the U.S., while exploring and testing new approaches and models in partnership with post-secondary institutions and communities, who are working locally toward this shared goal.

For us, National Student Parent Month is a symbol of recognition with the power to ignite and accelerate this shared mission. It serves as a checkpoint at which we can stop and reflect on all that we have accomplished and all that we still have yet to do. It is our hope that the time between now and September 2022 will be a year of collaboration, partnership, and movement building across the fields of higher education, economic mobility, and thriving communities, so that next September, we can look back on the year and see just how far we have come.


Autumn Green, Ph.D., is a research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women studying higher education access for student parents. Dr. Green is nationally recognized for her scholarship on the lives of student parents and has worked to create two-generation programs on college and university campuses.

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Internship Reflection: Building Knowledge Together About Our Digital Worlds

Rachel Hodes, Wellesley College graduate

As a Class of 1967 intern at the Wellesley Centers for Women, I had the opportunity to spend the past year working with Dr. Linda Charmaraman in the Youth, Media, and Wellbeing Research Lab. I worked on a wide range of projects; while all were focused around adolescent health and social media use, our research asked more specifically about sleep, mental illness, pets, activism, gaming, identity, and a whole host of other topics, many of which have been largely unexplored in the landscapes of both health and digital media research.

My internship challenged me to think critically about the unanswered questions we still have about social media. As someone on the cusp of the millennial/Gen Z divide, I relate to so many of the ways adolescents today use technology. Growing up, I also went online and to social media platforms to learn about myself and the world, to make new friends, and to engage with issues I cared about.

On the other hand, the internet is such a constantly evolving space that it’s hard to reconcile just how different the experiences of today’s early adolescents might be from my own—and that’s why the chance to learn about these experiences from many different angles was so exciting and eye-opening. Being able to analyze qualitative survey responses from LGBTQ+ youth, or watch the videos from the favorite YouTube channels respondents shared with us, has given me new insight into the reality of the media most popular among adolescents today, and the ways they navigate interactions with parents, peers, and strangers in online environments.


. . . publication in a journal was a reminder for me of one of the main reasons research matters in the first place: to share findings with a broader audience and spur informed discussion about a topic.

I also had the opportunity to collect data directly. In 2019, I went into middle schools with the lab and oversaw students taking our survey, and more recently I interviewed parents of middle schoolers about their pets, loneliness during the pandemic, and wellbeing. At the other end of the research process, having an article I co-authored published, using the data our lab collected about LGBTQ+ adolescents’ online activity, was so rewarding. Because I’d experienced so many different phases of the research process during my time with the lab, that work coming to fruition with publication in a journal was a reminder for me of one of the main reasons research matters in the first place: to share findings with a broader audience and spur informed discussion about a topic.

Ultimately, one of my biggest takeaways from studying social media use in adolescence has come from examining our lab’s findings alongside other new research on emerging social technologies. While my internship has come to an end, I’m currently diving into past scholarship on YouTube and learning which trends match our data and which differ.

Because social media can offer adolescents such a powerful outlet for self-expression and learning, while simultaneously increasing feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anxiety, it’s often impossible to come to a definite conclusion about whether the benefits outweigh the risks. Even if we could, it’s pretty clear that social media is here to stay, especially for young people, whether we like it or not—but what we can do is collaborate and build knowledge together about the digital worlds that are increasingly intertwined with our offline lives. It was an honor to be able to add my voice to that conversation, and I can’t wait to bring the inquisitive and analytical mindset that being a research assistant has taught me into my next adventure.


Rachel Hodes graduated from Wellesley College in 2021 with a degree in Sociology. They received the Class of 1967 Internship at the Wellesley Centers for Women for the 2020-2021 academic year to conduct research with Dr. Linda Charmaraman. During their internship, they co-authored an academic journal article that was published in JMIR Mental Health. After graduation, they moved to Savannah, Georgia, to work as a community organizer.

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Child Care in a Pandemic: The "New Normal"

Child care provider tends to children while wearing a mask

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led Massachusetts (along with many other states) to close all forms of child care, except emergency care. Many parents found themselves working from home and caring for their young children at the same time, muddling through as best they could until child care reopened in summer 2020.

When child care became available again, what did parents do—especially given their fears and lack of confidence in the child care system? New health and safety guidelines, including smaller group sizes and other limitations, raised costs and made fewer slots available. Many child care centers and family child care homes closed, and fewer educators were available to care for and educate young children.

Thanks to support from WCW’s Harold Benenson Memorial Research Fund, I explored this “new normal” of child care by interviewing 25 Massachusetts families with children under the age of five. I looked at how these families were accessing child care during the pandemic, their experiences and perceptions of the multiple dimensions of child care, and the implications for parents’ daily lives as well as their employment, economic mobility, work hours, and advancement.


One mother said it wasn’t feasible to be 100% parent and 100% worker at the same time, and that she felt she wasn’t doing anything well.

For all the parents I spoke to, being home with their children from March until July 2020 (or later) was tough. The majority tried to work while caring for their children, working during naps, before children woke, or long after bedtime. One mother said it wasn’t feasible to be 100% parent and 100% worker at the same time, and that she felt she wasn’t doing anything well. Another said she was in survival mode. Another said that she sacrificed her physical and emotional health.

Despite these challenges, it was surprising to me to learn that the families in this study sent their children back to care as soon as it reopened. I expected that fears about COVID and issues of affordability and accessibility might cause families to delay their return. But many felt their children had to go back to what they had known. One mother said her child needed to return because of his mental health. Another parent felt torn about returning and nervous about COVID, but believed the potential exposure was worth it because her child needed an outlet, socially and mentally. Another felt her daughter needed the normalcy and education that she couldn’t get with a baby brother at home.

The first few months of the pandemic brought into the spotlight how hard—near impossible—it was to both work from home and care for young children. The parents in this study told me about their struggles in trying to do both. Going forward, we need a new work culture that is more flexible. Businesses need to ease output expectations, incorporate more paid family leave programs, and implement innovative accommodations for their employees with young children.


When child care programs reopened, most of the families I spoke to went back to the child care they used before the pandemic, even though it was often more than they could afford and led them to use a patchwork of care arrangements to meet their needs.

When child care programs reopened, most of the families I spoke to went back to the child care they used before the pandemic, even though it was often more than they could afford and led them to use a patchwork of care arrangements to meet their needs. Child care needs to be affordable, accessible, and meet the needs of working families. We need to advocate for federal and state funding specifically for child care. We also need to tend to the mental toll the pandemic has taken on families’ lives. Exhausted parents and their children need to be provided with mental, emotional, and trauma-related support. Parents can only parent when they themselves are provided with the care they need.


Wendy Wagner Robeson, Ed.D., is a senior research scientist in the Work, Families, & Children Research Group at the Wellesley Centers for Women. Her work is focused on child development, early childhood care and education, child care policy, school readiness, literacy, and language.

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Engaging Black Girls in STEM With a Culturally Responsive Maker Program

A meeting of Black Girls Create, a culturally responsive STEM program created by LaShawnda Lindsay, Ph.D. (center)
The following is an excerpt from an article in the spring 2021 issue of Afterschool Matters about Black Girls Create, a culturally responsive maker program designed by LaShawnda Lindsay, Ph.D.

Black Girls Create addresses issues of equity, inclusion, and relevance for Black girls by providing a curriculum and a learning environment that incorporates girls’ cultural and intellectual histories and expands the meaning and purposes of STEM learning. A unique aspect of Black Girls Create is that it focuses on making and maker culture. Maker afterschool programs in which girls learn about digital fabrication and engage in STEM in meaningful ways are associated with improvements in their STEM interest and self-efficacy.

Making can involve traditional craft and hobby techniques, such as sewing or woodworking. It often incorporates digital technologies in either manufacture or design. For example, manufacturing processes might use laser cutters or 3D printers; designs might use microcontrollers or LED lights for specific effects. Digital fabrication involves the design and manufacturing of products using advanced technology. Common forms of digital fabrication are computer numerical control (CNC) machinery, 3D printing, and laser engraving and cutting.

Makerspaces and related activities give young people who have disengaged from formal STEM instruction opportunities to design, tinker, and build in nontraditional ways, thus enhancing their confidence and interest in STEM. Making gives Black girls access to sophisticated digital tools they can use to build, create, and think. Maker learning can engage Black girls in STEM and broaden participation in STEM by centering on digital fabrication activities that align with Black culture and strengthen their connection to their heritage.


[Culturally responsive maker programs] can broaden participation of Black girls, a historically underrepresented group in STEM, by addressing identity gaps that prevent some Black girls from seeing themselves as capable STEM learners.

Culturally responsive making is an emerging field in both research and practice in informal STEM learning environments. For this project, culturally responsive making is operationally defined as tapping cultural knowledge and maker technologies to engage Black girls in creating, designing, and producing artifacts related to a particular concept, theme, or person. It connects with Black female learners’ interests and activities along a spectrum of cultural practices, from traditional to vernacular. It also engages Black youth in cultural affirmation and sociocultural critique.

Making situated in an appropriate cultural context can broaden participation of Black girls, a historically underrepresented group in STEM, by addressing identity gaps that prevent some Black girls from seeing themselves as capable STEM learners and future STEM professionals.

During the pilot implementation of Black Girls Create, we engaged Black girls in digital fabrication to increase their interest in STEM and their confidence in their ability to learn STEM. Its culturally responsive pedagogy focused on Black women’s contributions in STEM. The combination of making, social history, cultural responsiveness, and mentoring addressed the participation gap and identity gap experienced by Black girls in ways designed to lead to more positive racial and gender identities.


Acknowledging and incorporating participants’ culture helps them create meaningful connections to academic subjects—particularly when they are members of underrepresented groups.

Incorporating Black culture into program design and implementation was a critical feature of Black Girls Create. Culture is the mechanism through which people learn how to be in the world, how to behave, what to value, and what gives meaning to their lives. Culture is the context for learning, whether in formal or informal settings. Acknowledging and incorporating participants’ culture helps them create meaningful connections to academic subjects—particularly when they are members of underrepresented groups who may believe that certain subjects are unrelated to their current or future lives. Many Black girls and young women believe that science and math are not interesting and that the content is too difficult for them to master. As a result, many of them disengage from learning and fall behind in these core subjects.

Decades of research show that situating learning within Black students’ cultural context and connecting academic subjects to their cultural knowledge produce better academic outcomes. When these connections are made, especially in science and math, Black learners are more likely to show interest in the subject, engage in all aspects of the learning process, and master the content.


LaShawnda Lindsay, Ph.D., is a research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women who integrates culturally responsive teaching and learning, digital fabrication, and cultural knowledge into STEM programs to increase Black girls’ interest and value in STEM education and careers. Read more about her program, Black Girls Create in the spring 2021 issue of Afterschool Matters.

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Guest — Rajveer singh rawat
In my oppion this is the best article for equality This article gives awareness to our culture about not respecting black girls.... Read More
Friday, 20 August 2021 22:40
Guest — Keith Catherine
This article gives us equality and awareness. It gives us the idea of helping the black girls in any aspect. And also this will wa... Read More
Monday, 06 September 2021 13:20
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Exploring the Link Between Paid Sick Leave and the Early Spread of COVID-19

Tara Wattal, Wellesley College Class of 2021
Imagine that it is March 2020 and you are hearing increased reports about COVID-19’s U.S. path. Meanwhile, it’s a Monday—a workday—and you feel ill with symptoms that align with ones reportedly associated with the new virus. You know that if you attend work, you may infect your fellow coworkers with whatever illness you are experiencing, COVID-19 or not. Your ideal course of action is to stay home. However, a whole host of reasons may prevent you from doing so.

Maybe your workplace has a stigma towards those who take a day off, and you decide to attend work in order to avoid coworker judgment. If your work is within the “care” sector, you might feel an obligation to those you serve which overrides your wariness surrounding your sickness. Or perhaps you can’t stay home because missing out on a day of work means missing out on a crucial day of pay or losing your job.

Consistent with this scenario, past studies have shown that access to paid sick leave is an important determinant of an ill person’s capacity to miss work. If a worker is not guaranteed payment or job security in times of personal or family illness, she may choose to attend work, even if she is running a high fever or caring for a child with a nasty cough. Today, the global pandemic caused by COVID-19 makes clear: As stark as the choice to miss work is for individuals, their choice affects the health of others.

The United States does not offer workers a permanent, federal paid sick leave law which protects their wages and jobs through illnesses. Instead, it is typically the purview of employers to provide their workers with paid time off or sick leave benefits. This employer-focused sick leave scheme leads to disparities in paid sick leave access by industry, occupation, and firm type: A Pew Research Center analysis found that workers who earn more and work in “management, professional and related” occupations, such as accountants, lawyers, and software engineers, are most likely to receive sickness-related income and job protection. Left behind from these job protections are often lower-wage, part-time, and service industry workers—who are disproportionately women and women of color.

To promote broader sick leave coverage, some states, counties, and cities have passed mandates which explicitly require employers in their jurisdictions to provide their workers with paid sick leave. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, 12 of these state-level paid sick leave laws were in effect. In my senior thesis research advised by Wellesley College Professor Kristin Butcher, Ph.D., and in partnership with WCW Senior Research Scientist Sari Kerr, Ph.D., and WCW Research Scientist Deniz Çivril, Ph.D., I investigated whether these already-on-the-books state paid sick leave laws led to greater social distancing and reduced COVID-19 infection during the early months of the pandemic’s U.S. course.


Through my research, I found that people in all states responded to COVID-19 by staying at home more. And in states with paid sick leave mandates, individuals stayed at home to an even greater degree.

I took advantage of a variety of data sources for my project, from cell phone location tracking data sourced from SafeGraph Social Distancing Metrics to demographic data from the American Community Survey. Through my research, I found that people in all states responded to COVID-19 by staying at home more. And in states with paid sick leave mandates, individuals stayed at home to an even greater degree.

For example, immediately following President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration on March 13, 2020, individuals in states with paid sick leave mandates stayed at home for about 30 more minutes per day relative to people in states not covered by paid sick leave mandates. To put this number into context, 30 additional minutes at home each day is similar to going from typical at-home behavior on a Friday to typical at-home behavior on a Thursday. For a worker in May 2020 earning the median hourly wage, 30 minutes of work raked in approximately $10.

I also found that individuals’ ability to stay home during the pandemic was determined by more than their access to state-level paid sick leave. In states covered by paid sick leave mandates, individual characteristics such as educational attainment and ethnicity were associated with differing levels of stay-at-home behavior: Higher shares of college-educated people were associated with more distancing, and higher shares of Hispanic people were associated with less distancing.


By evaluating the effectiveness of paid sick leave mandates in preventing illness spread at the commencement of a global pandemic . . . policymakers can better equip societies with public health tools that successfully prevent devastating human health effects.

There are several possible explanations for these results. College-educated individuals are more likely to be in a higher income bracket and work in jobs that offer paid sick leave. Their jobs may be easily done from home. Thus, as a group, college-educated individuals likely will have an opportunity to stay at home more relative to others, whether or not their state has a sick leave mandate. If high numbers of college-educated individuals live in states that pass paid sick leave, people in these states are more likely to respond to a pandemic by staying home.

Meanwhile, Hispanic people disproportionately make up front-line service jobs. They are also less likely to have access to sick leave through their employers. It appears contradictory that this group did not respond to sick leave coverage within paid sick leave states by distancing more during the pandemic. This result could imply that there exist sustained coverage and effectiveness gaps for paid sick leave mandates passed by states.

Overall, my results offer some evidence that paid sick leave mandates did achieve their intended goals of keeping sick individuals at home, but to a modest degree during the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the intention of this study is important. By evaluating the effectiveness of paid sick leave mandates in preventing illness spread at the commencement of a global pandemic—a time when more people are contracting illness and facing the decision of whether or not to stay home from work—policymakers can better equip societies with public health tools that successfully prevent devastating human health effects. Even if paid sick leave mandates are not complete antidotes to a public health crisis like COVID-19, they may work well in tandem with other public health protections. Researchers and practitioners should continue to search for optimal policies that ensure that people stay home, tend to their illnesses, take care of loved ones, and limit the future spread of infection.


Tara Wattal graduated from Wellesley College in June 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. This blog post contains excerpts from her senior honors thesis, which was advised by Wellesley College Economics Professor Kristin Butcher, Ph.D.

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What Could Be More American Than Critical Race Theory?

Paper cutouts of faces in profile with a range of skin tonesCritical race theory has become the latest front in the culture wars. Depending on what you’ve read or what you’ve heard from politicians, you may be under the impression that critical race theory means talking about racism in any context, or that it means white people are inherently racist.

But critical race theory, or CRT, is actually an academic movement that critically examines the law as it intersects with issues of race. CRT is rooted in the broader concept of critical theory, which critiques society and culture in order to reveal and challenge power structures. The history of critical theory is one of people who had previously been sidelined rising up with their own understandings of the world. Critical theory says, we can make our society more equal for everyone, and here’s how.

For example, if you’re a woman who works outside the home, you have critical theory—more specifically, feminism and the feminist movement—to thank for that ability. If you’re an LGBTQ+ person who enjoys the same rights as heterosexual people, you have critical theory—more specifically, queer theory and the LGBTQ+ movement—to thank. If your children don’t work backbreaking hours in a factory, you have critical theory—more specifically, the labor movement—to thank.

In all of these cases, critical theory comes from those on the periphery. Those who have been marginalized in the past gain the power to stand up and demand equal rights for themselves and their families.

In the case of critical race theory, Black, Latinx, and Asian American thinkers like Derrick Bell, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Richard Delgado, Patricia Williams, and Robert S. Chang have stood up and asked why people of color should not receive equal treatment under the law as white people. Frederick Douglass’ “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”—a speech delivered on July 5, 1852—was also an early work of critical race theory that raised questions about the nuances of freedom in the United States.

On this 4th of July, we wonder, what could be more American than that?


In a sense, our founding fathers were also proponents of critical theory.

In a sense, our founding fathers were also proponents of critical theory. They were critical of the British monarchy and believed they could design a more just society, one in which power is vested in the people. They built a democracy which, though deeply flawed, remains full of promise. When people on the margins force us to examine those flaws, they are moving us toward the highest values of our Constitution: freedom, justice, and equality for all. Critical theory springs from those roots.

As research scientists who study womanism and the social determinants, racial injustices, and cultural biases that burden the progression and viability of Black girls and women, we believe that critical theory, including critical race theory, plays an important role in our work, and we believe that its evolution has improved our lives and the lives of all Americans.

So when we’re told that students should not be learning CRT in schools, or that it’s demonizing white people and dividing our society, we need to take a step back and view it in the larger context of critical theory as a whole. When we question whether we can do better, and when we give voice to people who have been sidelined, we are part of this grand tradition, and we are living up to our highest ideals as Americans.


Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women and an expert on the womanist worldview and activist methodology. LaShawnda Lindsay, Ph.D., is a research scientist who leads the Black Girls and STEM Education Research Initiative at WCW.

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Guest — Liz Camarie
As a white woman born in 1949, I appreciate your description of CRT. It honors the reality of the lives many generations. And it s... Read More
Wednesday, 07 July 2021 18:18
Guest — Rinchen Angmo
It's a good thought
Wednesday, 28 July 2021 06:28
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Urging the Biden Administration to Change Rules for Colleges on Responding to Sexual Assault

Illustration of scales of justice against an abstract rainbow-colored backgroundSenior Research Scientist Linda M. Williams, Ph.D., read an excerpt of the following testimony at a public hearing on Title IX held by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights on June 11, 2021.

The hearing invited comments on the Biden administration’s decision to rewrite the Title IX campus sexual misconduct rule finalized under the Trump administration. Williams testified that those amending Title IX policies must consider rigorous, peer-reviewed research to ensure that women are given equal access to education and cited federally funded studies including her study of college responses to sexual assault on campus recently completed with colleagues April Pattavina, Ph.D., Alison Cares, Ph.D., Nan Stein, Ed.D., and Mary Frederick.


It is critically important for the Biden administration to change the Title IX rules promulgated by the prior administration not only to assure women’s equal access to education, but also to contribute to a change in the culture that, currently, at best minimizes and at worst encourages sexual violence, physical abuse, and sexual harassment of women and girls. President Biden knows these issues well and it is on us to foster governmental and community efforts designed to end violence against women and to take decisive action to hold perpetrators accountable.

The new Title IX rules set into place during the previous administration removed longstanding protections to survivors, access to support measures and accommodations, and requirements that schools respond to all violence that creates a hostile environment, whether it occurs on campus or off. While I applaud the inclusion of dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault, I wish to express my strong opposition to the inclusion of the language that sexual harassment involves “unwelcome conduct determined by a reasonable person to be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the recipient’s education program or activity.”

New guidance should reaffirm that Title IX offers a wide range of supportive measures and remedies that schools must provide survivors, including robust protections against retaliation, and that ensure complainants and respondents have equal procedural rights in school investigations and disciplinary proceedings addressing harassment.

The new regulations were misguided in the requirement that colleges hold live disciplinary hearings during which those who have been sexually assaulted and those accused of assaulting them present live testimony and can be cross-examined. That is not good for students and is likely to create a more litigious and adversarial process. Such a process would create an opportunity for more personal attacks than are present even in the criminal justice system, while pushing colleges to behave like that system.


Requirements for colleges to adopt criminal justice-like procedures will have a chilling effect on reporting and help-seeking.

Indeed, the criminal legal system is rarely effective in achieving justice for victims of sexual assault. I have studied this issue extensively and am familiar with the many obstacles that victims face: Most do not report sexual assault to authorities to begin with, and those who do face a secondary victimization as they must recount their experience repeatedly to police, prosecutors, and other court officials. Challenges to victim credibility come on many fronts and many complaints are discounted or the cases are dropped before adjudication.

Requirements for colleges to adopt criminal justice-like procedures will have a chilling effect on reporting and help-seeking. Few complaints will move forward, and the safety of students and their access to an education will be further jeopardized. A criminal justice model also does not make sense for colleges, whose mission is to educate, not adjudicate. Their goal is to foster norms against sexual violence and harassment, but they will end up being complicit in the re-victimization of those who report.

Our research team has examined the policies and processes that colleges and universities use to address sexual assault complaints. Along with colleagues and funded by the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, I recently completed a project on Responding to Sexual Assault on Campus. In the course of our research on 969 colleges across the US, we spoke to dozens of Title IX coordinators, many of whom felt strongly that the way they handle sexual assault cases—including sanctioning—should be in part an educational process, in keeping with the mission of their institution to educate. Addressing complaints by holding hearings and cross-examinations does not fit with that mission, and it is also inconsistent with how colleges handle other violations of student conduct codes.

The Title IX coordinators faced countless challenges. The greatest challenge for many was building capacity to respond to reports of sexual assault. They voiced a critical need for more well-trained investigators, strong institutional support, and visibility, including adequate funding, staffing, and training.

Existing research is clear. We know that one in three women experience sexual assault in their lifetimes, and such assaults begin for some even before they enter preschool. We have convincing evidence that one in five women has been sexually assaulted while in college and that college-aged women are at high risk for sexual harassment and abuse. And we know that the repercussions of these assaults on the individual women can be lifelong and place financial burdens on our economy and health care system. We also understand that perpetrators who are not held accountable are more likely to sexually assault again and that ignoring the problem of sexual assault contributes to a culture of abuse. We know all this because of decades of high-quality research, including much sponsored by the federal government.

Educational institutions must be held responsible for ensuring safe campuses that are conducive to learning and thriving for all their members, and most institutions take this responsibility very seriously. Decisions to amend these policies must consider rigorous, peer-reviewed research to ensure that women are given equal access to education.


Senior Research Scientist Linda M. Williams, Ph.D., directs the Justice and Gender Based Violence Research Initiative at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

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Guest — Abigail Agbomadzi
:being a female is no fault of ours for us to be facing sexual harassment and assault here and there. It is very disheartening bec... Read More
Saturday, 24 July 2021 12:01
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"We Are Not Alone in Our Struggles": Mental Health Awareness Month

Solemn young Black woman sits in front of window with light shining inMay is Mental Health Awareness Month. This year, it comes at a time when we have an increased focus on mental health due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Media reports have focused on the increase of symptoms and the difficulties related to accessing care.

As a chronic stressor, the COVID pandemic is a difficult one. It has limited our social contact, caused financial distress, taken away jobs, schools, and childcare, and created a collective and personal grief in the lives that we have lost. While these factors have and will contribute to the development of mental health disorders for some people, it also must be acknowledged that, for many people, the distress felt in response to these factors represents a normative reaction in a difficult time. In other words, it is normal to feel sad, lonely, unmotivated, and worried during a global pandemic, and those feelings do not necessarily indicate clinical depression or anxiety.

While it seems that more U.S. adults are reporting current symptoms of depression or anxiety, there is also evidence that the level of these symptoms fluctuates based on situational factors connected with the pandemic. For example, one study found that U.S. adults reported an increase in the average psychological distress that they experienced from March 2020 to April 2020, at which point the average psychological distress reported started decreasing. By the end of June 2020, after lockdown regulations were starting to ease, people were reporting the same level of overall psychological distress as they had in early March.

This suggests that more people are reporting experiences (sadness, loss of interest, feeling nervous, and uncontrollable worry) that can indicate the presence of mental health symptoms, but that these experiences are fluctuating over time—perhaps as situational factors change for individuals. This could indicate that much of the increase in distress is caused by the events around us, and not necessarily the development of mental health disorders which would be marked by a set of specific symptoms that are present for the majority of the time (for over two weeks for depression and over six months for anxiety). While it is important to acknowledge psychological distress due to stressors, it can also be helpful to remember that it is a common reaction.


Research on resilience provides a framework to understand our experiences with mental health over the course of the pandemic.

Research on resilience provides a framework to understand our experiences with mental health over the course of the pandemic. While some mental health professionals view resilience as a personal quality, others focus on symptom trajectories over time. Studies on symptom trajectories find that the most common outcome to hardship is resilience and recovery. What I have always found to be most comforting about these studies is that people who were later found to follow a resilience trajectory were not necessarily symptom-free following the stressor. Resilience was not necessarily a measure of making it through unscathed, but rather, a measure of bouncing back over time. People on the recovery trajectory experience more initial symptoms, but again, they return to baseline functioning over the course of time.

This is not to discount the distress experienced or the difficulties that individuals have endured over the course of the past year. There will be people who develop or continue experiencing chronic mental health symptoms. Access to clinicians and well-researched interventions that have proven to be effective as well as a general shift in our understanding and treatment of mental health is crucial to promoting recovery and supporting each other. And it may help to remember that, with time, many people will bounce back from the hardships of the past year.

A glimmer of hope was provided by the preliminary look at the mortality data for 2020. (It should be noted that these data represent a national snapshot and do not examine trends within specific racial or demographic groups.) These data suggest that as many more of us began to experience psychological distress, the deaths by suicide decreased from the year before. When I shared this with my partner, his immediate response was, “Do you think it’s because people have a greater awareness that so many of us are having a difficult time? It feels more normal to struggle?” I have no idea if this is the case. And yet, I hope that this is one thing that we can take away from the pandemic—we are not alone in our struggles. Hopefully, this knowledge can guide us to reach out to others with empathy and support one another through the challenging times as we look toward recovery.


Katherine R. Buchholz, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral research scientist working on the Depression Prevention Research Initiative at the Wellesley Centers for Women.


If you or someone you know needs immediate help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or check out these resources.

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Combating Sex Trafficking of Children and Teens

Window that says Stop Child TraffickingApril is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month. Over the years, our work at WCW has addressed a wide range of critical issues related to these topics. One of the lesser publicly understood issues is the pressing problem of commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) and teens, also known as sex trafficking.

CSEC involves adults having sex with children and teens in exchange for money or goods. Contrary to what many may think, it does happen here in the U.S. Domestic sex trafficking of a child can occur without crossing state lines, and it can occur even if the person who sexually exploits doesn’t know that the child is a minor.

The minors involved in the sex trade or trafficking, whether internationally or domestically, should be viewed as victims and not offenders. At times, our social (and even legal) responses to prostituted children and youth often are the opposite, and in many states in the U.S., teens of a certain age who have traded sex for money can be and often are arrested and charged in criminal courts. The exploiters—both the procurers (pimps) and the users (sometimes called johns)—often escape arrest. We must keep in mind that in most states, sexual contact by an adult with a child younger than age 18 is a reportable act of child maltreatment.

Recent trafficking legislation in the U.S. and around the globe asserts that persons under 18 engaged in commercial sex are victims, and that those who are underage cannot be seen as volunteering to be trafficked. Girls may be drawn in as victims of commercial sexual exploitation by the deceits and lies of those who recruit them—the lures of parties, drugs, or even the simple shelter and food that they may also get as part of the barter. Prior research and analyses have presented evidence that teens engaged in trading sex for money do so as a result of desperation or of manipulation by adults.

My research team examined pathways into and out of commercial sexual exploitation in collaboration with researchers, service providers, grassroots organizers, and young women and men who have escaped CSEC. Our project was designed to reflect the voices of the youth themselves, through their narrative accounts of their lives and pathways to CSEC.

We found that exploitation and control are, of course, a major aspect of CSEC. Its primary feature is the status of the exploited person as a minor and sex with this minor is achieved through coercion, manipulation, grooming or force. In many cases it is the manipulation and grooming that draws the young person into the relationship with the exploiter.


From the narratives of the young girls and women we spoke to, we learned that some offenders have an uncanny ability to identify and exploit the needs of girls, especially those with prior victimization histories or who have been thrown away, pushed out, or abandoned.

The power and authority that comes with the older age of the exploiter may be enough to draw a teen into what is sometimes referred to as “the life” (of CSEC). Drugs, force, and violence are more commonly relied upon to make the victim stay. Violence, sometimes directed at others, provides powerful lessons to the exploited teen.

In reality, psychological manipulation is the most common tool used to bring a teen into “the life.” From the narratives of the young girls and women we spoke to, we learned that some offenders have an uncanny ability to identify and exploit the needs of girls, especially those with prior victimization histories or who have been thrown away, pushed out, or abandoned. Those exploiting teens for sex often “romance” these girls—showering them with gifts and attention. We learned that when an older male treats her nicely and “makes her feel like a queen with brand new clothes, fancy cars and hotels …” the teen is then primed for being exploited by others to whom the exploiter sells her for sex. Most commonly, the money is not given to the teen.

Another tool used by exploiters is to threaten to tell the teen’s family members about her involvement and to take photos or use photos taken by others to keep her silent out of possible fear that her family or others would see them. Some pimps provide teens with fake IDs that they can use to get into bars or clubs and if confronted by law enforcement.

In describing CSEC and the behaviors of the exploiters—the child rapists, in effect—it is important not to lose sight of the cultural and societal frame that surrounds the commercial sexual exploitation of youth in the U.S. The attention of a desirable older male may overwhelm all caution in some young women—especially those whose family lives may have placed them at risk for the approaches of such men. Seduction by the exploiter is enabled by the notion that his behavior is part of a repertoire of appropriate male-female relationships: The work of the “pimp” is embedded in notions, still held by many men and some women in the U.S., of what are appropriate male-female relationships.

There are now many programs throughout the U.S. that provide support for victims of commercial sexual exploitation and assist them in exiting this “life,” although more support is needed for these programs. Most critically, their work has expanded to prevention of commercial sexual exploitation through community education in identifying risk and providing support. Some states have changed laws to assure that CSEC minors are viewed as victims rather than as offenders.

Societal notions about this topic must change, as well. This includes changing the social norms that support transactional sex and the fetishization and hypersexualizing of girls. Such changing of social norms is a process that takes time and requires community interventions and ongoing community discussion.


Linda M. Williams, Ph.D., is director of the Justice and Gender-Based Violence Research Initiative at the Wellesley Centers for Women. Her research focuses on the justice system response to sexual violence, commercial sexual exploitation of women and children, human trafficking, intimate partner violence, and child maltreatment.

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Liberia’s Education Crisis: Quality v Access

This post by Laura Golakeh, a 2015 summer intern at the Wellesley Centers for Women, was originally published in The Analyst, a Liberian newspaper. It is posted here with permission.

Laura GolakehOn March 11, 2021, the House of Representatives passed a bill seeking to “create a special education scheme to support deserving students attending public tertiary institutions across Liberia. The Bill is titled “An Act to Create a Special Education Fund to Support and Sustain the Tuition Free Scheme for the University of Liberia, All Public Universities and Colleges’ Program and the Free WASSCE fess for Ninth and Twelfth Graders in Liberia, or the Weah Education Fund (WEF) for short. The bill when enacted into law, will make all public colleges and universities “tuition-free”. The passage of this bill by the Lower House has been met by mixed reactions across the country: young, old, educated, not educated, stakeholders, parents, teachers among others, have all voiced their opinions about this bill. While some are celebrating this purported huge milestone in the education sector, others are still skeptical that this bill may only increase access but not address the structural challenges within the sector. I join forces with the latter, and in this article, I discuss the quality and access concept in our education sector and why quality is important than access. I recommend urgent action to improve quality for learners in K-12.

While this may sound like a broken record, an overview of our context is key in addressing the pertinent issues in my article. Liberia is still rebuilding its damaged education system after more than 14 years of crisis. Additionally, structural inequalities and the recent Ebola crisis in 2015, have contributed to challenges facing the education sector. While some gains have been made, Liberia is still behind many sub-Saharan countries in most education statistics. Poor learning outcomes, overage enrollment, unskilled and unqualified teachers, poor infrastructure are among some of the many challenges facing the sector. There are no national school quality standards and no proper monitoring mechanism at the county and district level. In 2013, all 25,000 candidates seeking admission at the University of Liberia, Liberia’s oldest degree granting institution failed the entrance exam. According to an official, the candidates lacked “enthusiasm and a grasp of basic English”. To put that into perspective, 25,000 individuals who went through K-12 lacked basic English skills needed to thrive in college. I put it that, quality is the issue, not access. A closer look at the following stats may help us understand this more clearly. It is no secret that Liberia has made progress in providing access to education, but has made limited progress in retaining learners. A World Bank report in 2016 showed that, of children who enroll in primary school in the country, 69 percent ‘survive’ to grade 6 and 59 percent ‘survive’ to grade 9. On the other hand, in the Education Quality and Access in Liberia (EQUAL) study, the mean score for Grade 3 oral reading fluency was 19.9 correct words per minute, compared to a mean score of 25 correct words per minute on the EGRAPlus assessment, and an average of 18.9 correct words per minute for Grade 3 students assessed by the Liberia Teacher Training Program (LTTP) II study. International benchmarks associated with literacy and comprehension are set at an oral reading fluency of between 45–65 correct words per minute. Again, the issue is quality and not access. It is not enough for a learner to have a seat in the classroom, the emphasis for policymakers is to guarantee that learner has quality education while they are sitting in that seat. The emphasis is to fix our broken system and ensure adequate funding for our schools. The emphasis is to overhaul our K-12 system and ensure our learners are graduating with relevant skills to succeed in their personal and professional endeavors. As one of my mentors and former boss said in a recent post on social media, we “cannot fix the roof while the foundation is collapsing”. This is a complete error in judgment. A careful review of the sector has brought me to the conclusion that focusing on quality in the system especially, K12 should be a key priority. Policymakers should also be cognizant of the following issues:

Teacher Quality and Societal Perception of Teachers: Goal 4 of the United Nations Sustainability Goals aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. Teachers therefore are needed to play a key role in achieving this goal by 2030. According to a World Bank report, about 62 percent of Liberian public school teachers are not qualified. Additionally, teachers especially public-school teachers are underpaid compared to other professions in the country. The “salary of teachers in Liberia range between US$140 to US$500 per month depending on their level of education. The lowest paid teachers, certificate holders, earn between US$100-US$ 140 while B certificate holders’ pocket US$ 180-US$ 200”. According to a study by the Center for Global Development conducted in 15 African countries, “teachers are paid either a lower or comparable monthly salary to other wage workers with similar educational background in three-quarters of African countries”. These issues make it difficult for the system to attract qualified teachers, hence the influx of unqualified teachers. According to an IREX report, research conducted to study perceptions of the teaching profession in Liberia showed that the profession is viewed by many as low compared to other professions in the country. It is true that a greater part of a teacher’s experience is based on how society views them and the profession in general. Countries like Singapore have the best education system because reverence for its teachers is well documented.

Bottomline, increase teacher’s compensation, provide professional development opportunities, ensure teachers are monitored and evaluated and engage in an advocacy and outreach campaign to change societal perceptions of the teaching profession. It is widely known that the social status of the teaching profession impacts recruitment and retention of effective teachers. Recent findings from the Global Teacher Index 2018 study suggests that there is a correlation between teacher status and student learning outcomes and that increasing teacher status can directly improve the pupil performance of a country’s students.

Reform Student Assessments: Education leaders need to promote a comprehensive and rigorous assessment systems that contribute to quality education. Student assessment reform is also a powerful stimulus for quality improvement in higher education and its reform goes well beyond the domain of assignments and examinations. Ensure classroom and large scale system level assessments are put in place to not only assess learning in the classroom but also continuous evaluation of the education system. Particular emphasis should be made to encourage teachers to design formative assessments that reflect students’ learning outcomes and that track individual students’ growth, rather than focusing on comparing students with one another. Teachers should be taught the necessary skills and expertise to carry out these assessments. A reform assessment module will serve to diagnose student learning issues, provide feedback to students on their learning, inform teaching, communicate with parents about their child’s learning, and meet school-level requirements on assessing student achievement. The goal is to graduate from traditional assessment to 21st century assessment.

Bottomline, ensure an enabling environment, system alignment and improve assessment quality.

21st Century/Competency Infused Curriculum: I wrote in a previous article, that a competency infused curriculum for education is essential for all learners in Liberia. Curriculum and quality works together. Our curriculum needs to be reformed to reflect our learners developing cognitive skills, practical skills, attitudes, emotions, values and ethics and motivation related to cooperation for learners. A quality education is one that prepares learners to be global citizens. The World Economic Forum defines global citizenship skills as those that focuses on building awareness about the wider world, sustainability and playing an active role in the global community.

Bottomline, a competency infused curriculum will lead to better learning outcomes for learners and better prepare them to thrive in the 21st century.

Gender Nudge: Gender awareness drives quality. In Liberia, as well as our education system, patriachal tendencies have led to a greater disadvantage for female and other vulnerable learners in classrooms. Poverty, disability, early marriage and pregnancy, gender-based violence, cultural ideals about the status and role of women in our society have helped build obstacles for female learners. Inorder for Liberia to ensure quality education for its citizenry, these gender related issues need to be addressed adequately.It is without any doubt that education policies and programs are bound to fail if gender is not mainstreamed in its designs and implementation.For example, a policy that wants to ensure that girls and women thrive in educational institutions should take into account that institutions do not work without interacting with and getting influenced by societal or cultural factors such as family, state, media and society. As a result, educational institutions are forced to perpetuate the stereotypes held against women in society. Such influences can stop women and girls from realizing their potential in academia as they are forced to encounter issues of discrimination, sexual harassment, dominancy of males among others.

Bottomline, mainstreaming gender in education policies and programs as a prerequisite for quality education.

Lastly, the Liberian Government needs to invest resources in the sector. Lawmakers should work with the Ministry of Education and other stakeholders to allocate more budget support for the sector. Liberia education spending for 2018 was 8.06% of its GDP, a 0.2% decline from 2017. Recently, civil society organizations in Liberia protested over an 8 percent decrease of the education budget from 570 million in 2018/2019 to 525 million in 2019/2020 national budget.

The education system is in serious need of a “fix” not a temporary political solution. I choose quality over access.


Laura Golakeh is a gender and education expert. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Gender and Peacebuilding and is currently a student at Harvard University pursuing a Master’s in International Education Policy. During the summer of 2015, Laura was an intern at the Wellesley Centers for Women. 

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How Asian Women (and Men) are Dehumanized

Professor Lee wrote this reflection the day after eight people, including six women of Asian descent, were killed at spas in the Atlanta area, and shared it with the Wellesley College community. It is posted here with her permission.

Stop Asian Hate photograph by Miki Jourdan. Blacka and white photo of woman holding sign that says Stop Asian Hate. DC Rally for Collective Safety; Protect Asian/AAPI Communities; McPherson Square, Washington, DC.Stop Asian Hate by Miki Jourdan. DC Rally for Collective Safety; Protect Asian/AAPI Communities; McPherson Square, Washington, DC. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license. I spent much of yesterday in a spiral of grief, fear, and rage, thinking, among other things, about mace and bulletproof vests, wondering whether Wellesley should provide them for our Asian American students (do you know how many students of Asian descent we have? each one an individual, with their own hopes, fears, quirks, talents, ambitions, with their own sense of humor, their own way of experiencing the world)...

You may have seen or read about the news conference yesterday at which the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson (a monster who is in charge of communication and community relations, unbelievably enough) spoke lovingly and sympathetically of the man who hunted down Asian women in cold blood, driving miles to do so. Throughout the day, this murderer was portrayed by media as innocent, church-going, pious. He loves pizza, drums, going to church. Apparently also Asian women. He was just "having a bad day." Just reached the end of his rope. Poor, good kid! If only those Asian women were not so tempting! (“[It's] a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.")

The names of two of the four Korean women murdered have not even been released (what did they like to eat or do in their spare time, if they had any, I wonder; my 94-year-old Korean mother-in-law also loves pizza). To America (and, yes, even here at Wellesley), Asians are faceless numbers or bodies. Just faceless numbers or bodies: bodies that are sometimes grudgingly tolerated at the table for the sake of "diversity," sometimes held up like a shield to protect white supremacy or used as a weapon to injure other people of color, sometimes fetishized and lusted after, sometimes (most of the time, now) beaten, spat on, or shot. Getting back to the bullet-proof vest idea: I'm afraid to go outside.

To call things "microaggressions" (like being yelled at to "go back where you came from") is misleading. If you've ever experienced one, you know that it's only the tip of a gigantic iceberg of hatred that's coming right at you. Sometimes that hatred boils over; at other times, it congeals into a huge, massive, cruel indifference. Asians suffer or die—so what? Aren't they just funny little people (or sexy little people) who are meant to stand in the background, serve you, not speak or have opinions or lead, god forbid! Supposed to give you nice massages or paint your nails, get out of the way (or be gotten out of the way, with millions of tons of napalm if necessary), and, most importantly, weren't they put on earth to be the butt of jokes everywhere, in public and in private, among liberals and conservatives?

Aren't there just too many Asians, always too many of them? Are we not a horde, a tide, too many to even count? And for us, the psychic cost of knowing that hatred—well, just try to imagine it, if you are so fortunate as not to know from your own experience what it's like to be hated or despised. Reading Asian Americans write about their shame and self-hatred breaks my heart; I can't do it any more.

I am not asking for your sympathy. I'm an old, tenured member of the faculty, and I will be fine. But I needed to express some of this bitterness of soul, as I look for ways to turn my rage and grief and fear into action. I would ask you to think about the people of Asian descent you encounter (as individuals with distinct faces, names, and histories) and to think about how we can extend some of the love and sympathy that was lavished on the white murderer to members of our own community, who have been and will be receiving all the effects of the obscene legacy of Trump.

The police and the media still refuse to call it a hate crime. They take the murderer at his own word that he was not racist: as if to dehumanize Asian people into a trope of "sexual temptation" were not obscenely racist and misogynist. I ask you to please, please, stop denying that racism exists or that it rules our lives, determines where we can and cannot go, and suffocates human potential at every hour of every day for all non-white people (Breonna, George, Tamir, Travis...).

Please use the word when it's called for. Call racism by its name. Whatever your own race, you can call out racism when you see it. It's particularly urgent for white folks to do so; I can't emphasize this enough.

In case it wasn't apparent, some (though not all) of my remarks above are sarcastic. Also, I've been saying these things forever. Thanks for reading.

Yoon Sun Lee, Ph.D., is a professor of English at Wellesley College. She works in several fields: the eighteenth-century novel, British prose in the Romantic period, Asian American literature, narrative theory, and literary theory.

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On Equal Pay Day, Researching Policies for a Gender Equitable Future

Illustration of three people standing on three stacks of coins to represent the gender pay gap. A white man stands on the tallest stack of coins. A white woman stands on the second tallest stack of coins. A Black woman stands on the lowest stack of coins. As a new mother, you hold your baby in your arms, wishing for the best of the best for her. You may also be facing difficult career questions upon her arrival: When should you start working again? Should you be a stay-at-home-mom? Should you get a new job with a more flexible schedule? Will you be able to get promoted when you’re back at work? If you have a daughter, will she face the same choices in the future?

When it comes to ensuring that women are able to maintain careers while having children, some progress has been made at the national level, including the Equal Pay Act of 1963 that enforces equal pay for equal work and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 that requires covered employers to provide employees with unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons. However, these laws are not nearly enough to eradicate gender inequality in the workplace or the gender wage gap.

Today is Equal Pay Day, a symbolic occasion that raises awareness about the wage gap. The date represents how far into the year U.S. women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. This year, Equal Pay Day is August 3 for black women, September 8 for Native American women, and October 21 for Latina women. While many factors contribute to the gender wage gap, two significant factors are the “sorting problem” — overrepresentation of women in low-wage industries and occupations — and gender roles at home.

Despite the fact that in recent years, the percentage of women 25 and older who have at least a bachelor’s degree is higher than the percentage of men, longstanding gender biases cause women to cluster in certain college majors. Women are still scarce in majors related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), a gateway to high-paying jobs. Thus, they are automatically “sorted” into relatively low-paying industries even before starting their careers.

However, even if women follow a career path in a well-paying industry and position, research shows that male and female college grads who start their careers earning similar salaries end up with a substantial gap. Gender roles, especially the fact that women are often primary caregivers for children, are the biggest culprit. Some women choose to be stay-at-home moms, some switch to more flexible or part-time positions, and others just cannot keep up with the demands of their jobs enough to be promoted. Hence, the gap widens.

The economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis have brought out the worst of the consequences of the sorting problem and gender roles. First, industries like hospitality and retail, which are dominated by women, have been hit the hardest. Second, mothers have been especially vulnerable due to the lack of childcare and increased home responsibilities such as homeschooling. Now many are calling this crisis a “she-cession,” and the burden is not only financial but also psychological.

Census Bureau graph from the report, Moms, Work and the Pandemic. Graph shows percent of mothers living with their own school-age children who left the workforce in 2020.

These effects could have been less severe if policies were in place to fix systemic gender inequalities. The pandemic has revealed the urgency of implementing actionable and effective policies that will set us on a path toward a gender-equitable recovery as well as a gender-equitable future.

For example, we need policies that promote an education system free of gender bias, in which girls are encouraged to pursue careers in STEM fields. We need to invest in affordable child care and flexible work schedules for all. And we need to design optimum paid parental leave policies that help parents to achieve a more manageable work-family balance and improve the labor market outcomes of women as well as the health and wellbeing of both children and mothers, while incentivizing firms to promote equality in the workplace.

At WCW, my research focuses on understanding the impacts of current paid leave laws in the U.S. Unfortunately, the U.S. is the only developed country with no federal paid family leave. However, there are some states with job-protected paid leave laws and some others with legislation underway. Research to date on the effects of these laws is limited and based mostly on California data since it was the first state to enact such a law, in 2004. Some studies based on California data show that it has a positive impact on employment and wages of new mothers, especially in the short run, while others find contradictory evidence in the long run.

Clearly, we need further research. Our research with the Longitudinal Business Database and the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics database, linked to the 2000 Census and American Community Surveys (2005-2017), is more comprehensive than previous studies and will broaden our knowledge to design better policies as it includes New Jersey and Rhode Island data and looks at employee-employer relationships.

It will take time to change social norms and prejudices, and to eliminate gender discrimination that is engraved in our social fabric. But as we pursue research that shows us which policies can help, we advance gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing. Equal Pay Day reminds us that we must keep fighting this fight, in order to create a better future for our children.


Deniz Çivril, Ph.D., is a research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College and Special-Sworn-Status researcher at the U.S. Census Bureau. Her research interests center on labor economics, international trade, and corporate finance. Her current projects at WCW focus on women in the workplace.

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Exploring Possibilities: Advancing Racial Justice Through Research

dark barn interior looking to brightness outsideThe question of how to address structural racism continues to loom large, both in our national conversation and in social science research. Addressing the white supremacist system (which is also marked by gender oppression, economic exploitation, and heteronomativity) is ultimately the question that connects all other research questions about equitable outcomes for young people. As a research scientist who focuses on child and adolescent development, I am starting with what I have learned from young people, youth workers, and community leaders, which has shaped how I think about the role research can play in advancing racial justice.

Much of my work involves documenting how various interventions support the academic progress, health, and wellbeing of young people — and furthermore, how outcomes are different for youth based on their race/ethnicity, income level, age, gender, learning needs, or language. For example, I might be interested in whether offering a certain kind of enrichment activity to a young person will help them graduate from high school. Can a program help a young person to stay out of “trouble” and go on to contribute to society? This work is important and I enjoy doing it, but this framing also implicitly locates the source of social and political problems within a young person rather than within the system itself.

Given the systemic and pervasive nature of racialized inequalities, I wonder if these types of interventions are sufficient. I wonder if there are ways that researchers, practitioners, youth, and families might collectively intervene upon the system of inequality, and then assess the impacts of systemic changes on the lives of young people, their families, and their communities.

We don’t need research to tell us that every young person and their family has a right to a home, but research might test the hypothesis that providing them with safe, secure housing throughout 15 years of schooling could impact academic achievement. Instead of looking at whether a specific training program helps youth to get jobs, perhaps we can expand our focus and efforts on training employers to resist perpetuating racist tactics in their organizations, hold them accountable to hire people from the communities where they are located, and then document the impacts of these efforts on job access and retention for young people and adults. The scope of this kind of research requires a shift in our current approaches and existing methods, but I believe it is worth exploring.

As the examples above show, housing and employment are racial justice issues. Similarly, many of the systemic issues we aim to address in the out-of-school time (OST) field are also racial justice issues. For example, we are interested in recruiting and retaining a diverse and skilled workforce. I wonder if and how recruitment efforts, retention rates, and program quality overall would improve if each worker earned a full-time salary, healthcare, and benefits. I wonder how youth's sense of inclusion and belonging in these programs is affected when programs are staffed by the families and neighbors of the youth participating in them. And I wonder if the overall quality of the programs would increase if we prioritized funding organizations led by these families and neighbors.

Based on what I know about the ingenuity and stamina of the OST workforce and grassroots community organizations, I am sure that these types of initiatives that I imagine do exist. But can we as research entities elevate, validate, and document the successes of interventions aimed at structural change?

The examples above are the types of questions that have taken root in my mind, and that I’d like to explore. They are complex and come with no easy answers. But seeking answers could give us valuable insights into improving the lives of youth, particularly youth who are systematically marginalized and harmed by a white supremacist system.

As I reflect on the year behind us and the year ahead of us, I think of something Layli Maparyan, WCW’s executive director, said to me recently: We can imagine what is possible through our work. In fact, imagining possibilities for a better future is one of my favorite parts of listening to young people and the adults who support them. They remind me that we need to think bigger, not smaller, and shift the narrative about what it means to do research. Only then can we incorporate racial justice into research in a meaningful way.


Lisette M. DeSouza, Ph.D., is an associate research scientist working with scholars at the National Institute on Out-of-School Time and at the Wellesley Centers for Women. She takes an intersectional approach to the positive development of systematically marginalized youth, with the goal of youth- and community-initiated social change. Lisette is grateful to her collaborators at WCW and in MA 21CCLC, Mimi Arbeit, Kamilah Drummond-Forrester, James Jennings, Kirshby Osias, Julie Parker and Elise Harris Wilkerson, for sharpening her communication about and focus on social justice.

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Internship Reflection: Studying How Extended Family Members Talk to Teens About Sex and Relationships

Nora Pearce, Wellesley College StudentSex education in the American public school system varies from state to state and from school district to school district. The lack of standardized sex education makes family education and conversations about sex and relationships all the more important for teenagers and their development. It is often assumed that parents are the default—that they are the only family members responsible for initiating these conversations. In my research conducted with WCW Senior Research Scientist Jennifer M. Grossman, Ph.D., and Research Associate Amanda M. Richer, M.A., on how extended family members talk to teens about sex and relationships, we learned how communication about these topics spans beyond parents.

For this qualitative study, we interviewed 39 participants in the U.S. who identified themselves as extended family members who talk to a teen in their family about sex or relationships. (We include siblings in the extended family member category because studies suggest there are significant similarities in the way siblings and cousins talk about sex or relationships with teens.) Within our sample, participants reported a wide range of involvement in the teen’s sexuality development. Their diverse experiences showed us that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to talking about sex or relationships with teens.

More than 90% of our participants reported that having a personal connection with the teen enabled them to talk about sex and relationships. One of our participants, Jennifer, recounted how she once asked her teenage cousin if she talks with other family members about these topics. “She’s like ‘No,’ she doesn’t feel comfortable telling them anything,” shared Jennifer. “And she feels more comfortable with me. Because we just have that connection.” Qualities such as trust and closeness resonated with other participants who said their close connection with the teen was key to their open conversations.

Some of the extended family members we interviewed coordinated with other family members on what messages they wanted to convey. Lucy and her sisters decided together that they needed to ensure their brother knew about the health risks of being sexually active. “We actually made a slideshow about, um, the different, you know, sexually transmitted diseases and infections,” she said. “And we included — I mean it had to be graphic, but we really wanted to get the point across of, like, why I buy the condoms every month. It’s just you have to protect yourself. So we made him sit down and, like, go through all of our slides.” Other participants said that they were the primary or even the only family member who would talk to the teen about sex or relationships.

Working on this research project prompted me to reflect on my own position in my family network. Reading the interviews inspired me to be more open and intentional in talking about sex or relationships with my teenage cousin. My conversations with her came at a critical time when she was receiving unhealthy and unhelpful messages from other family members about sex or relationships. Building off of our pre-existing family bond and knowing well her family history and living situation, our conversations felt more meaningful and effective for both of us.

This research is an invitation for everyone to reflect on their own family networks and the communication that takes place in the family about sex and relationships. Because as extended family members, we can play a critical and positive role in the lives of teens by having these conversations, even during the pandemic.

To learn more about this study, watch my short video about our findings or check out the article I co-authored with the researchers in the journal Sexes.


Nora Pearce is a student at Wellesley College pursuing a degree in Education Studies and Art History. She was awarded the Morse Fellowship to intern with Dr. Jennifer M. Grossman at the Wellesley Centers for Women for the 2019-2020 academic year.

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Moving Forward from a Year of Sacrifice

Happy New Year from all of us at the Wellesley Centers for Women! This is a moment of profound reflection about all we’ve been through and where we are headed.



2020 was a year like no other. From out of nowhere came a global pandemic that left no one untouched. Many of us, myself included, were visited by the strange new sickness known as COVID-19. Many of us endured the loss of loved ones whose lives were cut short by a virus we barely understood, but thanks to scientists working around the clock and around the world, the genome was quickly mapped, its elusive symptoms were painstakingly documented, and life-saving therapies and vaccines were developed and tested in record time. In many respects, this was a year when we learned what we were capable of as one human race writ large.

Yet, it was also a year when we had to face some of our ugliest demons. The specters of racial inequality and racial violence jointly rose up amid the pandemic, sparking a racial justice movement larger and more inclusive than any we have seen in decades, perhaps ever. We were moved to tears and rage by the CDC’s data showing that people of color were roughly 3 times more likely to die from COVID-19 as white people, as well as by the ongoing killings of Black people — such as George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks — even with the pandemic raging on. The movement for racial justice generated important dialogues, as well as many changes in policy and practice around the country. Yet, it also highlighted all the work we have yet to do to ensure a world of equality, justice, and wellbeing for all.

The devastating pandemic deepened financial fissures, ripping away what little economic security many people had managed to accumulate. We saw unemployment spike, surpassing all past records, we saw food pantry lines triple and quadruple, we saw more people become unhoused or buckle under the looming threat of eviction. Yet, against this backdrop, we witnessed in 2020 the emergence of the world’s first centibillionaires — that is, individuals whose wealth exceeds $100 billion.

On the bright side, our society came to recognize the tremendous worth of many low-wage essential workers — from nursing assistants and emergency medical technicians, to grocery and restaurant workers, to truck drivers, delivery people, and everyone in logistics, to gig workers of all kinds — expressing long-overdue gratitude for all they do to keep society functioning. Yet, most are still economically vulnerable and will remain so without a major rethinking of what makes a society thrive economically.

As we begin a new year, we must concern ourselves with the fact that economists have predicted a K-shaped pattern of economic recovery — one in which those who are financially well-off are expected to do better and better and those who are financially vulnerable are expected to do worse and worse.

The mental health consequences of 2020 were not insignificant. The stresses of the pandemic, the stresses of racial inequality and violence, the stresses of economic precarity, the stresses of new patterns of life, and the stresses of looming unknowns affected virtually everyone in some way. For those of us who had to suddenly pivot last March from “life as usual” to “work from home” and, often, “remote schooling” for our children, there were many new stressors, from having no clear boundaries between work, family, and self, to the pressure of having to take on new roles such as homeschool teacher or family nurse and public health officer.

These pressures were especially acute for women, a not insignificant number of whom made the difficult decision to retreat from the workforce, whether to care for family or pursue other life goals. We must also remember what the year was like for those women and girls — in fact, for anyone — for whom home was not a safe place to be, whether for reasons of intimate partner violence, sexual abuse or exploitation, or child abuse — all at a time when protective services and resources were sharply curtailed due to the pandemic.

For people who had to isolate at home alone, loneliness and disconnection became real risks, as did fears of what would happen if they got sick with no one around. The year was perhaps most stressful of all for those who could not be together with loved ones who were in the hospital or, even more tragically, those who could not be together with loved ones who were dying.

And we cannot forget the doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel who were the heroic heart of the year, who were caring for us and our loved ones, despite the uncertainties related to their own health and survival, and despite the risk to their own families.

2020 was a year of great sacrifice for every single person on this planet, in fact, a year of profound trauma for some, and we owe each other the grace of that. Against this backdrop, we must look ahead in 2021.

The fact that 2020 was an election year almost fades into the background, yet, it becomes a source of hope when we imagine the possibilities of a new administration and all that we can do together, inside and outside politics, to restore faith in ourselves and the world.

We must, in particular, acknowledge the historic first of Kamala Harris, a Black woman, a South Asian woman, and first-generation woman born of immigrant parents, being elected Vice President of the United States, and the courage of Joe Biden, a white male presidential candidate, to buck the trend of history by choosing her as a running mate.

These things bode well as we continue our work of building a more inclusive and equitable society in which all can prosper and thrive. We at the Wellesley Centers for Women are energized by a tempered optimism, geared up for another year of doing what we do best — shaping a better world through research and action — and we look forward to partnering with all who share our vision in 2021!

Layli MaparyanLayli Maparyan, Ph.D., is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

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Internship Reflection: Studying Women’s Entrepreneurship During a Pandemic

Jessica Wu, Wellesley College StudentI spent the past semester working with Professor Sari Kerr as a research intern, and greatly enjoyed the experience. Our weekly Zoom meetings were welcomed as constant reminders of my connection to Wellesley, despite studying off campus. My work with her focused on the role of entrepreneurship and how it affects social mobility of low-income women and their children.

I began with a literature review which showed that those with self-employed parents are more likely to be entrepreneurs themselves. However, this entrepreneurial spirit that is passed down often appears in surprising ways. While many people envision entrepreneurship being passed down through family-owned businesses, I found that it was typically through “knowledge spillovers” such as social capital like personal connections and/or the knowledge of running a business. In other words, many parents are passing on to their children information about how to be an entrepreneur, not necessarily a specific business or the ability to be a successful entrepreneur.

After finding that there were these differences, I began working with another research assistant, Shirley Wu, to analyze a data set from Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, Panel Study of Income Dynamics. I’m very thankful to have been able to work with Shirley as well, not only because she helped put together and organize the data set, but because having another person to work with helped build a truly collaborative atmosphere. Using a statistical software program called Stata, we were able to run initial analytics to understand the general distribution of individuals within the data set and create mobility matrices that displayed movement between parental and child incomes. This allowed us to see preliminary differences in generational mobility between entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs.

It has been very interesting to do this research while watching the economic impact of COVID-19 on small businesses unfold. A paper that I read during the literature review noted that women have lower rates of entry into and higher rates of exit from entrepreneurship. During a time when so many small businesses are hurting, I am reminded that women entrepreneurs are disproportionately negatively impacted and that we will likely see a lower number return to entrepreneurship in the future. As this research continues, we hope to contribute to the literature focusing on the unique experience that low-income women entrepreneurs face in running successful businesses.

I’m very grateful to have this opportunity to do research as a student. I still remember talking to Professor Kerr about research opportunities during one of her office hours, and I’m so glad we got to work together. This experience has given me confidence in my own ability to conduct research and confirmed my interest in pursuing similar work after graduation.

 

Jessica Wu is a member of the Wellesley College class of 2021 who is majoring in Economics and Psychology. She was awarded the Linda Coyne Lloyd Student Research Internship at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

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The Urgency of Ending Violence Against Women and Girls in the Midst of COVID-19

UN women End Violence Against WomenToday, the International Day to End Violence Against Women and Girls, we call for a renewed commitment to this work in the U.S. The UN Women’s executive director has called for governments to make visible at the highest level a “commitment to addressing violence against women and girls in the context of COVID-19.” As we approach 2021 and look forward to a new federal administration in the U.S., we not only encourage our government to act immediately to work to end violence against women and girls (VAWG), but we also remind individuals and communities of the important roles they play in this work.

A commitment to ending VAWG is critical during the COVID-19 global pandemic. We know the facts: Violence against women is a human rights violation of pandemic proportions — and it is exacerbated during times of job loss, economic insecurity, and extended periods of time at home. COVID-19 has brought many stressors into homes across the U.S., and reports of domestic violence and child abuse, including sexual assault, have increased.

Even prior to the pandemic, one in three women worldwide (including in the U.S.) experienced physical or sexual violence, most often at the hands of an intimate partner. VAWG increases when families face economic challenges, including unemployment. Coping with health needs and concerns, grieving the deaths of loved ones, and caring for children have also contributed to higher stress levels, leading to an increase in VAWG. Furthermore, limited interactions with caring communities and a change in the nature and availability of services compound the problem and contribute to the violence that occurs behind closed doors.

We need to be vigilant in addressing violence and abuse and raise awareness on international, national, and local levels. First, we encourage our government to disseminate a strong message calling for an end to violence against women. We recognize that President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris have a lot on their respective plates right now, most notably the tremendous pressure to respond to the health crisis brought about by COVID-19 and its threat to all Americans. By prioritizing COVID-19 relief, the incoming administration also has an opportunity to begin reversing some of the negative effects the coronavirus pandemic has had in terms of VAWG.

Biden has prioritized ending violence against women legislatively in the past, but this issue needs to be brought to the forefront once more. An important immediate response is to reinstate the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) — originally co-authored by Biden during his days in the Senate, and renewed many times. VAWA supported a National Panel on Violence Against Women (on which Linda Williams served) designed to develop a research agenda to increase the understanding and control of violence against women and has supported quality care for victims while also mandating research efforts to support important violence against women research.

This act last expired in 2019. The most recent version, passed by the House of Representatives, addressed issues of violence against BIPOC women and the LGBTQ community, all of which are critical to combating VAWG today. Passage and reauthorization of a new VAWA will have to overcome the roadblocks previously encountered in the Senate, and its fate may depend on the results of the Georgia runoff races. We urge all government leaders to recognize the importance of a VAWA that is good for all women, children, and families — especially those who identify as BIPOC.

A decisive position is needed to lead us out of this dark time in the history of violence against women. Once we’ve reached the other side of the pandemic, there needs to be a focused effort — supported by ongoing research and community collaboration — leading to a consortium of federal agencies, researchers, practitioners, and survivors that will examine the next steps needed to end VAWG and to address social norms that promote it.

It is also critically important for the new administration to amend the regulations on how colleges and universities respond to sexual assault, not only to assure women’s equal access to education as provided by Title IX, but also to contribute to a change in the culture that currently, at best, minimizes and, at worst, encourages sexual violence, physical abuse, and sexual harassment of women and girls. On this day dedicated to ending violence against women and girls, it is time to stop minimizing the experiences of victims and to take decisive action to hold men accountable, starting at the highest levels of government.

 

Linda M. Williams, Ph.D., is director of the Justice and Gender-Based Violence Research Initiative at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. Her research focuses on the justice system response to sexual violence, commercial sexual exploitation of women and children, human trafficking, intimate partner violence, and child maltreatment.

Hayley Moniz is a member of the Wellesley College class of 2022 who is majoring in Sociology. At the Wellesley Centers for Women, she was awarded the Class of 1967 Internship for the 2020-2021 academic year, which supports her work with Dr. Williams on the justice system response to sexual violence.

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A New Era of Compassion and Unity

Light spills into dark room through open doorwayWe at the Wellesley Centers for Women are starting our week with a sense of hope and possibility. We are proud to have a new President-Elect who has the courage to put gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing first. We share these values, and we’re excited to move forward together to make them a reality in the United States.

One hundred years after women won the right to vote, and 55 years after the Voting Rights Act abolished laws that disenfranchised Black Americans, President-Elect Biden chose a woman of color, of Indian and Jamaican descent, as his running mate. Little girls across the country who see themselves in Vice President-Elect Harris now know that they, too, can reach the White House. Representation matters, and it moves the needle on gender equality and racial justice.

In his acceptance speech on Saturday night, President-Elect Biden spoke about compassion and unity. We know these values help individuals thrive and communities achieve justice. It is our hope that we can begin a new era, with compassion and unity as guiding forces to improve the lives of women and girls, children and youth, families and communities, in all their diversity.

Vice President-Elect Harris noted on Saturday night that protecting our democracy takes struggle and sacrifice. “There is joy in it and there is progress,” she said. Furthering gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing also takes struggle and sacrifice, and there is much left to be done. At WCW, we’ve been doing this work for the past 46 years, and we’ll be doing it for the next 46. The joy comes when we reflect on all that we have accomplished towards our cherished goals, and when we anticipate the many gains ahead, knowing we are leading with those who share our vision.

And now, we get back to work.

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

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Article is only based on a specified country not in perspective of all world women representation in their country Overall i... Read More
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Nice its goooooood??
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Guest — Abdo Aba
Nice it is goooooood???
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Parents' Communication with Teens About Dating is Changing During the Pandemic

Father talking to daughter on couchThe pandemic has altered family life in unexpected ways. Some kids are happier now that they’ve gotten a chance to slow down; more people are cooking; and men have discovered housework. Parents’ conversations with their teens about dating and relationships, and their monitoring of their teens’ behavior, have also changed.

My research team — which included WCW Associate Research Scientist Lisette M. DeSouza, Ph.D., WCW Research Associate Amanda M. Richer, and Alicia Doyle Lynch, Ph.D., of Lynch Research Associates — surveyed 328 parents of high school students throughout the U.S. between March and June of this year. We asked questions about how they communicated with their teens about dating and relationships before schools closed due to COVID-19 as compared to afterwards. We also asked questions about their stress levels and whether and how they monitored their teens’ behavior.

What we found was a significant drop in parent-teen communication about dating and relationships once COVID hit. This makes sense: parents reported higher stress levels as many deal with sick family members, essential work requirements, financial difficulties, and the general anxiety of the pandemic, which likely leads them to focus on the immediate day-to-day needs of their families and put off these types of conversations. And with many teens stuck at home, parents may assume that relationships and physical intimacy in particular are on hold, so the need to talk about them is not as critical.

For example, one parent explained, “Having the added stress of constantly being together, and now having to not only be his parent, but his makeshift teacher, and then trying to talk about serious things too, has all been just too much.” Another parent shared, “The fact that kids are not interacting, thus there is no "dating" taking place, which is a little bit more difficult to talk about and put in context when it isn't happening.”

We also found an interesting change in gender roles among heterosexual parents. Mothers reported having fewer conversations with their teens about dating and relationships, and fathers reported monitoring their teens’ behavior more closely than before the pandemic. This increase in fathers’ monitoring may in part reflect fathers’ shift from working outside the home to being at home during the pandemic (61% of fathers made this transition compared to 39% of mothers). While mothers are still monitoring and communicating more than fathers, it may be that since many fathers are spending more time at home, parents’ roles have shifted, and fathers are taking a more active part in their teens’ lives.

More research is needed to delve into what this data means, but it’s an important reminder that parenting roles aren’t set in stone. Sometimes a crisis can prompt unpredictable and even positive changes. The way parents have communicated with and monitored their teens in the past doesn’t necessarily dictate their future actions. Thinking outside the box can help; though mothers are often assumed to be the ones in charge of having these conversations, my research has shown that fathers play an important role, as do extended families.

October is National Family Sexuality Education Month, which is as good a time as any to reassess family communication about dating and relationships. Even if teens are at home, they’re likely chatting with peers online, and may be forming new relationships or continuing existing ones. They may have different questions now about what’s appropriate or comfortable in a relationship. Maybe it’s time to start a conversation with them, and consider with fresh eyes who might have that conversation.

Jennifer Grossman, Ph.D., is a senior research scientist who leads the Family, Sexuality, and Communication Research Initiative at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

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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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Alternative explanation: Men appear to have more confidence because we pay more of a price for lacking confidence, especially when... Read More
Monday, 14 December 2020 15:27
Guest — John
"External cheerleading that men have received since childhood"? The fact that you could make such a sweeping, unfounded assumptio... Read More
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Despite Challenges of Pandemic, Depression Study Finds Silver Linings

Illustration of teen doing teletherapy by Olga Strelnikova / iStockIn 2018, I began a multi-year clinical trial to compare the effectiveness of two approaches to preventing depression in teens. One of the approaches is an online intervention -- an app -- called CATCH-IT and the other is an in-person group therapy intervention.

When we started recruiting teens to participate in the trial just this past winter, we encountered a number of challenges. It was difficult to get teens and their parents to commit to attending the weekly group therapy sessions, and to fill out the assessments we needed for our evaluation. Because we planned to hold these sessions at the clinics where our participants received their primary care, geography determined who could participate. We were busy working through these challenges throughout the early spring.

Then the pandemic hit, and with it we noticed a spike in the number of teens we were encountering who were reporting significant struggles with depression and suicidal thinking. At this point it’s too early to determine whether or not the stress of COVID accounts for the symptoms we are identifying, but regardless, we have been busy referring teens to therapists in their communities, rather than enrolling them in our study. Clearly these teens need more than we can offer in a prevention trial. We are grateful that we have been able to identify so many teens who are in need of immediate support, and to facilitate their connection to those who can offer them the help they need.

For teens with milder symptoms who are at risk of depression, and who are therefore good candidates for our study, we’ve had to reassess the way we had originally planned to conduct our research. The challenges of COVID have tied many researchers’ hands -- not being able to see people in person can prevent a lot of research from happening at all. But for us, despite the challenges presented by COVID, we have also recognized that the pandemic has allowed us to make our interventions more accessible, and has enabled us to more easily reach participants for enrollments and assessments.

The main change we had to make in our research strategy was to switch our in-person group therapy model to live online sessions. Fortunately, research shows that telehealth is just as effective as in-person therapy, even for groups, and the pandemic has made telehealth much more widely accepted and available. For our purposes, moving our in-person groups to an online format improves our study design by making the two programs we are comparing much more similar: instead of comparing the CATCH-IT app to in-person sessions, we’re now comparing two online interventions to see which is more effective and for whom.

Moving everything online has also made the group therapy much more accessible. Teens and their parents no longer need to drive to a clinic on a Sunday evening, squeezing the session in between soccer practice and homework. Since life has slowed down and schedules have eased up, teens and their families have more time, and in many cases more motivation to participate. Some teens are more comfortable interacting through a screen than sitting in a room with strangers. So far in our trial, every participant has come to every online group session, and has completed every piece of paperwork we need -- an unheard-of scenario in pre-COVID times.

In addition, we’ve been able to open up the study to more teens in more locations, and to run groups across communities. Urban, suburban, and rural teens, previously separated by geography into separate group sessions, now meet together online (very successfully, I might add). Those who live too far away to have the option of a group therapy model can now participate in it. Since we can’t be in doctors’ offices to recruit participants, we’ve changed our strategy there, too, introducing a public health campaign that reaches anyone who is interested across three states.

Although COVID has been challenging for many teens and has challenged us from a study design perspective, the current circumstances have enabled us to identify and refer many more teens with serious mental health concerns, and also have enabled more teens from different places to access our interventions. We’ll continue to follow the participants in our programs over the next 18 months and will assess how they’re doing. Even after the pandemic ends, we are planning to use what we’ve learned during this difficult time so that we’re able to make prevention interventions accessible to more people in the future. Having to adjust our methods has given us better data, and eliminated many of the barriers to mental health care for teens and their families.

Tracy Gladstone, Ph.D., is an associate director and senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women, as well as the inaugural director of the Robert S. and Grace W. Stone Primary Prevention Initiatives, which aim to research, develop, and evaluate programs to prevent the onset of depression and other mental health concerns in children and adolescents.

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Guest — shanelle salmorin
nice
Wednesday, 04 November 2020 08:33
Guest — Shanelle Salmorin
nice
Wednesday, 04 November 2020 08:34
Guest — Lenelyn
So glad that even if we were facing the pandemic right now.
Sunday, 08 November 2020 07:07
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Voting as an Act of Community: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment

Women in academic dress marching in a suffrage parade in New York City, 1910.Women in academic dress marching in a suffrage parade in New York City, 1910. Source: Schlesinger Library; Photographer: Jessie Tarbox BealsOne hundred years ago today, the 19th Amendment was ratified in the U.S., granting women the right to vote. This anniversary is something to celebrate, and a time to look back with pride on how much women have accomplished. The fact that it falls this year – in the midst of a global pandemic, a reckoning with systemic racism, and arguably the most consequential election season of our lifetimes – also feels significant. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to reflect on what these times have taught us about the meaning of voting, and what we should keep in mind as November approaches.

This year in particular, we are reminded that voting is not just a personal act. It is an act of community, of stepping into the public sphere, of showing that you care about what happens to those around you. If the pandemic has had any positive impact, it is that we have seen how connected we are to each other. Many of us have adopted new habits that acknowledge this connection: picking up groceries for neighbors, putting signs in our windows to thank essential workers, wearing masks. Voting is another way of showing that we are all in this together.

We are also more aware this year of the ways in which, despite our deep interconnectedness, our society is not yet one in which every person has the same rights and opportunities. The protests spurred by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others have brought this inequality to the forefront. And the inequality extends to voting. Though white women gained the right to vote in 1920, African American women, Latina women, Native women, and Asian American women have been forced to continue to fight for that right long afterwards.

Even today, voter suppression efforts in many parts of the U.S. mean that if you are a person of color, a student, elderly, or a person with a disability, you are more likely to encounter obstacles to vote: limited polling stations that result in long lines, names left off voter rolls, onerous voter ID requirements. These voter suppression tactics are not new, but we’re likely to face a barrage of them this fall.

It’s clear, then, that the struggle to ensure every person’s right to vote is far from over, 100 years after the 19th Amendment was passed. This struggle will require not only our votes, but our activism: educating ourselves about our rights, keeping election protection hotlines on speed dial, and supporting advocacy organizations that battle voter suppression. It’s critical that we reach beyond ourselves to focus on our communities. Can we share information about how to obtain mail-in ballots and ensure they are counted? Can we ask our elected officials to support legislation that expands the right to vote? We can all find a way to help, no matter how small.

So this November, we must vote like our lives depend on it – because they do. The women who spent 75 years fighting for the 19th Amendment knew that their lives depended on it, too. It’s true every election season, but it feels especially true this year.

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

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Guest — Carolyn Sue Weeks
Thomas Sowell's wonderful new book Charter Schools and Their Enemies clearly lays out the opposition by the teachers' union and th... Read More
Tuesday, 18 August 2020 17:21
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The New Sexual Assault Response Rules for Colleges Require Them to Behave Like the Criminal Justice System. Here's Why That's a Problem.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVosU.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Photo by Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, under CC BY-SA license. This week, new rules go into effect dictating how colleges and universities must respond to allegations of sexual assault on campus. The U.S. Department of Education released the final version of these rules in May, and since then, a number of lawsuits have been filed, some asking for more time to implement them. But as of now, the August 14 deadline still holds, and colleges are juggling the implementation of the new rules with planning for what is likely to be one of the most challenging semesters they have ever faced.

Among other things, colleges will be required to hold live disciplinary hearings during which those who have been sexually assaulted and those accused of assaulting them present live testimony and can be cross-examined. Though there are limits on this process – advisors to the students do the questioning, not the students themselves, and a hearing officer will decide if the questions are relevant – it creates an opportunity for more personal attacks than are seen in the criminal justice system, while pushing colleges to behave like that system. That’s not good for students.

One problem rarely mentioned in discussions of the new rules – which create a more litigious and adversarial process – is that the criminal justice system is rarely effective in achieving justice for victims of sexual assault. As a research scientist who has studied this issue extensively, I’m familiar with the many obstacles that victims face: Most don’t report sexual assault to authorities to begin with, and those who do face a secondary victimization as they must recount their experience over and over again to police, prosecutors, and other court officials. Challenges to victim credibility come on many fronts; those who have a history of emotional or mental health problems, who were assaulted by people they know, in situations that involved consumption of alcohol or drugs, or did not report it immediately tend to see their complaints discounted or the cases dropped before adjudication. (The exceptions are cases that involve serious physical injury or the use of a weapon.) This case attrition happens either because victims have been discouraged from cooperating further or because prosecutors do not see the case as credible, or think a jury will be unlikely to convict.

If colleges are required to adopt criminal justice-like procedures, many of these same factors that contribute to case attrition will have a chilling effect on reporting and help-seeking. Few complaints will move forward, and the safety of students and their access to an education will be further jeopardized. Many victims won’t want to pursue a process that involves repeating their account and personal details in a public hearing at the school where the assault occurred – especially if the person who assaulted them has more power or clout, like a star athlete – and answering questions proffered under the direction of that person. Many will decide, at some point along the way, it’s simply not worth it.

A criminal justice model also doesn’t make sense for colleges, whose mission is to educate, not adjudicate. Their goal is to foster norms against sexual violence and harassment, but they will end up being complicit in the re-victimization of those who report.

Along with colleagues and funded by the National Institute of Justice of the U.S. Department of Justice, I recently completed a project on Responding to Sexual Assault on Campus. In the course of our research on 969 colleges across the US, we spoke to 47 Title IX coordinators, many of whom felt strongly that the way they handle sexual assault cases – including sanctioning – should be in part an educational process, in keeping with the mission of their institution to educate. Addressing complaints by holding hearings and cross-examinations doesn’t fit with that mission, and it’s also inconsistent with how colleges handle other violations of student conduct codes.

The Title IX coordinators we spoke to faced lots of challenges. The greatest challenge for many was building capacity to respond to reports of sexual assault. They voiced a critical need for more well-trained investigators, whether from within their college community, public safety, or external sources. The new rules (in some cases rules which conflict with their state laws and current policies) will require even more resources. Unless Title IX coordinators are provided with strong institutional support and visibility including adequate funding, staffing, and training – all of which will be a challenge at institutions wrestling with responses to COVID-19 – they will have to try to do more with their already meager resources. This isn’t a recipe for thoughtfully carried out processes that result in justice for students.

We’ll learn more over the coming months about the issues that will arise from these new rules. For example, how will the complex interplay of state laws, Federal Circuit court rulings, guidance from lawsuits, and institutional mandates affect the implementation? What effect will the pandemic have? There will be details to iron out, but the movement of Title IX processes toward a criminal justice model is a step in the wrong direction. It is also the biggest threat to ensuring that women are given equal access to education.

Linda M. Williams, Ph.D., is director of the Justice and Gender-Based Violence Research Initiative at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. Her research focuses on the justice system response to sexual violence. In 2020, she concluded a federally-funded study of college responses to sexual assaults on campus.

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Immigrants Play a Critical Role in Economic Recovery

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officeU.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office. Photo courtesy of iStock.com/Andrei StanescuLast week, President Trump suspended new work visas for foreigners seeking employment in the United States. This ban — which affects those from computer programmers to seasonal workers in the hospitality industry — will last at least until the end of 2020 and, when combined with extended restrictions on the issuance of new green cards, will keep as many as half a million people out of the U.S.

My research has shown that immigrants make significant contributions to the U.S. economy, particularly as business founders and job creators. As I recently wrote for the Center for Growth and Opportunity’s Immigration and Economic Recovery Symposium, they will play a critical role in pandemic economic recovery, and keeping foreign workers out of the U.S. right now will be detrimental to those efforts.

In the last two decades, the share of immigrant entrepreneurs in the U.S. has increased, along with the shares of Latino and Black business owners, and those of Mexican, Chinese, and Indian descent. (As I testified before Congress a year ago, while immigrants make up about 13 percent of the U.S. population, they are founders of 26 percent of new businesses, and they are more likely than those born in the U.S. to be entrepreneurs.) The creation of new companies and new jobs is much more dependent on these diverse entrepreneurs than it was in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Immigrant entrepreneurs alone create roughly one in four of all jobs among young companies, and 40 percent or more in places such as Silicon Valley, New York City, and other tech hubs. Young companies are responsible for a disproportionate number of newly created jobs, so ensuring the viability of already existing young companies is critical if we want them to continue their role as job creation engines.

Many immigrant-founded firms rely heavily on being able to hire immigrant workers — either skilled workers through the H-1B visa program, or seasonal workers through various other programs. Some of these workers return home after a period of time; some end up staying and getting their green cards, and some of those eventually start their own businesses. No matter how long they stay in the U.S., they are an important source of labor in our economy.

So not letting these workers enter the U.S. at a time when small businesses have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic will make recovery that much more difficult. Companies founded by immigrants make up a huge part of our economy and create jobs for Americans and immigrants alike. Preventing them from being able to get their businesses back up and running will hurt us all in the long run.

Sari Pekkala Kerr, Ph.D., is a senior research scientist and economist at the Wellesley Centers for Women. Her studies and teaching focus on the economics of labor markets, education, and families.

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Self-Care as Resistance

Black woman meditatingThe events of the past few months have left me overwhelmed and exhausted. From the COVID-19 pandemic, whose victims are disproportionately Black, to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, the Black community has faced countless heartaches. As a Black woman, my emotions have ranged from sadness to rage to hopelessness.

In order to take care of myself, I’ve hunkered down and grounded myself in daily practices that center my mental health and wellness. I’ve limited my intake of social media and news, and increased my daily practices of meditation, exercise, and most importantly, rest. There are days when I lie down between work Zoom calls — just to have moments during the day that feel like respite.

I’ve also needed to be intentional about my energy reserves, and what I can afford to put my limited energy towards. For several weeks, I wasn’t able to sit down and write about how I felt, or even to explain it to folks who are not Black — it seemed like a misuse of the small amount of stamina I had. I just needed things to feel easy.

I’ve encouraged my kids to do what they need to take care of themselves, as well. They have listened, and limited their own social media and news intake. They’ve also made the conscious decision to prioritize things that bring them joy: listening to music, dancing, chatting with friends. Of course, they haven’t been through and seen as much as I have (and I pray they never do) so their level of exhaustion isn’t the same as mine. Still, it has made me proud to see them center joy for themselves and understand they are worth that effort.

I’ve always been a social justice activist — it has been the foundation of all of my work, including my role as director of Open Circle, a social and emotional learning program for grades K-5. But I haven’t spent the past few weeks going out and protesting in the streets, much as I want to. I haven’t been calling my government representatives and lobbying for change. Right now, for me, my activism looks like self-preservation and self-care.

When you’ve lived under the specter of racism your entire life, rest can be a form of resistance. Activist Tricia Hersey recently spoke to NPR about how “rest disrupts and pushes back and allows space for healing, for invention, for us to be more human. It'll allow us to imagine this new world that we want, this new world that's liberated, that's full of justice, that's a foundation for us to really, truly live our lives.” Amidst so much heartache, that imagining is critical for the Black community right now.

For many, this might be a time to march in the streets, or to start conversations, or to read and learn. For others, it might be a time to just lie down and rest. Wherever you fit, we all have a role to play in building a better world.

Kamilah Drummond-Forrester, M.A., CAGS, is the director of Open Circle, an action program of the Wellesley Centers for Women that equips elementary schools with evidence-based curriculum and training to improve school climate and teach children essential social and emotional skills.

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Guest — Sammy
Hmmm we're all looking forward to seeing that time when the blacks will get justice for this racism. Thanks so much kamilah
Sunday, 20 September 2020 13:12
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Placards of Hope, Placards of Change: A Reflection in Response to the Killing of George Floyd

Heart icon in speech bubbleThe callous killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 by a uniformed police officer while on duty and while being filmed by bystanders was arguably the most brazen act of police brutality involving an unarmed Black civilian since the Black Lives Matter movement began. What this act demonstrated was that those who are hell-bent on asserting white supremacy and upholding its racist regime are now afraid of nothing and outside the moral community.

The mass demonstrations calling for justice and the widespread expressions of solidarity with Black people and racial equality that have erupted in recent days show clearly that the balance of public opinion and power is shifting towards a multiracial coalition of people who embrace the oneness of humanity as well as the end of racial prejudice and racial inequality. In the long run, racial equality will prevail because it is the truth about human beings, but, at this moment, we are collectively in agony about a shameless, heartless, evil act of race-based assassination.

The protests that are growing day by day are the collective expression of the frustration, pain, fury, and indignation of those who have waited so long and so patiently for the truth of Black people’s equality to be enshrined not only in the law and the practices and policies of those who enforce it, but also in the hearts and minds of their fellow human beings. The enforced, racialized power asymmetries in virtually every sphere of life — political, economic, educational, medical, environmental, and so on — recreate an uphill battle each and every day for every Black person, every other person of color, and every ally of Black people and other people of color, ensuring that the rhythm of social justice efforts is always two steps forward and one step back, if not one step forward and two steps back.

Only when those whose hearts and minds are thoroughly suffused with the reality of racial equality are both in the numerical majority and in positions of influence and power will things begin to shift towards closure on this spiritual disease of racism. Fortunately, what the recent uprisings have shown us is that we are getting there. That people like George Floyd (and Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, not to mention the string of their predecessors, not to mention the disproportionate number of Black lives lost to COVID-19, not to mention everybody since 1619) should die to get us there, however, is unconscionable.

As a womanist social movement theorist and also a trained psychologist, my mind turns to the methodologies we are employing to move the needle on racism and an analysis of the kinds of actions we are taking to eradicate the white supremacy, structural racism, racial prejudice, and racist violence we all deplore. I am concerned that we need to be more creative, innovative, and — yes — evidence-based in our social change approaches. We now have the benefit of a century of social scientific research about intergroup relations, as well as decades of neuroscience research, for example, on implicit bias, that helps us understand what works and what doesn’t work, but I’m not sure we are carefully deploying it in our creation of strategies to end racism and its correlates.

Additionally, we have the benefit of dynamic systems theories of varying kinds (a favorite of mine is Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory) that allow us to map how everything from individuals to families, communities, and entire cultures generate, shape, embed, and sustain things like racism — and which enable us to locate effective points of intervention. We also now have such enormous troves of big data that we could answer questions about human behavior and attitudes in real time and at a scale previously impossible. We could and should take a much more research-informed approach to ending racism, and I am glad that this is something we stand for and work towards at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

I am also concerned that we have a social change means-ends problem that we need to scrutinize more closely. Understandably, many social movements begin with emotion-driven, fist-in-the-air protests that are good for mobilizing people and publicizing issues, yet we must remember that the fist is a bellicose symbol inconsistent with peace and harmony — aims that most protesters cherish. The pursuit of justice requires that protests be followed up by the long-form, in-the-trenches work that actually effects structural change, making sustainable peace and justice possible.

Furthermore, new emotional foundations are required to create and sustain a more peaceful and just society. There is already too much pain and trauma in this world because we keep justifying all of the ways that we hurt each other, and all this pain just becomes a factory for hate and violence, both interpersonal and structural.

As a womanist, I would argue that, when we meet epithets with epithets or rage with rage, we are energetically reproducing the conditions we wish to eliminate. We must instead devise new transformational methods that enable us to dig into the spiritual well of goodness that resides within all of us to generate higher-vibrating, more positive and elevating emotional states and belief patterns, and that bring people together socially and relationally in a common space of love, respect, encouragement, enthusiasm, and esprit de corps. This is a tall order, but it is, I believe, what is really needed now.

As I watch the demonstrations on TV, I often find myself thinking, “If I were to make a placard for all the world to see — a placard to catalyze change — what would mine say?” I realized that mine would say “Everyone is sacred.” In times like these, I believe we need a reminder that our fundamental essence is that of Light — our innate divinity and the star-stuff we are all made of — and that everything else, good or bad, is overlay (and changeable).

We cannot continue this regime of oppositionality, in which we perpetually create divides, pit the divided against each other, and struggle to vanquish those who are not us. This regime will never lead to unity, peace, or justice. In the deepest recesses of our souls, we know this, but our politics, practices, and habits of thought have not caught up. The small reminder that everyone is sacred potentially places us on a course towards transformation, and that transformation is my reason for being and the impetus behind all of my work.

What fuels you? And what would your placard say? We would love to hear from you, because now is not the time to be silent. Rather, it is the time to recreate the world.

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

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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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Tips for Preventing Depression While Social Distancing

Daughter visits mother during quarantine on other side of glassThe challenges of isolation and loneliness have become apparent over the past several months of social distancing. Not only are we physically separated from our friends and extended families, but we’re concerned about their health and wellbeing as well as our own. We may be juggling childcare, homeschooling, and our own work. Or we may be wondering how we’ll support ourselves through this. We may know those who are sick, or who are high-risk, or who are essential workers putting themselves at risk for our sake. We may have lost people close to us. And we may feel powerless to do anything.

The situations that we find ourselves in can be overwhelming, and can contribute to low mood, irritability, and other potential depressive symptoms. If these symptoms persist and severely impact your day-to-day functioning, it can be a good time to check in with your doctor or a therapist. Many providers have moved to telehealth during this time, so it’s possible to connect to extra support. But if you just notice your mood dropping a bit or you feel a bit unmotivated, you may want to try out new strategies to prevent further depressive symptoms or bounce back from these moments of low mood.

First of all, it’s important to acknowledge that this is a time of adjustment and loss. Many of us will experience normal mood fluctuations such as low mood and sadness related to the loss of life the way it used to be. As with any loss, reactions will come and go, and feel different from day to day. Being gentle with yourself and others is important for maintaining mental health. For example, focus on “good enough” instead of “perfect” or “how I would usually do this.” Think of tasks that help you to feel productive, need to be done, and give you joy, and engage in a mix of those things. Let go of getting everything done. When you do achieve something, celebrate it.

It’s also important to remember that every person is different and will have certain strategies that work better for them in maintaining mental health. Different circumstances and situations will call for different approaches. Consider this a time of experimentation: try new strategies, but don’t be afraid to give them up and use others if they don’t work for you.

Social support from family and friends can help to prevent symptoms of depression. The lack of close personal contact during this time of social distancing is a challenge and can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. While we may not be able to interact with one another in the ways we’re used to, there are plenty of ways to stay connected.

If you’re lucky enough to be social distancing with your family, take some time out to connect with your kids or spouse. Even small moments of connection can improve your mood. When it comes to technology, find what works best for you, whether it’s virtual parties or one-on-one chats with a friend. While social media is one way to connect, it may be less helpful than picking up the phone and calling or FaceTiming. And just as in life before, know your limits. Having time to yourself to recharge is still important, and if you’re feeling Zoom overload, it’s perfectly okay to say no to a virtual happy hour.

When you’re interacting with others or when you’re alone, don’t forget to notice the good or joyful moments — that can do a lot to improve your mood. Did you have a good laugh about something silly with your family? Did you get a sense of satisfaction from completing that puzzle that’s been sitting in your living room for years? Notice when those moments come up and what you’re doing, and look for opportunities to engage in more of them. Along those lines, you can start tracking three good things or three things that went well each day. In addition to writing these three things down, write what made them go well or what caused them. Research has demonstrated that doing this daily for a month can help to improve your mood and increase happiness.

Repetitive negative thinking can contribute to depressive symptoms, so it can be helpful to take time to notice thoughts that are connected to feelings of sadness, anger, fear, and other emotions that bring your mood down. Once you notice these thoughts you can make efforts to reframe them or focus your attention on more helpful ones. If you notice that a bothersome thought keeps coming up, see if you can switch it up. For example, “I’ll be stuck at home forever” could be turned into, “I feel stuck right now, and this is a temporary situation. I’m looking forward to seeing my dad after this is over.”

Taking care of your physical health can have a strong effect as well. You may see a lot of runners and bikers out in your neighborhood these days, and they’ve got the right idea. Exercise has been found to be effective in preventing depression. Just engaging in something active can help — check out streaming yoga or old-school Richard Simmons videos. Take a walk around your house or challenge yourself to a stair climb. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you get moving, and your mood will likely improve as a result.

Though it can be hard to put down your phone or turn off the news, getting enough sleep (but not too much) can help keep your mood stable and make it easier to roll with the punches. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, work on improving your sleep hygiene. Start preparing an hour before bedtime by turning off screens, doing some relaxation, and clearing your head.

Finally, remember that it’s not about never feeling low — it’s about bouncing back from the low mood. Honor the fact that this is a difficult, sad, and anxiety-provoking time. Remind yourself that social distancing and staying at home are temporary. Think of other difficult times in your life and what strategies you used to get through those times. If we are mindful of our thoughts and intentional about the strategies we use throughout the day, we may be able to maintain good mental health — despite all of the challenges we’re facing.

Further resources:

Katherine R. Buchholz, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral research scientist working on depression prevention research at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

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I recently felt on myself what depression is. True, this was accompanied by my menopause, which began just before quarantine. And ... Read More
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Very good Tips for Preventing Depression While Social Distancing... Read More
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Honoring Three Generations of Student Parents on Mother's Day

Autumn Green and her daughterLast year on Mother's Day, I was driving through the Rocky Mountains, on my way from Oregon to Maine where my life was about to change forever. It was the first Mother's Day I had spent without my kids since they were born, and the first Mother's Day since my own mother had passed away. I yearned to call her to share the news of my latest adventure, as I always had during our frequent long-distance phone chats, but I knew I couldn’t. The following week, my daughter would bring my granddaughter into the world on the southern coast of Maine. The transcontinental journey I was on would end with the newest love of my life joining our family.

My mother was my champion, my role model, my friend, and my fiercest advocate. She had floated between California state colleges for about a decade before I came along, finally earning her bachelor's degree in liberal arts when I was a baby. When I was about nine, she returned to community college to earn her landscape contractor’s degree and licensure. She started a small landscaping business, whose biggest success was its own show garden, proudly featured in Better Homes and Gardens magazine in 1998. A framed copy still hangs on the wall by the front door at my parents’ house.

I didn’t realize at the time that my mom’s journey — at least five schools and over 10 years to finish her bachelor’s degree — was typical for student parents. And like many other student parents whose accomplishments go unacknowledged and undervalued, her degree wasn't counted in retention and graduation rate data because of her long and meandering path. From the outside, her life might look like one of repeated failure and modest accomplishment. But that’s not what I saw.

I watched my mom role model learning as a lifelong process. She showed me that I could do or be anything I wanted, and she showed me how to get there. So even when I became a high school dropout, young bride, and teenage mother, I could not be swayed from pursuing my dreams. Because my mom had been a student parent too, she was a resourceful advocate, finding programs and benefits to support me and guiding me through the earliest steps of what has become my own lifelong educational journey.

With her love and unwavering support, I made it all the way from GED to Ph.D., and through a postdoctoral second master's degree. Fewer than 2 percent of young parents will earn a postsecondary degree before their 30th birthday. Yet I earned my associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees by the time I was 31. Now, I’m a research scientist studying higher education access for student parents. It wasn't until years into my career that it hit me: I am not only a success story as a parent whose education improved her life and her children’s lives. I am also the story of what happens to kids who have a front-row seat to watch their parents pursue an education.

The intergenerational legacy of valuing education is visible every day in my work with student parents and their families across the country. There are nearly 4 million undergraduate student parents in the U.S., about 22 percent of all undergrads. These students are largely invisible, because they’re not who most of us picture when we imagine college students. As a result, they often don’t get the resources they need — and struggle to graduate. Only 17 percent of student parents starting their bachelor's degrees in a full-time, four-year program get their degrees within six years, as compared to nearly 60 percent of college students overall. But when they do graduate, it’s transformative for their lives and their families’ lives. I know this firsthand, because I watched education change my life and my mother’s life, and I hope it will be a positive force for my daughter.

After my granddaughter was born that beautiful, sunny May day, a hospital social worker came to speak with my daughter. I had stepped out to grab lunch and she was alone. Because she was 19 and technically a teen parent, this was standard procedure for the hospital discharge process.

"What are you going to do about your education?" the social worker demanded of my daughter.

To this, my daughter said she just smiled and replied, "I don't think you know who my mom is, but I guarantee you, we got this."

When my mom was alive, she and I talked frequently about how politicians and others fail to see the less tangible and two-generational impacts of education: fostering an informed and critically thinking electorate. But the biggest impact of my mother’s education, I think she would tell you if she could, was us: her three brilliant, creative, loving, nurturing, and well-rounded daughters, our daughters — her granddaughters — and now her great-granddaughter too. We are her legacy. A legacy that is unquestionably intergenerational.

This Mother's Day, as we approach my granddaughter's first birthday, I am proud that I can be the person in my daughter’s life that my mother was for me. And as student mothers across the country struggle to educate themselves and raise their children in a pandemic, I want them to keep in mind what I remember most about my mom: not that she did everything perfectly, but that her passion for lifelong learning nurtured and shaped me. The desire to role-model the transformative power of education, along with the hope to provide a better life for their families, is what drives student parents to fight to finish their education despite the odds. That’s the legacy they’re instilling in their children, too.

Autumn Green, Ph.D., is a research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women studying higher education access for student parents. Dr. Green is nationally recognized for her scholarship on the lives of student parents and has worked to create two-generation programs on college and university campuses.

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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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Social and Emotional Learning During COVID-19 Crisis: Equity Lens Reflection

Social and emotional learning during COVID-19This article was originally posted by Karen Craddock, Ph.D., on April 17, 2020, on The Wellness Collaborative.

While we manage the day-to-day, sometimes moment-to-moment, shifts during this global pandemic, it is sure to have implications on how we navigate the array of feelings and interactions we encounter in every aspect of our inner and outer lives. This process involving managing emotions, setting goals, showing empathy, building relationship, and making constructive decisions, otherwise known as social and emotional learning (SEL), is especially poignant now. Raising awareness of how these skill sets and competencies intersect with interpersonal, situational and structural inequities is even more so…

Pain of exclusion

In my blog article on the social-emotional, neurophysiological pain of racialized exclusion and strategies to remain resilient, there is discussion on how pain is perceived and received across racial lines. Particularly relevant is mention of the well documented racial empathy gap that occurs for people of color, especially in healthcare settings as well as in education. This is important to keep top of mind during this COVID-19 crisis in light of emerging national data revealing the glaring disparities occurring along race for both contracting and dying of the disease, as well as getting access to testing and treatment.

What is clear is that the pain of racism occurs both directly and indirectly. So as communities of color hear and experience more of these disparities, even while not surprising, the impact is felt whether target or watching from the sidelines. Already strategies of resistance have been activated among people of color to buffer and recreate in the midst of this, which includes a call for increased awareness and action by all. Furthering these strategies to remain resilient will be crucial for the long haul calling for intentional awareness to stratified privilege, disrupting inequities, supporting affinity networking, and deploying collaborations with resources of all kinds.

Staying physically distant and socially connected

While we adhere to vital mandates to stop the spread of the virus which can require quarantine and separation, it is important to be aware of language that indicates social or relational disconnection. We are wired for connection and thrive mentally, physically, and emotionally from being in healthy relationship. The limits of the terminology have recently come forward and will likely continue.

Inclusive language that encourages staying socially connected in safe ways is vital. This means honoring the diverse personalities and profiles of individuals falling along the spectrum of introvert to extrovert by making room and opportunities for everyone to find comfortable and necessary methods to stay connected without assumptions of “one size fits all”. By using the term physical distancing it also forces us to look at the range of physical settings people are in while braving this storm. Thus, it is even more important to address the implications and remain aware of the physical constraints and necessities that are realities across the country and for so many.

A current context in the climate of COVID-19

It is not unusual that during times of extraordinary crisis that prevailing stressors become worse. For communities already chronically marginalized by race, ethnicity, gender, class…an increase in volume, intensity, and impact occurs. In addition, a climate of crisis also heightens awareness of social, structural, and systemic inequities. Over the past few weeks we have experienced COVID-19 hit our communities and we are beginning to hear stories and see data that brings this point to a head.

From physical appearance to physical location, the ugly truths of marginalized existences are coming to bear. An African-American man living in Boston expressed this tension in a news article describing the risk and worry he has of being a man of color wearing a facemask to prevent illness while fearing for his safety due to bias. We see the economic intersectional realities during this public health pandemic across many communities and how it is specifically playing out given the disproportionate rate of pre-existing and socially influenced health conditions among communities of color. And sadly rates of domestic violence and abuse are likely spiking especially with quarantine and stay at home recommendations and mandates in place. The backdrop of the growing rise of suicide among Black youth sharpens the need for paying attention to the mental health needs of us all right now and especially within communities of color.

As educators and practitioners of SEL it is vital now more than ever that we remain vigilant in our efforts to defeat COVID-19 while staying aware of how its impact is inextricably tied to issues of bias, equity, and wellness. It will require and invite opportunities for self-reflection personally and professionally that center cultural fluency, emotional intelligence and agility. Before us is a call that compels intentional, active, and inclusive engagement within affinity networks and with racially culturally diverse thought-partners and leaders to seek and create solutions for much-needed healing.

Karen Craddock, Ph.D., is a visiting scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women. As an applied psychologist, her work centers on issues of equity, wellness, leadership, and partnership. Her studies on psycho-social functioning have included explorations of race and gender intersectionality, models of optimal resistance and resilience, social and emotional learning, emotional intelligence, and the neuroscience of inclusion.

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Social vs. Physical Distancing: Why It Matters

Social connection and social distancing during COVID-19 coronavirus pandemicThis article was originally posted by Amy Banks, M.D., on April 12, 2020, on her Wired for Love blog on Psychology Today.

To protect ourselves, our families, and our communities from the devastation of the coronavirus health experts are strongly encouraging everyone to “socially distance” — to stay 6-10 feet away from other people.

I am concerned — not by the strategy but by the way people are enacting it. The few times I have ventured out to a grocery store or for a walk around my neighborhood, I've seen people not only keeping distant from one another but also seeming afraid. They pass each other on the street or in a store without looking at each other or exchanging greetings.

It’s as if we were each locked in a personal bubble that no one can enter. The threat of COVID-19 and the stress it induces can understandably cause individuals to become terrified and myopic — to turn inward in an attempt to stay safe. While a week of that may be more stressful to some than others, months of this type of social isolation is dangerous. Research clearly shows us that our physical and emotional health and well-being are dependent on loving relationships and physical touch. To weather this pandemic, we need one another.

Weeks ago, my colleague and friend, Roseann Adams, LCSW, recognized that the national strategy of social distancing was a double-edged sword. She identified that social distancing can be a threat to all of us as it leads some people to socially isolate potentially causing further stress and, over the long haul, impairing our bodies’ immune system. In fact, strict social distancing may set us up for other illnesses.

Within the first few days, she was encouraging people to physically distance with social connection. Differentiating physical distance from social distance acknowledges the virus’s malignant ability to be transmitted from person to person but also acknowledges that the virus has no power over our ability to support and nurture one another in this time of extraordinary threat.

Think about the power of social isolation in society. Solitary confinement is considered the worst punishment a human can receive. In fact, most civilized communities consider it a form of torture. The physical and emotional toll it takes over time includes a worsening of mental health issues, an increase in self-injurious behavior and even suicide.

Isolating individuals is perhaps the most common first step domestic abusers use to gain power and control over their victims. He or she begins to control who you can see, where you can go, what you can wear. When a person violates the rules set by the perpetrator the punishment is harsh and swift.

Social distancing, as it has been presented, can feel like that. In fact, in my work with trauma survivors during this time, I have heard people describe feeling trapped and threatened again. That is not sustainable. Becoming socially isolated may keep the majority of us alive, but not well.

By naming the national strategy as physical distancing rather than social distancing and emphasizing the need for human connection we can stay safe from the virus but also hold onto the heightened need we all have for one another right now. Each of us needs an extra dose of being seen and held within our connections during this extraordinary time. Perhaps now more than ever we must be intentional about giving our neural pathways for connection a workout.

In fact, we need to go out of our way to make eye contact, wave, move, or loudly say "hello" from behind the mask. This gives our smart vagus nerve and our mirror neurons a workout. Literally, the sound of a friendly voice and seeing the eyebrows of another person raise in greeting stimulates your social engagement system, which in turn sends a signal to your stress response system to stand down. Those moments of interaction may make the difference in the long run as to how we, as a society, survive the pandemic.

The human nervous system is amazingly adaptive. Our brains will adapt to social isolation over time, but the burden of stress the isolation causes will lead to long-term health problems. As a society we will not be well at the end of all of this — not because of COVID-19 but because of the message we take in that being with others can be dangerous.

That is why each of us must do our part to not only stay physically six feet apart and to wear masks but also to go out of our way on the street, in the grocery store, through FaceTime, Zoom, or whatever platform you can use to reach out to one another. We all must know that nurturing the relationships we have and reaching out to others who may be isolated is as essential to surviving the pandemic as physical distancing.

Let’s add another important directive to our national policy of containing the coronavirus — to reach out each day to three other people — to check in on them, simply hear their voice, or share the pain or joy of the day. This is a wider strategy to not only survive the pandemic but to keep our humanity alive.

Amy Banks, M.D., is a senior scholar at WCW and founding scholar of the International Center for Growth in Connection, which began as the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute at WCW. Dr. Banks has spoken throughout the U.S. on the neurobiology of relationships and is the co-author, with Leigh Ann Hirschman, of Four Ways to Click: Rewire Your Brain for Stronger, More Rewarding Relationships.

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To stand by in such moment of crisis.....is something all we need....great choice of words...liked it
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Right now the whole world is struggling with Corona. The whole world is looking for a cure for this virus, but until it can be sol... Read More
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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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Equal Pay Day: How the Gender Wage Gap Changes Over a Woman's Career

Diverse women in the officeA woman graduates from college and starts her first job, earning about the same as the male colleague who sits next to her. She gets promoted a few times, her salary increases, and in her late 20s, she gets married. Her husband gets a job offer in a new city, they move, and she takes a slightly lower-paying job. In her early 30s, she has a baby, and then another baby in her mid-30s. She decides to cut back her hours (and thus her pay) in order to spend more time with her children. My research shows that this is the point in women’s lives at which the gender pay gap widens.

Fast-forward 15 years: the woman’s children are growing up and will soon be headed off to college, and she is eager to ramp her career back up. What happens to the gender pay gap now?

Today is Equal Pay Day, a day that symbolizes how far into the year the average woman in the U.S. must work in order to earn what the average man in the U.S. earned the previous year. Equal Pay Day for black women is August 13, for Native American women it’s October 1, and for Latina women it’s October 29. Women on average earn $0.82 for each dollar earned by a man; black women earn $0.62, Native American women earn $0.57, and Latina women earn $0.54. The gender pay gap has slowly narrowed over time, but hasn’t budged much over the past 15 years. Globally, the gap isn’t expected to close for another 257 years.

But we are learning that the story of the gender pay gap is a complex one. We now know that male and female college grads start their careers earning nearly the same salaries, but end up with a substantial gap by age 45. By the time college grads reach their peak earnings, men earn on average 55 percent more than women. Less than a third of this gap is caused by differences between the jobs in which men and women work, though women are certainly overrepresented in lower-paying sectors and occupations such as teaching, nursing, and social work — the usual “pink-collar” jobs. Much of the widening of the gap comes from married women: their earnings grow much more slowly with age and they see little benefit from job-hopping compared with men and unmarried women. And when women become mothers, they are more likely to move into part-time positions, take time off, and work fewer hours than men, even in full-time work.

This paints a bit of a dire picture. Things begin to turn around for women, though, once they reach their late 40s and 50s: the pay gap begins to narrow again. For example, among more recent generations of college-educated women, the gap starts shrinking when they reach their late 50s. This happens as women increase their work effort relative to men once their children leave home.

There are still more questions to be answered before we can fully understand the causes of the gender pay gap, and how policies might help close it. For example, how much of the gap is contributed by dual-career considerations, where a family has to optimize around the primary breadwinner? Can public policies help to better share the burden among working spouses? An improved understanding might help us determine whether policies such as father quotas in parental leave might be part of a solution.

We are slowly gaining a clearer picture of how the gender pay gap evolves over the course of our lives. As our research continues, this picture continues to come into focus.

Sari Pekkala Kerr, Ph.D., is a senior research scientist and economist at the Wellesley Centers for Women. Her studies and teaching focus on the economics of labor markets, education, and families.

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WCW's Response to COVID-19 Outbreak

Layli MaparyanDuring this unprecedented time, our work at the Wellesley Centers for Women towards gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing has taken on new meaning. As a society, we have become newly aware of just how fragile and precious human wellbeing is. And as an organization, we have been reminded of how deeply we care about the physical and mental wellbeing of our community — our research scientists, project directors, administrative staff, and supporters like you — as well as the larger global community to which we all belong.

The Wellesley Centers for Women transitioned to working remotely along with the rest of Wellesley College in mid-March, per the guidance of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education and Department of Public Health. We will continue to pursue our high-quality research, theory, and action programs remotely for as long as is necessary to protect the health and wellbeing of our staff. We have also made the decision to postpone all of our spring on-campus events and hope to reschedule them in the fall.

As many of you are also experiencing, working from home takes some flexibility and trial and error. We’re changing our schedules to accommodate child care and finding new ways to do our research — for example, by moving a group depression intervention program online. Check out our Instagram and Facebook accounts for snapshots of how our researchers and staff are adapting, often with children and/or pets underfoot.

We are still figuring out how the COVID-19 outbreak will impact our operations, our ongoing research projects, and our financial situation. This isn’t the first time we have faced a major challenge, and it won’t be the last. We are grateful for your support over the years, which helps us weather unpredictable situations like this one. Once we have a better sense of how we expect our research and action projects to be impacted over the coming months, we will share that information with you, along with ways you can support our work going forward.

There is a lot we don’t know right now. But what we do know for sure is that making the world a healthier, safer, and more secure place for women and girls, families and communities, is more important than ever. This moment has taught us that we are more interconnected than we ever thought before — locally, nationally, and globally.

This is a time of tremendous experimentation and learning, both in our work and personal lives. The Wellesley Centers for Women is an organization focused on advancing knowledge, which has become important in a new and broader way. Despite the challenges ahead, we are determined to use that knowledge to continue building a world of justice, peace, and wellbeing!

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College.

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fair enough speech
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Great way to keep subscribers in the know. #thistooshallpass.
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Less than one-fifth of reported rapes and sexual assaults lead to arrests

metoo movement protestorsIn 2019, Melissa Morabito, Ph.D., Linda M. Williams, Ph.D., and April Pattavina, Ph.D., of our Justice and Gender-Based Violence Research Initiative, published findings from a study funded by the National Institutes of Justice that investigated why sexual assault cases fall out of the criminal justice system. In this commentary, originally published in The Conversation, Dr. Morabito and Dr. Pattavina discuss some of the findings from that study.

As experts in criminology and the justice system, we were surprised to learn that a jury voted to convict Harvey Weinstein on two counts of rape and sexual assault.

This surprise was based on our more than a decade of research on the attrition of sexual assault cases from the criminal justice system.

We know that most victims of sexual assault never report their attack to the police. For those that do report, the probability of arrest and prosecution of their assailant is small.

In fact, the overwhelming majority of cases reported to the police do not end in conviction, as evidenced by our recent research on sexual assaults reported to the police in six jurisdictions across the United States.

We found that many cases drop out at the investigation stage, with only 18.8% of rapes reported to the police resulting in an arrest. Slightly more than a third of the arrests of adults ended in a conviction. That’s just 6.5% of investigations.

What we can learn from the Weinstein verdict, and from the #MeToo movement more generally, is that perhaps the time has come to bolster the criminal justice response to sexual assault in ways that give sexual assault victims the procedural justice they deserve.

Melissa Morabito, Associate Professor of Criminology and Justice Studies, University of Massachusetts Lowell and April Pattavina, Professor of Criminology and Justice Studies, University of Massachusetts Lowell

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation
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When the News Is Scary: 4 Ways to Support Children During the Coronavirus Outbreak

child washing hands with soap and waterAs the mother of four children ranging in age from 5 to 17, I think I’ve heard it all when it comes to the coronavirus COVID-19: every rumor and misunderstanding that gets shared at school and on social media about where it came from and how it spreads. In gently redirecting my children toward the truth--and helping them manage their well-founded anxiety--I’ve leaned on my knowledge of social and emotional learning (SEL).

As the director of Open Circle, an evidence-based SEL program for school-age children, I know that it’s important to help kids develop skills to recognize and manage their emotions. It’s also important for them to feel safe and cared for, especially in the midst of a crisis. Effective SEL strengthens our ability to understand, name, and manage our emotions all while building healthy relationships with others that foster increased empathy and community.

Here are a few things I’ve kept in mind while having conversations with my children about COVID-19, which might be helpful to anyone who has similar conversations with kids in their lives--whether their families or those they interact with in a professional capacity.

Children take their emotional cues from adults.

Kids look to us for how to react to a crisis, so it’s critical that we mind our words and actions when in their presence. We should convey calm and compassion, and focus on the facts available. Familiarizing ourselves with what’s known about COVID-19 and how it spreads allows us to ensure we’re conveying factual information to the children around us. Displaying an overly anxious or fearful affect is “contagious,” and causes children, in turn, to become overly anxious and fearful. We need to remain calm and reassuring as much as possible--and to lean on the other adults within our communities when we need to share our own fears and concerns.

“Othering” behavior and speech must be interrupted.

An unfortunate by-product of this scare has been the othering of Asian American communities, which has led many Chinese restaurants and businesses to lose customers. I’ve heard children say things like “Chinese people caused this” or other disparaging remarks. It’s important for adults to immediately and firmly interrupt these types of comments and othering behavior.

Calm breathing and mindful pauses can help.

At Open Circle, one of the threads woven throughout our curriculum is calm breathing and mindfulness. Teaching children to take three slow, deep breaths or a one-minute mindful pause throughout the day helps them develop the tools to cope when they’re feeling anxious.

It’s OK to say you don’t know.

None of us have all the answers to questions children may ask about COVID-19, and that’s OK. Sometimes these questions do have an answer, and we can find it for them by utilizing the resources available to us: our doctors, school nurses, reputable online sources. Some questions simply can’t be answered with any definitiveness. In those cases, all we can do is help children understand that life comes with gray areas, and not all questions have a straightforward answer. What’s most important is for them to understand that the adults in their lives--whether at school or at home--will be there to protect and assist them, no matter what. As Mr. Rogers’ mother used to say, when there’s a crisis, “look for the helpers.” Knowing that there will always be helpers may go a long way toward relieving children’s worry.

Kamilah Drummond-Forrester, M.A., CAGS, is the director of Open Circle, an action program of the Wellesley Centers for Women that equips elementary schools with evidence-based curriculum and training to improve school climate and teach children essential social and emotional skills.

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Guest — Yashi srivastava
It is very important to follow these mindful steps and each and every person should help each other to be safe by the correct ways... Read More
Monday, 16 March 2020 01:20
Guest — Mark Philip
WHAT TO DO IF THERE IS A RISK OF EXPOSURE TO THE VIRUS? • Respect the incubation period and stay in quarantine, symptoms can take ... Read More
Monday, 23 March 2020 04:17
Guest — Pavithra Suresh
Good. Nice analysis with the different angle of thinking, of course the children and mild and young are people are confuse with th... Read More
Monday, 27 April 2020 11:50
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When Getting Along Is Not Enough

Maureen Walker When Getting Along is Not Enough bookIf conventional wisdom is to be believed, women are notoriously good at getting along. Cultural pundits, from scholarly theorists to political wags, suggest that women are better suited and somehow more prone to connect with others for good. This notion may have a certain surface appeal, particularly to those of us who want to promote healing in a world marred by mortal violence and near-normative violations of human dignity.

However, women who dare to change worlds know that getting along is not enough. Just getting along allows us to be friendly neighbors, cooperative colleagues, best friends, and maybe even intimate partners. But it is not enough to allow us to build authentic, in-depth connections that bring out the best in ourselves and others, and in our society as a whole. In order to do that, we must delve deeper and ask ourselves hard questions—particularly, as we honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., around the issue of race.

After the 2016 election, analyses and demographic parsing revealed entrenched racialized divides among women. Race emerged as an undeniable constant: as a signifier that gives meaning to our lives, shaping our beliefs about who we are, who we can be, and how we should be regarded by others. Furthermore, race delineates the parameters of belonging and determines the measure of worth we accord others—how we perceive their credibility and deservingness, and how we enact power in our relationships with them.

Although the notion of race itself may be a biological fiction, it is a political reality, one that has functioned as a pernicious strategy of disconnection, violence, and violation. Whether through collusion, co-option, or coercion, women are deeply implicated in sustaining the norms and systems of racial disconnection.

Women of good will (and that, I believe, includes most of us) regularly enact racialized ideologies in real life. Indeed, these ideologies may be in large part cultural legacy, implicit yet potent, unknown even to ourselves. We can begin to know how race shapes our relationships by observing our habits of disconnection. For example, what are the feelings and thoughts we dare not express to someone of a different race—even when that person is dear to our hearts? Certainly not all feelings and thoughts are meant to be shared; some are private and rightfully so. There is, however, a distinction to be made between privacy and secrecy.

Privacy may represent thoughtful restraint, in service of further growth in the relationship. Secrecy, on the other hand, is a habit of disconnection that functions to protect and preserve a preferred image or narrative. Such withholding creates “dead zones” in a relationship. We might observe how and under what circumstances we create these “dead zones.” How big and unnavigable do we believe them to be? How readily do we criticize “them” and what “they” are like when we are in same-race company? What parts of ourselves and of our experience do we withhold in order to preserve and protect the appearance of connection, rather than allowing ourselves to be more fully known and present in a relationship? This is a habit of disconnection that stifles our desire for connection and belies our intentions to engage the richly textured realities that define our shared humanity.

I wrote When Getting Along Is Not Enough as an invitation and a guide for remaking the meaning and function of race in our lives. One of the practices that enables this transformation is what I call “disruptive empathy.” The two words don’t flow easily together, intentionally so, because empathy is not an easy skill. We tend to think of empathy as demonstrations of niceness, kindness, and caring—laudable actions all, but not stand-ins for growth-fostering empathy.

A popular metaphor that more accurately captures the disruptive dynamics of empathy is “walking a mile in another’s shoes.” To walk in another’s shoes implies at minimum the willingness to shed our own. This process is disruptive because it requires a certain level of willful de-stabilization. Specifically, we have to loosen our attachment to the narratives about self and other. We must be willing to be surprised and accepting of parts of ourselves we previously found embarrassing or shameful. In other words, the anchoring value of disruptive empathy is courage, not comfort.

I like to describe disruptive empathy as a dynamic process facilitated by three intentions: awareness, respect, and compassion. Here are just a few of the questions that facilitate the movement through this experience.

Awareness: What am I feeling and thinking? Desiring? Remembering? Is there a cherished narrative or image that I want to shield from scrutiny?

Respect: What is the purpose of this encounter? Am I trying to win? Placate? What might happen if I risk genuine curiosity about this other person?

Compassion: How did this person come to be where she is in this encounter right now? What aspects of our shared humanity is this encounter revealing? Under what conditions do I speak, interpret, and behave similarly?

When Getting Along Is Not Enough is not a mandate for forced harmony. It is an invitation to shed the illusions that allow us to settle for the appearance of harmony, rather than richly textured and authentic connection. It is an invitation to transform the life-limiting imagination of who we can be and how we must engage each other as racialized beings. This book is intended to help us on a shared journey of healing and ask: How might we dare to change worlds? Who, together, might we become? And most important, are we willing?

Maureen Walker, Ph.D., is a senior scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women and a founding scholar of the International Center for Growth in Connection, formerly the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute. She is the author of When Getting Along is Not Enough: Reconstructing Race in Our Lives and Relationships, a book that offers a roadmap to personal transformation and cultural healing to repair the damage wrought by racism.

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Highlights from a Decade of Research and Action

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Dear team, It's such a initiation made for the society against violence, sexual harassment and immigration issues. By checking th... Read More
Friday, 06 March 2020 02:49
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The Social Media Sweet Spot: 5 Ways Parents Can Help Teens Use Social Media Thoughtfully

two bored teenage girls look at their phonesA recent study out of University College London confirmed a very strong connection between social media use and depressive symptoms in teenagers. And this connection was much stronger in girls than in boys. (This does not mean that social media causes depression -- it just means that we know that children who use more social media have more depressive symptoms. More research needs to be done to figure out the reason behind this.)

The researchers looked at four explanations for why this might be. Poor sleep, online harassment, poor self-esteem, and poor body image all played a role.

My mind’s eye went immediately to my three wonderful, intelligent, strong and independent daughters, and to the social media apps that are such an integral part of their lives. My 15-year-old texts and video-chats with her friends through Snapchat, FaceTime and Whatsapp. My 13-year-old creates lip-syncing videos to share with her buddies via TikTok. And my 9-year-old immerses herself in a virtual zoological Animal Jam world of colorful biomes and customizable animals.

These apps provide positive experiences, such as socializing with friends, expressing emotions through creative cinematography, and learning facts about wildlife and its habitats. My little one often claims, “I’m so much better at typing now that I am using Animal Jam all the time!” Indeed, there is something to be said for the technical savvy that children are picking up as they navigate their way through social media landscapes that often baffle the older generation. If electronic communication is the way of the future, then it can be helpful to hone their digital skills at early ages.

In fact, there are a myriad of benefits to social media. The American Academy of Pediatrics lists a few: offering of opportunities for community engagement, such as political or charitable events; fostering of ideas through blogs, videos, podcasts and games; opening of doors to connect with people of diverse backgrounds in a much smaller and more interconnected global world; enhancing of learning opportunities as students gather together in group chats to work on homework or projects; and greater access to health information about topics that teens might otherwise not feel comfortable discussing with adults (such as mental or sexual health issues).

So there are pros and cons. This leaves us with so many questions. How do we parents find the balance? That sweet spot where they reap the benefits but are protected from the pitfalls? How much do we need to worry about impending depression or anxiety creeping up on them? How much time is too much time on social media? What can I do to mitigate these scary-sounding effects the devices might be having on my children?

I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some thoughts on how parents can help teens use social media thoughtfully and appropriately:

  • Create screen-free zones, such as bedrooms and kitchen tables. And screen-free times such as mealtime and before bedtime. This will help reduce the amount of time kids are on their devices and allow for better quality and quantity sleep. (The devices might need to be given a “curfew” to enforce this tactic. A charging station in the kitchen or other central room can also be a good spot to park the devices for the night.)
  • Open the lines of communication with your kids. Talk to them about their social media experiences. Educate them about the advantages and disadvantages. Have ongoing conversations about anything they want to talk about, and reassure them that you are the trusted adult they can turn to if/when they become mired in teenage angst.
  • Keep in mind that it is not only quantity, but quality, that is important. Keep abreast of the apps your children are using, and encourage them to use social media in positive ways.
  • Avoid banning, blocking or restricting your kids’ access to social media sites. This generally doesn’t work and may backfire if the forbidden fruit becomes so tempting that they simply use it behind your back.
  • Be a good example to your kids. Use your own devices less! Engage with your children, and on your own, in non-screen activities. Enjoy the outdoors, read a book, play a game, do some fun activities as a family. Wax nostalgic for the days of yore when smartphones didn’t exist but people still knew how to enjoy!

My three girls are living in the wild west of cyberspace, with a frontier that is open to exploration. I hope that I can help guide them to that sweet spot of not-too-much and not-too-little, so that they enjoy the positive without enduring the negative along the way.

Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD, is a visiting scholar with the Youth, Media & Wellbeing Research Lab at the Wellesley Centers for Women. She is also a pediatrician and medical editor at Nemours Children’s Health System's KidsHealth.org.

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Guest — Reshu
It's nice... N of course social media now a days is matter of concern. Some parents keep their children away from it forcefully, b... Read More
Friday, 04 October 2019 02:07
Guest — Manish
Social media good for everyone one.
Sunday, 05 January 2020 15:27
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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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Paying for College as a Student Parent Is...Complicated

Mother and daughter do homeworkYesterday on route to work my phone exploded with messages from friends and colleagues urging me to, "Turn on NPR right now,” to hear their story about student parents. I was a student parent myself, striving and struggling from GED to Ph.D. as a young low-income mother raising two daughters. In the years between then and now, I have continued to support the strides, struggles, and successes of student parents as a researcher, program developer, professor, and mentor working on the national stage to raise awareness of student parents, their prevalence, and the challenges they face in pursuing and completing higher education.

This week’s NPR news story discusses student childcare as a challenge and concern that is faced nearly universally by student parents. The story explains that federal financial aid dollars can (theoretically at least) account for student childcare costs, increasing student aid awards to cover the costs of childcare. This is entirely true. In fact, I used this method to pay for my own childcare expenses throughout my undergraduate and graduate education. To do this, a student must file a Cost of Attendance appeal with their school’s financial aid office, often providing receipts or other verification of childcare and other eligible expenses.

By increasing the student’s Cost of Attendance calculation, the student is eligible for more financial aid, including federal aid, institutional and external scholarships, and private student loans. As the NPR story explains, this is a policy that is rarely advertised, even by institutions hosting some of the top student parent programs in the United States.

Yet, the NPR story misleads the listener with the representation that the lack of awareness of this policy, “leaves federal dollars sitting on the table.” This assumes that the lack of adequate funding for student parents is caused simply by the fact that they need access to more money. However, this oversimplifies a very complex issue.

Think of the Cost of Attendance calculation as the capacity of one’s purse or wallet. The bigger the wallet you have, the more money you can put in it; but getting a larger wallet does not mean that it comes filled with more money than you already had to begin with. Today, there is rarely money available to fill the student’s existing wallet, let alone a larger one.

Most student parents (who are disproportionately low-income and who generally have a ZERO dollar expected family contribution), have already maxed out their federal grant and loan dollars long before dependent care costs are taken into account. Often, the maximum federal student aid dollars available to a student aren’t enough to cover the basics like tuition, fees, and housing, let alone childcare.

Each federal student aid program is capped at a certain maximum dollar value per student and funding for these programs is limited, which is why unmet need is so prevalent. For the 2019-2020 school year, the only guarantee of federal financial aid funding available to student parents is through Pell grants and Stafford loans capped at $15,695 for freshmen, $16,695 for sophomores, and $18,695 for upper-classman. With these funds student parents must pay for: tuition, fees, textbooks and supplies, technology, housing, utilities, food, transportation, and everything else. Regardless of how much their Cost of Attendance is increased to allow them to receive more funding, there are rarely any federal dollars remaining to be allocated to them.

To fill their larger wallets, students must then turn to scholarships or private student loans. Competition for external scholarships is fierce, and time-consuming applications may not seem worthwhile to student parents carefully allocating their time to work, family, and school commitments.

Private student loans are also difficult for student parents to pursue, as they generally hold income and credit requirements that the student cannot meet on their own. Without a credit-worthy cosigner willing to take on such a long-term debt (which most student parents do not have), many private loans are out of reach for these students.

Even if private loans were more attainable for student parents, it is not a viable systemic or policy solution. I know this as a scholar and expert in this area, and I know this first-hand as a student parent who borrowed private student loans to pay for her own childcare tuition. Those loans came at significant costs, both financial and in terms of post-college opportunities.

Private student loans have the highest interest rates and do not offer the income-based repayment and loan forgiveness options afforded by federal student loan programs. If we are concerned about the student loan crisis, the answer to addressing student childcare needs cannot involve finding new ways for student parents to take on more debt -- especially debt incurred through private student loans.

At the end of the day, student parents and their children cannot survive, strive, and thrive given the minimal amount of federal student aid dollars available in today’s context of skyrocketing costs of attendance.

Student parent programs at colleges and universities across the U.S. are taking the lead in addressing student parents’ needs using comprehensive and individualized approaches. Yet we still don’t know a lot about these programs, what they do, or how they work. In fact, we still don’t even know where they all are or how many colleges and universities have them. This is a clear sign that research on best practices for providing childcare and other supports to student families is sorely needed.

From 2014-2019 I led a research team that collected data on colleges that offer housing for students with children, finding that only 254 U.S. higher education institutions (9%) offer such an option. About 30 additional programs closed their family housing since we began the research project. Our data was turned into the Campus Family Housing Database available to prospective student parents and their advocates as well as researchers and policymakers.

My team is also working to expand this research in 2020 to better understand other types of programs and services, such as campus childcare and comprehensive student parent programs that support student parent success. We will collect this information and develop a comprehensive national database of student parent support services and programs while studying how these programs work and promoting best practices for student parent success.

I work with student parents every day, and I am certainly all about finding them every dollar and dime that can help them get through school. Even though Cost of Attendance appeals can theoretically be useful to cover student needs, I am sad to say there are no "federal dollars left on the table" to fill in the gaps.

Autumn Green, Ph.D., is a research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women. In addition to studying the lives of student parents, she has worked to help create two-generation programs on college and university campuses to support student parents and their children.

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Tips for Parents to Manage Kids’ Fortnite Obsession

Mother and son play video gamesVideo games are on my mind these days. Especially violent ones, like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto. But special recognition goes to Fortnite, since as a mother and pediatrician, my interests lie in what is most popular among the children.

What is Fortnite? It’s an online multiplayer shooter game, in which 100 players are dropped onto an island where they are expected to attack other players while defending themselves. Eventually one player remains and is declared the winner.

What has brought Fortnite to my attention? First, I learned about the recent inaugural Fortnite World Cup in which over 40 million players participated, from more than 200 countries. It took place at a real stadium with an audience of almost 24,000 live viewers, and more than 2 million people watching from their electronic devices. If those numbers alone weren’t mind-boggling enough, the tournament offered a $30 million prize pool. Teenagers became millionaires overnight.

Next, I was recently privy to several online discussions among large groups of parents discussing the Fortnite phenomenon and how to rein it in. The minority of parents knew nothing of the game. There were a few parents who focused on the positive aspects of online games, such as opportunity for learning skills like conflict negotiation or hand-eye coordination, and the provision of a space to forge online communities and peer relationships. In fact, the concept of “social acceptance” was a recurring theme amongst the game’s advocates. A very small group of enthusiastic gamer parents even played together with their children and praised the game for teaching building know-how and springboarding discussions about budgeting and finances.

But the overwhelming majority of parents responded with a resounding “DON’T GO THERE!” Their concerns were varied. Some worried about the addictive component and excessive screen time exposure. Others feared online predators. But mostly it was the violent nature that gave them angst. While observing their children play, they noted emotional agitation, aggressive language, and trash talk. And this made them cringe. They collectively questioned the effect of exposure to virtual violence on their children’s overall mental health and wellbeing.

This was not only a topic for parenting forums, but for the media in general, following the devastating mass shootings that took place last month in Texas and Ohio. An alleged connection between video game and real world violence was cited yet again by lawmakers wanting to point a finger at factors that might be contributing to the preponderance of mass shootings in the U.S.

The blaming of video game culture led to a widespread media response noting that researchers thus far have not proven an absolute cause and effect link between video game violence and mass atrocities. Experts have pointed out that billions of people play video games in countries all over the world, yet do not suffer from the same gun violence as Americans have to contend with on a daily basis. In fact, countries such as Japan and South Korea have a much more intense gaming industry, but extremely low rates of violent crime and mass casualty events. One thing does seem clear, though- easy access to firearms, weak gun laws, and the sheer number of civilian-owned guns is unique to the U.S. and most likely a major contributing factor in the gun violence we see today.

Finally, in my capacity as visiting scholar in the Youth, Media & Wellbeing Research Lab at the Wellesley Center for Women, I am working with researchers to study the impact of social media on children and adolescents. This includes interactive games such as Fortnite. A recent study from this lab conducted by Dr. Linda Charmarmaran found that Fortnite gamers reported getting less sleep than non-players, a deprivation that can potentially compromise school performance.

So what are parents to do about their child’s Fortnite obsession? Here are some tips gleaned from experts in the fields of psychology and pediatrics:

  • Watch and play with your child to determine whether the game is appropriate for your child at this stage in their life.
  • Set limits about when and how much your child can play, so as not to interfere with more important activities, such as homework, sleep, physical activity, and real-life interactions with friends and family.
  • Talk about the feelings the game triggers in your child, and explain your values regarding violent behavior and conflict resolution.

My daughters don’t play Fortnite. But they have a very active online presence, and these tips will be on my mind as new apps and games dominate their world.

Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD, is a visiting scholar with the Youth, Media & Wellbeing Research Lab at the Wellesley Centers for Women. She is also a pediatrician and medical editor at Nemours Children’s Health System's KidsHealth.org.

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Nowadays. It's a modern world with modern technologies i.e. Mobile, pc, laptop and so on. Fornite is popular video game which pla... Read More
Thursday, 12 March 2020 12:55
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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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Women’s Equality Day: Still Seeking a Century’s Worth of Progress

Women suffrage picket line, courtesy of Library of CongressThe long march towards progress is often one that extends across generations. The U.S. woman suffrage movement, which resulted in women’s right to vote with the 19th Amendment in 1920 – took 75 years to produce the desired result. That’s three generations of women, each playing a specific role in getting that policy objective to the finish line. Along the way, there were movements and side movements and countermovements, all of which shaped the ultimate contours of that social justice victory. We’ve now gone 99 years past the ratification of the 19th Amendment – that’s almost four generations – and women’s equality is still far from realized. Thus, on this Women’s Equality Day, it seems most fitting to me, as we stare into the century mark of this milestone, that we make a full-court press to fast-track some gender equality moves that would signal a bona fide century’s worth of progress.

Here are my suggestions:

First, we should revisit the Equal Rights Amendment. Its simple yet powerful text, originally crafted in 1923 right after women got the right to vote and revised in 1943, reads:

  • Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
  • Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
  • Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

In the late 1970s, the Equal Rights Amendment passed both houses of Congress and was signed by President Carter, but failed narrowly during the state-by-state ratification process. That was 40 years ago. In 2019, the Equal Rights Amendment has regained attention, as theoretically only one more state needs to ratify the amendment to reach the majority needed. Do we have the political will to pass the Equal Rights Amendment now? Women’s equality was not a partisan issue then, nor is it one now; women in both parties desire equality and benefit from equality. Passing this constitutional amendment at long last would signal to America’s women and the world that women – and, in fact, people of all genders – are now truly included in “liberty and justice for all.”

Second, we should join the community of nations that has ratified the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (known as CEDAW). This international instrument, which has already been ratified by every country in the world except for Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Pulau, Tonga, and the United States, is basically like a global Equal Rights Amendment. It addresses women’s human rights and commits nations to legally enshrining them. While the U.S. has made various arguments about why it has not ratified CEDAW, a more powerful statement for gender equality would be to just ratify it!

Other actions that would signal that we are truly in the 21st century when it comes to women’s equality would be stronger laws, policies, and legal procedures that address sexual violence in all its forms for all women (with a nod to the recent groundswell known as the #MeToo Movement), and laws, policies, and legal procedures that enshrine gender spectrum equality (because gender in the 21st century doesn’t mean what it meant 99 years ago).

Lest we think these legal moves towards equality are ends in themselves, we can also consider the fact that social scientists have found links between legal equality at the national level and human wellbeing. For example, a recent multi-national study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence showed that greater gender equality at the national level correlates with greater life satisfaction among both female and male adolescents, even with other potentially-influential factors controlled. Thus, there is something to the notion that gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing are all interrelated and interdependent.

As we look back at and celebrate the generations of women who fought for the right to vote, let us remember that progress doesn’t end there. Each generation must pick up the baton and push forward for increased recognition of gender equality in the law and in our everyday lives. Let’s hope that this time next year when we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, we will also be celebrating the ERA, CEDAW, and, all in all, a bona fide century’s worth of progress on gender equality!

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women.

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Guest — Laura Pappano
Yes, YES, YES!! We DO NEED the ERA and CEDAW. The ERA was derailed for all the wrong reasons -- as unnecessary (history has made t... Read More
Tuesday, 27 August 2019 20:35
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Canada Steps Out Front on Funding Feminist Futures Worldwide

equality fundThis week, Canada launched the Equality Fund, the world’s largest global fund for women’s and trans* equality movements. Its tagline, “Funding Feminist Futures,” clearly conveys the fund’s purpose. Having already mobilized $100 million worth of initial investments to accompany a $300 million multi-year funding award from the Government of Canada, the consortium-led fund is slated to mobilize at least $1 billion over 15 years. Members of this consortium include the MATCH International Women’s Fund, the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), Calvert Impact Capital, the Canadian Women’s Foundation, Community Foundations of Canada (CFC), Philanthropy Advancing Women’s Human Rights (PAWHR), Toronto Foundation, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Yaletown Partners, World University Service of Canada (WUSC), and Oxfam Canada. This diverse collaboration reflects a holistic and strategic multi-sectoral approach to ending gender inequality sustainably around the globe.

Leading feminist funders are expressing enthusiasm and characterizing the Equality Fund and as a monumental move forward. As Musimbi Kanyoro, outgoing CEO of the Global Fund for Women, stated, “We all celebrate the Equality Fund and the leadership of MATCH International, with solidarity support from all women’s funds. This is a game-changer.” The Global Fund for Women has seen firsthand the critical role that feminist funds play in ensuring the survival and growth of grassroots women’s funds and movements. Noting this history, Kanyoro reflected, “It should have come sooner, but we are on a new trajectory of recognition for women’s funds.” Incoming CEO Latanya Mapp Frett opined, “The Equality Fund recognizes that women know best how to solve problems for themselves and for their communities, and putting resources in the hands of women funding women will ensure that violations of women’s human rights will soon be part of our past.”

Abigail Burgesson, Special Programmes Officer at the African Women’s Development Fund, who just completed her term of service as a member of the Wellesley Centers for Women’s Council of Advisors, played a key role in the evolution of the Equality Fund by helping to bring the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) aboard, and echoed Kanyoro’s and Frett’s assessments: “The Equality Fund is a real game-changer because it is designed and managed by feminists who have advocated for this for a long time.” Recounting her time spent working on the initiative, Abigail related, “I saw the resilience and strength of the feminist spirit at work, which crafted the entire architecture of this novel and unprecedented fund.” She further went on to say, “It was women who created this historic moment in our lives.”

We at the Wellesley Centers for Women applaud this innovative initiative and look forward to advancing gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing in concert with like-minded organizations and individuals all over the world. We each have a role to play, and it takes all of us!

Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., is the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women and a member of the Board of Directors of the Global Fund for Women.

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Promoting Resilience in Children at Risk for Depression

The teen sitting across from me avoided making eye contact as he responded to my questions. He provided thoughtful answers in a soft voice as he looked down at the rubber band in his hands, stretching and turning it repeatedly. Clearly this young man was struggling with symptoms of depression such that he was disengaged from his friends, skipping track practices, missing homework assignments, sleeping too much. Yet when I asked him if I could share his symptoms with his guidance counselor so that he could get some support in school, he quickly replied, “No,” saying that he didn’t want anyone at school to know. “I’m only telling you about this, “ he insisted, “because I’ll never see you again.”


My colleagues and I routinely hear such statements from the adolescents we screen for depression and suicidal thoughts. Although these teens readily reveal their symptoms and struggles to us, adults who enter their middle and high schools for a few weeks each year and then leave as quickly as we arrive, they are reluctant to reveal their inner thoughts and feelings to the people they see every day: parents, teachers, school counselors. And the parents of these teens repeatedly tell us that they do not want us to share the results of our screening efforts with school personnel who could provide support during the school day. Consistent with our experiences in schools, research suggests that, even when adults in school are educated about the signs and symptoms of youth depression and are prepared to support teens who are struggling, such gatekeeper education programs often do not increase the likelihood that teens, who, for example, are experiencing suicidal thoughts, will seek out adults for support. Moreover, one study revealed that most teens who have made a suicide attempt said they would not share this fact with a counselor or other adult at school, and that they believed their parents would not want them to do so.

How significant of a problem is depression and suicidal behavior among adolescents? A recent Pew Research Center poll indicates that adolescents view depression and anxiety as key concerns for themselves and their peers, and as even more significant concerns than drug/alcohol abuse and bullying. We know that rates of depression in youth are quite high, with as many as 11% experiencing a Major Depressive Disorder by the end of adolescence. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among those ages 10-19, and depression is common among adolescents who exhibit suicidal thoughts and behaviors. In fact, suicidal thinking has been found to be elevated even among adolescents who experience symptoms of depression without meeting full diagnostic criteria for Major Depressive Disorder.

If the many adolescents who are struggling with mental health concerns are not willing to seek support from school personnel, where are they getting the information and support they need? How can we provide teens with tools to promote health and wellbeing?

We know that teens are turning to sources outside of their homes and school communities for information about youth depression, and for indications of how best to manage strong feelings they may be experiencing. For example, a new study indicates that teens may be gathering information about managing suicidal thoughts from television programming, and we have long been warned about the effects of modeling on suicidal behavior among youth, leading to clusters of suicide in a community. In the context of so many unhealthy personal and media examples of teens managing depression, there is much we can do to support the teens in our lives, both those we know well and those we know less well.

In fact, warm interpersonal relationships, and the presence of a close relationship with an adult outside of the home, have been found to be significant sources of strength and to promote resilience in children at risk for depression. For example, in a study of children of depressed parents who maintain good mental health over time, high-quality social relationships were identified as a protective factor. More specifically, researchers in Ireland found that, in a study of risk and protective factors for depression and anxiety in a community sample of adolescents, the presence of “one good adult” in a teen’s life was identified as a protective factor.

You can serve as that “one good adult” and influence adolescents you know toward health and wellbeing: your own children, your children’s friends, and the children of your friends. You can provide a safe source of support to teens in your community, and you can contribute toward reducing the stigma associated with depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental illness. How can you do this? Talk directly to the teens you encounter, and express interest in them, their relationships, and their activities. Talk to the teens you are shuttling to practice in the back of your car, and listen carefully to their conversations. Ask teens how they are feeling, and what they think about, and what they worry about. Listen to their responses, and express caring and concern. Reinforce the value of mental health treatment, and reinforce the value of parents, school counselors, and others in the community who can provide mental health supports. Don’t be afraid to ask teens who report feelings of hopelessness or depression if they ever experience suicidal thoughts—asking this question will not encourage suicidal behavior. Share concerns with parents and others who are directly involved in an at-risk teen’s daily care. Support your children in establishing meaningful relationships with neighbors, an aunt or uncle, and encourage your children to share their feelings openly.

In this month of May, Mental Health Awareness Month, we have the opportunity to be intentional in our support of the adolescents we encounter in our communities, and to recognize the power we have to support their healthy growth and development.

Tracy Gladstone, Ph.D., is an associate director and senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women as well as the inaugural director of the Robert S. and Grace W. Stone Primary Prevention Initiatives, which aims to research, develop, and evaluate programs to prevent the onset of depression and other mental health concerns in children and adolescents. She is also an assistant in psychology at Boston Children’s Hospital, an instructor at Harvard Medical School, and a research scientist at Judge Baker Children’s Center. Gladstone leads depression prevention programs in two greater Boston school districts, to identify and connect adolescents to appropriate services who report depressive symptoms, self-injury, and suicidal thinking.

Abrutyn, S. & Mueller, A.S. (2014). Are suicidal behaviors contagious in adolescence? Using longitudinal data to examine suicide suggestion. American Sociological Review, 79, 211-227.

Avenevoli, S., Swendsen, J., He, J.P., Burstein, M., & Merikangas, K.R. (2015). Major depression in the national comorbidity survey-adolescent supplement: Prevalence, correlates, and treatment. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 54, 37-44.

Balazs, J., Miklosi, M., Kereszteny, A., Hoven, C.W., Carli, V., Wasserman, C., Apter, A.,…Wasserman, D. (2013). Adolescent subthreshold-depression and anxiety: psychopathology, functional impairment and increased suicide risk. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 54, 670-677.

Beardslee, W.R. & Podorefsky, D. (1988). Resilient adolescents whose parents have serious affective and other psychiatric disorders: Importance of self-understanding and relationships. American Journal of Psychiatry, 145, 63-69.

Bridge, J.A., Greenhouse, J.B., Ruch, D., Stevens, J., Ackerman, J., Shefftall, A.H., Horowitz, L.M.,…Campo, J.V. (in press). Association between the release of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why and suicide rates in the United States: An interrupted time series analysis. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Collishaw, S., Hammerton, G., Mahedy, L., Sellers, R., Owen, M.J., Craddock, N., Thapar, A.K.,…Thapar, A. (2016). Mental health resilience in the adolescent offspring of parents with depression: A prospective longitudinal study. The Lancet Psychiatry, 3, 49-57.

Dazzi, T., Gribble, R., Wessely, S., & Fear, N.T. (2014). Does asking about suicide and related behaviours induce suicidal ideation? What is the evidence? Psychological Medicine, 44, 3361-3363.

Dooley, B., Fitzgerald, A., & Mac Giollabhui, N. (2015). The risk and protective factors associated with depression and anxiety in a national sample of Irish adolescents. Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, 32, 93-105.

Insel, B.J. & Gould, M.S. (2008). Impact of modeling on adolescent suicidal behavior. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 31, 293-316.

Nock, M.K., Green, J.G., Hwang, I., McLaughlin, K.A., Sampson, N.A., Zaslavsky, A.M., & Kessler, R.C. (2013). Prevalence, correlates, and treatment of lifetime suicidal behavior among adolescents. JAMA Psychiatry, 70, 300-310.

Silk, J.S., Vanderbilt-Adriance, E., Shaw, D.S., Forbes, E.E, Whalen, D.J., Ryan, N.D. & Dahl, R.E. (2007). Resilience among children and adolescents at risk for depression: Mediation and moderation across social and neurobiological contexts. Development and Psychopathology, 19, 841-865.

Whitney, S.D. Renner, L.M., Pate, C.M., & Jacobs, K.A. (2011). Principals’ perceptions of benefits and barriers to school-based suicide prevention programs. Children and Youth Services Review, 33, 869-877.

Wyman, P.A., Brown, C.H., Inman, J., Cross, W., Schmeelk-Cone, K., Guo, J., & Pena, J.B. (2008). Randomized trial of a gatekeeper program for suicide prevention: 1-year impact on secondary school staff. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76, 104-115.

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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 youSantoDomingoBarrioall 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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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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